Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the US. This is a day in which we all (or at least many of us) reflect on all our blessings and what we are grateful for. I love Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays. It combines food (anyone who knows me knows how much I love food) with family and friends.
But I have been thinking a lot about gratitude recently. I think slowing down and appreciating one’s life and feeling grateful for everything in it is wonderful. It feels great. It’s paying attention to the beauty of life right now.
But I also see gratitude being mis-used as an excuse for not going after what you want. I did this a lot! I used gratitude as a way to stay stuck in my life. I think I basically confused the idea of being grateful – really really grateful – for everything in my life, with the idea that I shouldn’t want more from life. For me it looked like being grateful that I had a good career as a doctor. I got to help people. I had a good income. I worked four days a week. And I felt guilty that I wanted more from life. I felt guilty that I wasn’t happier and more content.
I told myself I shouldn’t want more. I told myself I should just be grateful for what I had. The “should” and the “just” are the keys to where those thoughts go wrong. If you tell yourself a lot of things with the words “should” or “shouldn’t”, “just” and “can’t” – take notice!
Yes, those things for which I was grateful were all true about my career and life. And I was using gratitude to deny what was also true for me. I didn’t like practicing medicine. I was unhappy at work. My personal life was almost non-existent. And I felt stuck in my life. On top of that, I felt guilty for wanting more. Somehow, I had confused gratitude and my genuine desire for change.
Being grateful for what you have doesn’t mean you can’t want more for your life.
Once I learned this, it all changed. Now I realize that being more present to life, and feeling gratitude for all that I have in my life and all that I get to do, is what allows me to want more. I want more – for me and for others. I want more – for me and for the world.
Be grateful but don’t be afraid to want more. Life wants more for you too!