Hey friend! After starting a Q&A section on the blog in last week’s post, I’m back this week with a new Q and a new A.
When it comes to practicing gratitude, there’s a big myth out there. A lot of people think that gratitude and ambition are polar opposites, which is simply not true.
That’s why I was so happy that Jen, who’s part of our #perfectionistproblems community, reached out to me.
This is Jen’s question:
Something I’ve been exploring recently is the tension between practicing gratitude for what we already have while also striving for more in my work and life. If I'm always grateful for what I have, how will I ever achieve anything new?
Let’s cha-cha on over to the A, shall we? :)
P.S. If you have a question about practicing gratitude, dealing with perfectionism, my story and my personal history with perfectionism and gratitude, a behind-the-scenes look at how I run The Gratefulist, or any topic related to personal growth, feel free to leave a comment, use the contact form, or shoot me a DM on Instagram.
P.S.2 Don’t forget to scroll all the way down for access to The Gratitude Toolbox!
PIN THIS, BABY! :)
What a great question, thanks so much for reaching out to me! I can’t wait to clear this up for you.
The first thing I always say when someone wonders whether gratitude keeps them from fulfilling their ambitions is…
Have you looked at Oprah’s career trajectory lately?
Oprah has said many times that she’s had a gratitude practice for the past 30 years. You can’t exactly say that this practice has held her back in the career department, now can you? ;)
Okay, that’s a bit of a reality check, isn’t it? It always works for me.
First, let’s examine how societal and cultural beliefs influence our thinking.
Thinking about all that is good in our lives is something we all know we should do more often. Still, it can be incredibly annoying when someone else (or our subconsciousness) points this out to us.
The thing that irritates you about this call to gratitude is that it creates a conflict with your central, human drive: ambition. You understand, in theory, that you should be grateful for the things that you have, but in your day-to-day life you’re dominated by expectations, goals, wishes, and needs about relationships, careers, and your circumstances.
Sometimes the gospel that people preach about gratitude makes it seem as though you should be satisfied with things as they are now. Mediocre situations could be - as they seem to say - so much worse. For instance, someone with a debilitating cough should be grateful that they don’t have bronchitis.
This kind of thinking doesn’t sit well with our modern society. Our society stimulates constant ambition and rewards attempts at excellence. Restlessness is a pre-requisite for progress. Nothing should be good enough for a large amount of time.
Now, let’s think of a way to challenge those beliefs and move forward.
First of all, I recommend really examining your ambitions. Are they really yours? Are they rooted in your values, based on your talents, and and a result of what’s important to you? Or are they rooted in:
Fear? (fear of missing out, being found out, getting left behind, failure)
Comparison? (she's doing #allthethings which means so should I)
Ego? (I should have a huge social media following so that I'm worth something)
External expectations? (pressure from industry peers or family, society's measure of success)
When we question our ambitions, we usually find out that most of them are rooted in lack, in not enoughness. And we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking that the only way out is to focus on ‘more, more, more’.
But ‘more’ doesn’t counteract ‘not enough’. The only way out of that mindset of not enough is to focus on enough. And that, my friend, is the definition of gratitude.
Gratitude allows you to get laser-focused on what your true ambitions are and move forward with clarity, intent, focus, and purpose.
Here’s the heart of the matter, Jen, being grateful for what you have doesn’t mean you have to resign thinking anything could be any better. Grateful and complacent are two completely different things.
Gratitude is recognizing that, right now, there are good reasons to be a little more satisfied with who you are and what you have. When you can’t feel joy from your current circumstances, that’s evidence of a problem that’ll probably haunt you even when you’ve achieved all of your ambitions.
Your problem isn’t that you don’t have enough, it’s that you don’t have the courage to stop and enjoy enough. Gratitude is the interest you receive when you’re happy with enough. But enjoying enough doesn’t mean that you can’t strive for more.
My conclusion? Gratitude and ambition don't compete. Gratitude is the gateway toward fulfilling your ambition.
If you need a little help getting started with your gratitude practice, sign up for The Gratitude Toolbox. It’s a FREE set of resources to help you add more gratitude to your work and life:
a cheatsheet with ideas for being more grateful in your work or business
30 gratitude prompts for jumpstarting your first 30 days of practicing gratitude
a progress tracker for an extra boost of motivation and to help keep you on track
a checklist with tips to help set you up for success
AND several gratitude journals
Just click on the button below and you can get started with The Gratitude Toolbox right away.
Do you have a question about practicing gratitude? Use the comment section below and I promise to answer all of your questions. And perhaps, one of your questions gets to be featured on the blog! :)
Hi there! I’m Wendy, founder of The Gratefulist and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you start a gratitude practice so that you can let go of your perfectionism. Let’s chat about the hard stuff - like dealing with comparison, your inner critic, procrastination & growing your gratitude - so that you can stop caring so much about what other people think and finally take on those dream projects that you've been putting off for so long.