This is the fifth week of our series on The Value of a Network. Last week, I covered the fact that networking requires your passion. It takes passion to spark passion in someone else. This week, I’m going to talk about the importance of gratitude and how that helps your network grow.
Symptoms of Ingratitude
Ingratitude is an ugly thing. It makes people feel unappreciated, unwanted, and uninspired to help you. That’s a really bad thing when you’re trying to grow a network. So what are some of the symptoms you’ll experience if you suffer from ingratitude?
• Relationships may start out strong but taper off quickly.
• You never feel like what you have is enough to meet your needs.
• You often feel unappreciated, overlooked, or unwanted.
• You often find yourself envying what other people have received.
• No matter where you find yourself, you feel unhappy with your situation.
I have been there. I used to be one very ungrateful person. No matter how much I received from someone, it was never enough to fill the emptiness inside. It was barely a blip on the radar, so I wasn’t grateful for getting it because my immediate thought was to measure it against how much I needed and see it as insignificant. No matter what I had, all I could see was what I didn’t have.
People would like me when they first met me, but would soon become distant and not want to connect anymore. I didn’t realize what I was doing wrong. I just felt unappreciated, unwanted, and overlooked.
And no matter where I went or what was happening in my life, I felt deeply unhappy and miserable. Partly because nothing was ever enough, and what I did have was never good enough.
Causes of Ingratitude
Ingratitude is caused by a whole lot of unmet expectations, giving rise to a great many disappointments in life. Your first unmet expectation is that you expect that if you just get enough of x or enough of y or if enough people will do what you want, your problems will be over and you will be able to live happily ever after. The truth is that problems never end. You can have a billion dollars and the biggest house in the world and the fastest car and the best of everything and you will still have problems. The nature of those problems will be different than the ones you face now, but they will still be there. Problems challenge you to grow, and growth is important for life.
Your next unmet expectation is that if you can just surround yourself with the right people, you won’t ever get hurt again. That just isn’t true. In any relationship, there will be problems and there will be disappointments and miscommunications that result in pain. At time, every relationship will hurt you. If you can’t stick with the relationship past the point of that pain, you won’t experience the deeper relationship waiting on the other side.
Your third unmet expectation is that people should care about you. In an ideal world, you are right. They should. Except we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where people are focused on getting their own needs met. They want people to care about them. If you are constantly demanding that they meet your needs, they will back away because they feel like their own needs are never going to be met in that relationship. If you actually want them to care about you, you need to care about them first.
Your fourth unmet expectation is that everything should be “fair” – and by fair, you mean equal. It’s not. One person is born into a super wealthy family and another born into a super poor family. The one born into a super wealthy family may seem to get all the “good” stuff out of life – he never goes hungry, he gets his college paid for, he can have anything that he wants, but that often comes at a price. The thing is, you don’t know the price he has paid to get what he has. All you see are the results of the transaction. So you envy that life. If you knew the real story, though, you might see the child born to the super poor family, the one that never had two nickels to rub together but had loads of love to go around, as being the better off of the two. Nothing in life is equal, but it all balances out in its own way once you know the full story.
Your fifth unmet expectation is that your circumstances control your happiness. The truth is that only you can dictate how happy you feel. Happiness is something that starts inside of you. It’s a decision you make to look for and actively appreciate the things that are in your life whether they are exactly the way you want them to be or not. You can be happy anywhere if you can master the art of counting all the reasons you have to be grateful for where you are.
The Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude improves your mood. It is the source of a great attitude. It is also a relationship builder. People love being appreciated. If you have a relationship that isn’t going the way you want it to go, try making a list of reasons to be grateful for the person who is in your life and share that list with them. Gratitude can totally transform that relationship.
According to scientific studies conducted by the University of California – Berkeley, gratitude is also very good for your health. People with high levels of gratitude had stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions, more joy, optimism, and happiness, were more generous and compassionate, and felt less lonely and isolated. And there are more benefits, too.
How to Grow Gratitude
When I asked how I could develop more gratitude, back in a time when I recognized that I was not a very grateful person, the answer I was given was simple and succinct: Say “thank you” for everything you receive in life whether it’s what you wanted or not. Assume that everything is for your benefit.
I was to make a list of everything I saw wrong in my life and everything I saw right in my life and be thankful for both. I was to assume that everything that wasn’t going the way I wanted it to go was in some way working toward my good, even if I couldn’t see how. That totally changed my perspective.
That moment changed my whole world. It challenged me toss out the assumption that life was out to get me and instead decide to see even negative events as life working FOR me. That’s the moment I began to learn to find a reason for happiness in even the worst moments of life.
It takes practice to break the habit of complaining about everything that happens to you that you didn’t ask for or didn’t want and instead choosing to believe that it’s happening for your good, but with time that practice becomes a habit and you begin to see how those things really do benefit you in the long run. My choice to say “Thank you” for what I didn’t want to happen also stops the train that runs toward self-pity and helps me break the cycle of feeling sorry for myself, which is toxic to developing relationships.
Gratitude In Hard Times
Hard times, like times of death, loss, financial pain, or physical illness can make gratitude more challenging. So look for the small gifts that life left you in the wake of those things. Maybe it’s just by saying, “Things could have been worse. Thank you, life, that it was only this bad.”
Seek to serve someone even less fortunate than you. Ask them to share their story with you. You’d be amazed how doing this can make you feel better about your situation and can elevate them for a short while because someone cared enough to ask. And don’t worry. There will always be someone less fortunate than you if you look hard enough.
Gratitude for The Difficult People
We all have people in our life that make it tough to love them. They’re irritating, annoying, and just plain hard to get along with but if you can find gratitude for their presence in your life, you’ll get to benefit from their presence rather than be drug down by their difficulties. Look at those difficult people as sand paper that is rubbing away the rough spots on your personality and polishing you for a future that’s just around the corner.
Consider them resistance training for the soul. Nobody gets stronger by carrying things that are feather light. They get stronger by pulling against the weight of something heavy and burdensome. The same thing is true about difficult people. They make you stronger and more resilient.
Become a Grateful Person
If you can become a grateful person, you will never lack for welcome in any space you go. People will look forward to seeing you because they know that you’ll be the kind of person to make them feel better about where they are in life. You’ll be good at reminding them of all the reasons to be grateful when they need to hear it, and that’s one gift that everyone needs to receive.