Guest Blog post by Peter Rubin
Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer – The Passion Co.
Giving a speech about gratitude – when so much has already been said – was a new challenge for me.
If you google “gratitude”, you’ll find a cornucopia of how-to blog pieces along with formal research proving that grateful people have higher levels of subjective well-being – meaning they’re happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and relationships.
It’s hard to argue with these findings, but something feels off in the way our culture has interpreted them. We’ve elevated gratitude to great heights, to the point of forcing it.
I used to have lunch at Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco, an ultra spiritual organic cafe with a delicious menu and an odd naming convention. If you wanted the shredded kale with local brown rice and black beans, you’d order the “I am grateful.” Or if you were more in the mood for a raw cacao milkshake, you’d order the “I am eternally blessed.”
Some days I just didn’t want to play. I was hungry, I was having a hard day at work, and all I wanted was a kale salad, damn it. I was this close to saying, “Could I please have the ‘I am consumed with self-pity and angst?’”
Passive-aggressive fantasies aside, all I really wanted was to drop the positive facade and express myself in an authentic way.
Forced gratitude is not new-agey. It’s been playing out for ages.
As a kid, you were probably told that you should be grateful, perhaps first by your family. Dad burned dinner, you refused to eat it, and Mom glared at you and said “You should feel grateful that you have food to eat. Children in Africa are starving right now.”
Forced gratitude is like trying to make yourself poop when it’s not time. At best nothing will happen; at worst, you’ll give yourself an aneurysm.
There are two alternate routes to gratitude that aren’t being talked about: following your passions and finding gratitude in difficult experiences.
Gratitude and passion: If you want to feel more grateful, create something to be grateful for.
Think of something in your life today that you’re authentically grateful for – really, take a moment, and think of something. Chances are, unless you chose “the air I breathe,” you did something to create it. If you have a sweet relationship or a rockin’ business, you had to tend to it. You put in your sweat equity and that’s why your life is full of things to be grateful for.
If your life is feeling sour and it’s hard to be authentically grateful, don’t try to create something that isn’t there. Definitely don’t beat yourself up. Instead, fill yourself up.
Some of us have learned to give and give, even when we’re empty, but that’s completely backwards.
Imagine your life as a jar. Ideally, we receive and receive until our jar gets full and then overflows. That overflow is gratitude. It’s only when we’re overflowing that can we fill other peoples’ jars in a sustainable way. We start full and stay full. But to start this virtuous cycle, you need to get full. How do we do that?
First, stop doing stuff that drains your jar.
Rather than complaining and getting lost in fear and self-pity, listen for what you’re passionate about and go for it. Listen for what you truly want and take action towards it. If you want to take the afternoon off and go for a hike, do it! If you want to throw yourself an epic birthday party, go for it!
Gratitude naturally comes last, not first.
It’s the last stop on this cycle of following your passions. It starts with knowing what you want, then having the courage to ask for it, then receiving it and filling up, then feeling grateful.
But sometimes life doesn’t go your way, despite following your passions.
Finding gratitude in difficult experiences
Being a co-founder of The Passion Co. is a dream come true. I get to work with a team of smart, powerful, gorgeous women and inspire people to follow their passions. I’m a lucky man! But is it easy? Hell no.
A lot of people leave their 9-to-5 jobs to be their own boss expecting to have the ultimate freedom. You don’t. With entrepreneurship, it’s like being a parent. You need to deal with your business when it’s screaming bloody murder in the middle of the night, which includes everything from legal issues to bookkeeping.
If you’re waiting until life is perfect to allow yourself to feel gratitude, you’re screwed.
Life is often hard and intense, especially when you chose a life path that prioritizes meaning over comfort. The more I realize this, the more I’m spontaneously grateful in random moments – while making tea, when a Find Your Passion Program application lands in my inbox, or after a difficult conversation challenges me to grow.
This last example is a good reminder that sometimes it’s impossible to be grateful in the moment. Sometimes we need to get some space from an intense experience, and only then are we able to appreciate how it shaped us.
So, the short version:
Gratitude is a key to well-being. Forced gratitude doesn’t work. If you want to be grateful, create something to be grateful for. Really go for it! Know that if you fall flat on your face in the process, you may even find gratitude for that.
We want to hear from you! Leave a comment and share:
1) What you’re creating in your life today that you'll likely be grateful for two years from now.
2) A difficult experience that you had in the past that you’re authentically grateful for now.