A theme that keeps coming up with a lot of my clients these days is the concept of gratitude. As a practice, it’s a powerful way for them to relish in the moment, to dive deep into the present and ground themselves in the beauty that is their life. Our use of Process Coaching, where we really focus on the here and now, allowing the present to unfold before us as a means to deepen our learning of self, can often enhance this feeling through the realization that every emotion and experience is worth being grateful for. When practiced regularly, gratitude can recenter our focus from the negative to the positive and dramatically improve our lives. (There’s A LOT of research on the subject like here, here, and here).
However, what I’ve noticed in my sessions lately (and this is perhaps due to the awareness around incorporating gratitude into a daily practice for New Years resolutions) is that gratitude can often be a double edge sword. As easy as it may be a tool for our Inner Leader to show us the beauty in life, it can also be used as a weapon by our saboteurs to convince us that we should just keep tolerating our lives even when we’re yearning for more. This is what I call the Gratitude Gremlin.
With the Gratitude Gremlin, the message isn’t “practice gratitude and appreciate this moment”. But rather, “You should be grateful. Why do you want more? That’s just being greedy.”
Can you tell that there are different energies here? One is powerful, soft, and encouraging. It’s a tool to living a better and more complete life by noticing the small moments that make it meaningful and beautiful. The other is oppressive and resentful, as though you have no right to want the things that make you come alive. The Gratitude Gremlin hides behind good intentions but instead of lifting you up, it weighs you down. Instead of helping you see the dream life you yearn to create, it shames you for even daring to want more. Instead of allowing you to appreciate the moment, it guilts you into tolerating the status quo.
It’s time we get rid of the Gratitude Gremlin once and for all. You’re allowed to want a more fulfilling, meaningful life no matter how privileged you are in this world. It’s your right to dream and hope and wish and work towards your own personal version of fulfillment and a big part of that is being grateful for what’s in front of you, for what you’ve already accomplished, and for what you have in life. Don’t let the Gremlin taint your gratitude with shoulds, with shame, and with greed. Because you’re not being greedy by wanting more out of your life, you’re actually being grateful for living in the first place.