Why Your Gratitude List is Selfish

Never miss a glorious update - click here!

Articles scatter the internet teaching you that having a gratitude list will make you happier.

And gratitude is great…up to a point.

There’s an element about gratitude that’s been grossly overlooked by self-development gurus everywhere. This article will talk about that, but let’s start with how you can instantly improve your current gratitude practice by highlighting what is missing in almost everyone’s gratitude list.  

WHY Are You Grateful?

The other day, my mom told me that she and my dad had joined a book club. (Can we all just say a collective “Awwwww” for the cuteness here!)

The first book that they’re reading is Be Happy by Robert Holden.

One of the big lessons in this book is to write WHY you are grateful for something. There’s a big difference between having a running list of things you appreciate – your home, your friends, your dog – and saying why you appreciate those things.

I’m grateful for my home because there was a time when I could barely pay rent. Now, I live in this gorgeous house that is a testament to my determination, persistence, and accomplishments.

I am grateful for my best friend because every time we talk I feel like I’m a better person because of her advice and understanding.

I’m grateful for my dog because…well, he’s a dog and dogs are the best. Period.

Make your gratitude list more than a role call for what is good right now. Don’t just jot one item down and move on to the next.

Gratitude doesn’t exist without knowing WHY you’re grateful.

Without the why, a gratitude list is more like a “nice things I noticed today” list.

Bonus Level of Gratitude

James Altucher is one of my favorite writers and speakers.

You know how people say, “Don’t meet your heroes”? Well, that doesn’t apply to James. We met and he was kind enough to talk with me about my book one day over coffee and I’m happy to say that he’s just as kind, straightforward, and intelligent as you think he is.

When I last saw James speak, he made a great point about gratitude that I started incorporating in my life.

James encouraged the audience to find ways to be grateful for the difficult times or the not-so-obvious things in your life.

It’s easy to be grateful for your dog and your kids, but what about being grateful for the client that you just lost? Or finding gratitude in that difficult conversation you had to have with your spouse?

This isn’t about looking at the world through rose-colored glasses or gritting your teeth into a forced smile. This is about training your brain to actively CHOOSE the meaning you give to circumstances rather than being a victim to negative, depression-inducing thoughts.

I’m grateful for the difficult conversation with my spouse because I practiced honest communication. It felt good to openly speak about my needs and I’m proud that I also listened to his/her needs as well.

Finding gratitude in the lessons learned in difficult times is more meaningful than being happy that flowers are pretty.

Why Your Gratitude List Is Selfish

And now we have come to the meat of the matter. This is the lesson that inspired this article.

Feeling grateful is nice, wonderful even. You get all those ushy-gooshy happy feelings when you sit in your cozy bed in your cozy clothes as you write your list. And then you put the list down and feel good about yourself and your life. That’s lovely. Truly.

Next time you look at your list, I’d like you to notice the names of the people that you wrote down–the ones you’re grateful for. Mom. Dad. Boyfriend. Friend. Mentor. Coworker. All the people who’ve added something to your life. They made enough of an imprint that they have an honored spot on your gratitude list.

So my question is…

Do they even know that?

Do those people even know that you are grateful for them? More importantly, do they even know WHY you’re grateful for them?

Have you expressed your gratitude OUTSIDE of your gratitude list?

I’m going to tell you a sad truth that will hopefully convince you to share your appreciation more often.

Do you know why con-artists are so successful in victimizing people?

For the con-artist who plays the long con–developing a relationship with their victim for a higher “take” than a quick con–they know that the quickest way to earn the favor of their victims is to show them appreciation and recognition. The con-artist can easily and quickly endear him or herself to the victim by making them feel seen, feel heard, and feel special.

Do you know the first person that an intelligence officer will try to turn into a spy?

It’s the person who feels under-appreciated and undervalued by their company or government.

It’s the person who has been unseen and unnoticed. An intelligence officer is happy to approach this person and get them to share classified information, because the officer knows that the crave to feel seen, feel heard, and feel special…and the officer can provide.

People are so starved for appreciation that they accept it from the most toxic sources.

So, how great is that gratitude list now?

By cloistering your gratitude between the covers of your journal, you are still starving your loved ones from something that they desperately desire.

We Can Do Better

Here is your challenge, if you choose to accept it. And, no, this message will not self-destruct in 5 seconds.

In fact, this message will stay up here and if you know someone who loves self-development and is into gratitude journaling, I encourage you to share this with them. This will take their (and your) gratitude to a higher level, making the world just a little bit better. 

Here we go.

Every day, find 1 way to express your gratitude to someone.

Tell ONE person what you appreciate about them. Tell ONE person why you appreciate them.

ONE person. Each day.

Tell someone why you appreciate them:

  • To their face
  • On the phone
  • On a video call
  • In an email
  • In a handwritten letter
  • On a facebook post you tag them in
  • With a gift (with a card)
  • In skywriting
  • Whatever works for you

Start easy and share your appreciation with the people that you love. Just remember, it’s more meaningful to say WHY you appreciate them not just, “I appreciate you.”

After some time, I urge you to stretch yourself and tell someone you’re not close to (or even someone you don’t get along with) why you appreciate them. Who knows, it could shift the dynamic of the relationship.

It’s Important to Note:

You are not giving that person your appreciation SO THAT they will respond in a certain way.

You are not sharing your appreciation in hopes of getting appreciation in return.

You are not expressing your gratitude in order to trigger any comment or behavior from them.

You ARE expressing your gratitude and appreciation to express your gratitude and appreciation. That’s it.

You may get a lovely response from people. You may not.

You may improve a relationship. You may not.

Their response is not a part of the equation in this exercise. The point of this is to take your gratitude out into the world and not leave it in your journal.

Who knows. Maybe if more of us expressed gratitude and appreciation to others then maybe it will feed their souls with just enough sustenance that they won’t seek to be fed false appreciation from dysfunctional places.

Sharí Alexander has studied the art of influence from CIA agents, hostage negotiators, trial attorneys, con-artists, pick-up artists, and now she wants to help you use these secrets to be more prosperous and successful in your business.

Click here to get your FREE copy of Sharí’s Mindreader Blueprint and start influencing someone today. 

About the Author

Sharí Alexander is a leadership and persuasiveness coach based in Los Angeles. She works with entrepreneurial leaders on how to be influential in all aspects of their business - from sales, to client and investor relations, and persuasive speeches. Her mission is to bring the “dark arts” of influence into the light. She personally learned persuasive techniques from CIA agents, hostage negotiators, con-artists, and others. She teaches business leaders how to use the same skills in business, making them the leaders that people want to follow.

Comments for This Entry

  • Kyle @

    Outstanding article, Shari. Gratitude is a recommended staple in everyones life and i feel that we can sometimes just "check the box" and pick random things to be thankful for. What helps me, is to not focus on only dedicated times to be grateful such as in the morning or before bed. When i see something amazing during the day, i stop for about 15-25 seconds and really internalize it. Because if i dont, at the dinner table when we speak about 3 things were grateful for i pick the most random stuff. Thanks for the great write-up.

    March 6, 2017 at 3:42 am

  • Brad Revering

    Absolutely wonderful! Shari, you were able to articulate the something that was missing from my gratitude list. Keep up the good work!

    February 17, 2017 at 7:11 am

Leave a Comment