Gratefulness is the inner gesture of giving meaning to our life by receiving life as a gift. There are several words that arise repeatedly when discussing gratitude, all of which reflect states that are related to it. While gratitude is both a feeling and an attitude, thankfulness is the demonstrative expression of it, whether extended to ourselves or others. We can express thanks in words—spoken or written—or in deeds, by extending time, resources, or gifts to support people in unexpected ways or to help those in need.
Appreciation is the recognition of that which makes us feel grateful, and can also be expressed internally or externally. Gratitude often ignites acts of generosity; we are moved to offer ourselves to others without expecting anything in return. People refer to generous acts that are freely given as “royal generosity.” These are just a few of the qualities related to gratitude. The expression of gratitude creates an opening that invites many other positive states and experiences into our lives.
The Latin root of the word gratitude is grata or gratia—”a given gift”—and from this same root, we get our word grace, which means “a gift freely given that is unearned.”
Gratitude is a feeling that spontaneously emerges from within. However, it is not simply an emotional response; it is also a choice we make. We can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be ungrateful—to take our gifts and blessings for granted. As a choice, gratitude is an attitude or disposition. As writer Alexis de Tocqueville once described it, gratitude is “a habit of the heart.” Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, reminds us that “gratefulness is the inner gesture of giving meaning to our life by receiving life as a gift.” M. J. Ryan’s classic book, Attitudes of Gratitude, supports the idea that gratitude is a stance we voluntarily take, and one we can adopt through the difficult seasons of life as well as the good ones. The daily practice of gratitude keeps the heart open regardless of what comes our way.
What you appreciate, appreciates. Reflect on your supply lines. Remember, your support staff is your key to success. Your family is instrumental in your well-being. Your customers are hugely responsible for your access to so many rewards. Your friends keep you reminded of all you are. Say “thank you.” Don’t forget who is carrying you, by attributing their talents and abilities to your future, because you can lose your stand by neglecting to acknowledge those supply lines that oxygenate you.
Next time you get on a plane, thank the pilot that flew you. Next time you eat a great meal, thank the person who prepared it for you. Next time you win a new client off of a proposal, thank the team member who assisted it. Look back today and remember those folks that made you who you are.
Every day, consider five opportunities to say “thank you.” You’ll notice a whirlwind of electricity that will catapult you ahead! Right now, call someone who made a difference in your life and tell them how and why they’ve enriched you so much. It will be the best thing you can do to continue the path to your dreams. What you appreciate, appreciates!
For more insights into appreciation, enjoy this video entitled “The Gratitude Principle,” which highlights how we can use gratitude to receive the truth.