Many people seldom experience gratitude. Why? Because their expectations of what should happen are too high. Gratitude is the measure of the space between experience and expectation. People who expect less and get more are grateful. People who expect a lot and get less, even if more than the low expectation person received, are not grateful.
Since much of the world is beyond our control, we can be happier by expecting less and noticing when we get more. Others in the world will be grateful if you offer them thanks. That leads to better performance. In general, you get less of what you punish and more of what you reward. No reward is less expensive to provide than, “Thank you.” This reward is often unexpected.
There is a fine article on the point in New York Times 28 July 2016. The Structure of Gratitude. It makes the point than many of us are ungrateful for the marvelous state of our world. Imperfect sure, but still wonderful. It is difficult to be grateful for the things we take for granted.
Understanding gratitude will address important lessons for us all.
- If you over promise and then deliver a good product or service, will you enjoy customer gratitude? No.
- If you have people measure a metric that you cannot control, will they blame you when it is adverse? Yes.
- If you think skilled people are “gifted” will you tend to undervalue their dedication and effort? Yes.
- If you claim credit for things that were not your doing, can you expect gratitude when found out? No.
Gratitude can be had, but only if you educate the people so they understand what a reasonable expectation looks like. It is a continuing battle because there is so much hype and mini-integrity in the world. A wise provider of products or services does not try to sound as good as the others. Their deliveries are what matter. Both to the customer and to themselves.
Are your expectations of yourself reasonable. If not, then you will never enjoy your achievements. Avoid most comparisons. No matter who you are and what you can do, on every metric that measures you, someone in the world is better.
Not to say comparison is a bad idea. Comparison can help you understand your strengths and your weaknesses. It can help identify areas of improvement and areas where you can share your wisdom with others. A rational expectation of yourself results.
If you are going to use comparison to others to value yourself, be sure you have that rational expectation in place else you risk disappointment. That usually leads to fruitless change and despair.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
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