You hear people talk endlessly about the habits, traits, beliefs, and behaviors of highly successful people… and rightfully so. Dissecting the attitudes of those we want to emulate is essential to building the lives we really want to live.
But there is one thing, in particular, that is often overlooked — one absolutely essential habit that correlates with massive, life-changing success.
You’ve certainly heard about the power and importance of “gratitude” before, and you probably brushed it off as nonsense.
Well, of course it’s important to be grateful, you think, in the same way you have to say “thank you” to your grandmother for a gift you didn’t want. It’s hard to imagine expressing endless thanks for a life you aren’t really happy with.
And yet, that’s exactly the trick of it.
Highly successful people speak things into the present by being grateful for that which they do not yet have. By saying “thank you” for your success, you shift your energy from wanting to having.
If you are a goal-driven, ambitious person, you probably think a lot about the ways in which you’d like to change and improve your life. That’s great, except for the fact that consistently focusing on what you do not yet have attracts and multiples the feeling and experience of not having.
The fact is that the more you are grateful now, the more life will give you to be grateful about in the future.
Oprah said it like this: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” The Dalai Lama said it like this: “The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” Roy Bennett said it like this: “Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals. If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more?”
But gratitude is more than just an exercise that self-help gurus try to push on you. There’s actual research that proves that adopting gratitude as a practice improves your health and life as a whole.
In one study by psychologists Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, they took a sample group and had them write a few sentences each week regarding the state of their lives. Only one of the group wrote about what they were specifically grateful for.
By the end of the study, those who wrote about gratitude were not only happier with their lives and themselves as a whole, but they also had higher rates of exercise and ended up seeing physicians less than those who didn’t express gratitude.
Other people even call gratitude a “hedonic reset,” referencing the idea that human beings are often on an ongoing, endless “treadmill” of sorts, constantly seeking out the next high and breeding perpetual dissatisfaction in the process.
In her book on the subject, Loretta Graziano Breuning explains it like this:
“The first lick of an ice cream cone is heaven. Ten licks later, your attention wanders. You start thinking about the next thing on your agenda, and the next. You still love the ice cream, but you don’t feel it as much because it’s not new information. Your brain is looking for the next great way to meet your needs. Dopamine is triggered by new rewards. Old rewards, even incredibly creamy-delicious ones, don’t command your brain’s attention. Scientists call this habituation.”
So what happens when you practice gratitude is that you actually habituate yourself to seek out the good in your life, and the more you are doing that automatically, the more you will not only find… but the more you will also create.
However, many people resist gratitude because they are under the illusion that it will make them complacent. If they are grateful for what they have, wouldn’t that be signaling to life to not give them anything else?
This idea is the product of believing that happiness and success is a point at which you arrive… and of course, that isn’t true.
Life never stagnates. It never stops. You’re never not changing, adjusting, adapting and moving. Gratitude simply helps you reorient the direction from being perpetually unhappy to existing in a state of both appreciating what you have and fueling yourself to continue to create more.