Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
It’s common for people to talk about practicing gratitude as part of your journey to success. But why do they say this, and what scientific basis (if any) is there for their claims?
Infinitely growing your business with gratitude is just a load of impractical, new-age, “woo-woo” nonsense … right?
If you have, like I did in the past, hit a wall with your growth, it can be hard to know where to turn. Getting over that threshold just requires too much of you. There’s no more that you can give in order to reach that critical mass of having financial freedom and the time to enjoy your success. It’s so frustrating, maddening and disappointing. I know, I get it. But spending time in that energy of what you “lack” isn’t going to help. In fact: It’s largely responsible for your stagnation.
Practicing gratitude is the key. But why?
Making internal adjustments in order to reframe your situation is the way forward, and practicing gratitude is the key. But why?
Gratitude is something that, to a lot of people, probably feels like a result. Something that comes in reaction to past events. Being grateful for a chosen outcome before it has happened, if you’re not used to it, can feel more than a bit “unorthodox.”
There’s no real reason why gratitude should be a passive emotion, though, not when you think about it. It’s only our collective agreements that dictate that expressions of gratitude come after something has happened for which we are grateful.
Practically speaking, however: It’s just the same as feeling grateful in advance.
Hear me out. When you feel gratitude after an occurrence as you reflect upon it in your mind, even if it’s only seconds after, you’re still no longer in that moment. It’s something we express once we have personally evaluated something and deemed it worthy of gratitude. So, it’s always something that is done internally, based on recalled experiences.
When you choose to feel grateful for something in advance of it actually occurring, you’re doing essentially the same thing. Namely: making an event real in your mind and attaching an emotional energy to it.
Related: Why Gratitude Makes Leaders More Effective
So, what’s the difference?
Okay, so: In one, the thing has happened, and in the other, it hasn’t. But you’re still just thinking about something and connecting an emotion to it when all is said and done. The practical application of practicing gratitude is in developing a level of positive expectation. In other words: We create a “dream-sized hole” for the universe to fill.
The natural state of the universe is abundance. Just look up into the sky on a clear summer’s night. We have no idea where, if at all, the boundaries are.
It’s also why we are naturally disposed against restriction. We seek freedom and expansion, and we bristle when others try to control our behavior. The beautiful thing is that the universe wants to give it to us! All too often, we are the ones who place restrictions on how much can come to us and when.
Related: How to Practice Gratitude as a Business Skill
The power of collective agreements
I had a client say to me the other day on a group call that he was raised in a strict Catholic home but had long since shunned religion himself. Nevertheless, when in a crisis, or if he really wanted something, he would instinctively pray for it.
He didn’t like that he did that though, and for years, he had been chiding himself for, as he saw it, backsliding into a religious habit. He also didn’t like the word “gratitude,” because it conjured an image for him — of being observed by an omnipresent deity to which he was showing fealty.
I offered him two ways in which to reframe this:
Drop the word “gratitude” — if that’s the sticking point, remember that this is really about developing a level of positive expectation. So, call it that and remove the negative emotional charge of that particular word.
The reason that prayer was his go-to move was because he’d spent years being indoctrinated in that way of thinking. Removing the organized religion aspect of it though, we’re just talking about the energy of a collectively held belief.
As Lynn McTaggart showed in her book, The Power of Eight: When eight or more people hold an idea, the very fiber of reality changes. That’s what prayer/meditation circles are all about — holding a collective agreement in a specific outcome and creating that quantum entanglement with reality, that makes it happen.
When these specific agreements exist and are held by millions throughout the world, we can “plug in” to that and get the power from it. Why fight it?
This is what gratitude is, in essence: a collectively agreed upon meaning for a specific human emotional energy. We’ve all largely agreed what that feeling is, what it means and how we process it.
So, let’s tap into the collective power of that!
If we can integrate practices of gratitude into our daily lives, we’ll be spending more and more time in that energy. Do that long enough, and you’ll literally be rewriting your lived experience. Pretty soon, you’ll start noticing more things to be grateful for too!
This is because, by choosing to feel gratitude, we’ve begun to rewire our reticular activating system (the part of the brain responsible for deciding what information is worthy of our conscious attention). And just like you start seeing the same car everywhere after you get your new pride and joy, so too will you start seeing just how much you have to be grateful for out there in the world.
In this state, you’ll feel more energized, more inspired and totally resourced to get done what you need to. You’ll have an underlying faith that the universe has your back, and that you will be provided for if you just take that next step.
Give it a try. What have you got to lose?