How often do you express gratitude?
Today is November 24 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “How often do you express gratitude for those who have gone before you?”
People who navigate the chaos know that they often stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before them.
Gratitude has been the subject of observation for centuries.
American playwright and novelist Thornton Niven Wilder wrote “The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”
Navigating the chaos requires tremendous effort each day.
Schedules are packed with meetings, calls, and tasks. Being hyper-focused on one goal, and then another, is part of navigating the chaos.
Learning how to constantly develop both personally and professionally is a necessity.
But as Wilder noted, so too is gratitude. In the 1986 historical drama The Mission, the last line of the movie suggests that “the spirit of the dead will survive in the memory of the living.”
The Swiss moral philosopher, poet, and critic Henri Frédéric Amiel wrote “Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”
Dr. Summer Allen wrote "The Science of Gratitude," a white paper prepared for the Jon Templeton Foundation by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, published in May 2018 that looked at gratitude from an academic perspective.
Summer wrote “Throughout history and around the world, religious leaders and philosophers have extolled the virtue of gratitude. Some have even described gratitude as “social glue” that fortifies relationships—between friends, family, and romantic partners—and serves as the backbone of human society.”
But what exactly is gratitude? Where does it come from? Why do some people seem to be naturally more grateful than others? And are there ways we can foster more feelings and expressions of gratitude?
Over the past two decades scientists have made great strides toward understanding the biological roots of gratitude, the various benefits that accompany gratitude, and the ways that people can cultivate feelings of gratitude in their day-to-day lives.
Most people have an instinctive understanding of what gratitude is, but it can be surprisingly difficult to define. Is it an emotion? A virtue? A behavior? Indeed, gratitude can mean different things to different people in different contexts. However, researchers have developed some frameworks for conceptualizing gratitude so that it can be studied scientifically.
For example, Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough define gratitude as a two-step process: 1) “recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome” and 2) “recognizing that there is an external source for this positive outcome.”
While most of these positive benefits come from other people—hence gratitude’s reputation as an “other-oriented” emotion—people can also experience gratitude toward God, fate, nature, etc.
Some psychologists further categorize three types of gratitude: gratitude as an “affective trait” (one’s overall tendency to have a grateful disposition), a mood (daily fluctuations in overall gratitude), and an emotion (a more temporary feeling of gratitude that one may feel after receiving a gift or a favor from someone).
How often do you express gratitude for those who have gone before you?