In the spirit of November, and Thanksgiving (at least in the US…Canada is way ahead of the curve here), here’s why to choose gratitude.
Today when I went to make coffee, the vanilla coffee that I like so much was not where I left it. I spent a good three minutes looking for it before I found it on the other counter, where Dreamy had put it while cleaning up after dinner. Before I found it, I was convinced that he had lost it, thrown it away, or taken it to the gym NOT EVEN CARING that this is my (now) favorite kind of coffee (as of yesterday). Now I don’t know about you, but my inner child is usually a spoiled little brat who always wants her way and has temper tantrums when this doesn’t happen.
Fortunately, I have learned (actually, I’ve been taught by women wiser than me) that when I behave badly, I’m usually wrong and even if I’m not wrong I will feel like crap if I’m a jerk. And I will also need to make amends if I am to have any serenity, and it’s easier to be nice than to make amends. I laughed at myself as I went through this experience today because I would have responded much differently to this situation in the last 10, 5, and even 3 years. Here are the texts I would have sent after not finding the coffee after 2 minutes during different stages of my life and understanding of gratitude:
30-year-old me: ‘I can’t believe you took the coffee to the gym. Could you at least have ASKED if I liked that kind, or do you only care about yourself?’ (note, I was not married to Dreamy when I was 30. He was lucky enough not to have to experience THIS version of me…for the most part).
35-year-old me: ‘Would you mind bringing back the coffee? Vanilla is my favorite.’ ahem. I also would have been very proud of myself for not responding like the above.
40-year-old me: ‘Did you take the coffee to work with you?’ – said neutrally just so I would know if I should stop looking for it.
43-year-old me: Decides to wait before texting to see if there’s any other coffee at home because coffee’s coffee.
45-year-old me: That is so cool he cleaned up even though he was gone all weekend.
WOOHOO!! I seriously felt like I hit an elevated plane of existence, even though I’m well aware that I’m just being an adult and will not be receiving a hero badge for not being a jerk.
See, I don’t know a lot, and I forget most of what I do know, but one thing I believe to be true is that you can walk through life as an entitled jerk or happy and serene in the exact same set of circumstances. I have been on both sides of that coin and can tell you that even when I’m 100% RIGHT in my stance, choosing the entitled angry position has never brought so much as half a smidgen of peace.
People who are entitled feel like they’re owed something. They have a set of ‘shoulds’ in their mind. People SHOULD behave in a certain way. They SHOULD get this if they did that. The world is full of people who will be more than happy to remind us of our shoulds. I love the commercials that were playing day and night in California a few years back. They went something along the lines of “Did you spend an exorbitant amount of money on a house you can’t afford and now you are behind in your mortgage payments? You DESERVE to have a mortgage you can afford.” Or “You DESERVE a diamond bracelet for your birthday” or “You DESERVE to…” you get the idea.
Having expectations about what should be results in either two things. You get what you expected, and are satisfied (but not overly happy because it’s just what you expected) or you do NOT get what you expected so you are frustrated and resentful. Because of this, I work really hard at not having expectations, and life is a lot more fun.
And you know how not to be an entitled jerk?
Do you know it is impossible to be entitled and grateful at the same time? Think about it. If I expect my hunky husband to do the dishes every night and he does them, I’m just ‘meh’. If he does them and I think ‘how nice, he did the dishes. I’m so grateful’, I feel happy. If someone comes and tells me, ‘well, he SHOULD do the dishes. You DESERVE to have him do the dishes since you cooked. He SHOULD mop the floor too and NOT move your coffee’ then while this may be true it will also be true that I will experience much less happiness in my marriage.
We all have the power to magnify whatever we’re looking at, and we get to choose whether we look at the good or the bad. Funny thing though, is we also tend to attract the same attention back as we give. If I helpfully find all the things Dreamy is doing wrong when he cleans and helps out, he will probably not turn to me and say “Thank you so much for helping me do better. You’re the best. I love providing you opportunities to coach and instruct me because you’re so good at it”. Nope. In fact, he may even become tempted to point out the few areas where I am less than perfect. And the cycle begins.
No one was ever nagged into a happier and more loving relationship, and an attitude of gratitude goes a lot farther to create the life you want to be living than a critical eye and a sense of entitlement. I’ve been using marriage, but it works in every relationship and every circumstances – cross my heart.
I definitely need to be intentional about this, as it is still not my default nature. For example:
Entitled: Arghh…#NoBen is calling out for me at 3:15 am again. What does he want now?
Grateful: I’m glad #NoBen has the security of knowing I will be there if he calls.
Entitled: You want another story? When am I going to get five minutes to myself?
Grateful: They’re not always going to want to spend time with me, so I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts
Entitled: Why is that cashier going so slow and making comments about every single item?!!
Grateful: That’s nice that she’s taking the time to be friendly.
Entitled: Why are those people in front of me walking SO SLOWLY
There is no positive response to this one. Those people are evil and should not be allowed out in public. Possibly I will feel differently about this in five more years.
Do you have any times you could have been mean but instead were grateful and what happened? I’d love to hear about it!
PS I’ve written, 10 tips on dealing with multiple (conflicting) priorities. If you’d like a free copy, just click here!