It’s Thanksgiving in the United States, or as some would like to call it, Black Friday Eve. (Although an increasing number of stores don’t even wait until Thanksgiving is over.) I’ve written about the importance of Thanksgiving and gratitude before, but what if I’m wrong? What if gratitude is some wimpy rainbows-and-unicorns sentiment that is out of touch with the harshness and competitiveness of today’s world? Or are rainbows and unicorns what we need today? I believe so, and here’s why gratitude is magic.
You Encourage Others to Support You
The “self-made” man or woman doesn’t exist. After all, if it weren’t for your parents, you wouldn’t be on the planet in the first place. Add your extended family, teachers, mentors, employees, partners, and friends — and you’ll see that they have woven a web of support that has carried you through your life. Without it, you wouldn’t have survived, let alone have the opportunity to succeed.
When you express gratitude for what they’ve done for you, you strengthen that web. You encourage their ongoing support because you show how much you value them. But exclude them when you celebrate your success, claim their good ideas as your own, and turn your back on them when they need you — and they may not be there when you need them again.
No one makes it on their own. Gratitude reminds you of that fact. Appreciation strengthens the relationships you need for your ongoing support.
You Strengthen Yourself by Supporting Others
One of the ways we express gratitude is by supporting others — training them, mentoring them, encouraging them towards their own success. But why mentor others who might take over your position? Would sharing with others dilute your good fortune?
No, because when you support others, you expand your web of support. You increase your influence and build a legacy. Being a mentor makes you more powerful and successful, increases the respect others have for you, and makes you more valuable. You can also learn and gain more experience from teaching others.
Gratitude shows how you gain from giving. By strengthening someone else’s web of support, you strengthen your own.
You Gain Perspective that Enriches Your Life
The final scene of Atlas Shrugged showed our objectivist hero John Galt drawing a dollar sign in the sand. The symbolism I got from it may not be what Ayn Rand intended.
To me, it shows that material wealth is fleeting. A stock market crash, a natural disaster, a layoff, a lawsuit, and all of our material wealth can be taken away. When we are stricken with a horrible illness, like the stroke my mother had, money loses all meaning. Being able to say a word, move a finger, or eat on your own becomes more valuable than a Rolex watch or a Coach handbag.
Gratitude reminds us that our relationships matter more than material goods. Money can vanish, just as lines in the sand can be blown away or washed out with the tide. If we build strong, healthy relationships, they can last a lifetime. And while you “can’t take it with you,” our friends and family can continue to remember and cherish us long after we’re gone.
You Create Magic through Gratitude
Ayn Rand would scoff at the idea of magic (not to mention pastel-colored equines). But when you see people become more than who they thought they could be, when you see them achieve goals that seemed impossible, when you see them create new businesses and even entire industries from nothing more than their ideas — it looks like magic. This magic can only come when people gain support, extend that support by helping others, and see their work as more than just making money. Gratitude makes this magic happen.
A rainbows-and-unicorns idea? Perhaps. But it’s an idea that makes our world seem brighter, happier, and more fulfilling than a grim fixation on material success. This idea may also make it easier for us to achieve that success and enjoy it more when we have it. It’s the magic that comes from gratitude.