#22: Give it, don’t expect it.

I’ve long tried to incorporate gratitude as a daily practice. It’s so easy for me to focus on what I DON’T have as opposed to appreciating what I do have.  After many years of berating myself for this nearsightedness, I’ve learned to simply accept that tendency. Instead, I compensate for it, like a car whose alignment I know is off. I have to constantly turn that wheel right toward gratitude, lest I careen off into a ravine of self-centeredness and self-interest.

But there’s a shadow side to every action,  every decision – even the most innocuous seeming.

Orienting ourselves toward gratitude for the abundance we have and what others do for us is one thing. But what happens when that wheel shifts the other way and I start to explicitly expect “thanks”  for what I do?

I’m invariably disappointed.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t feel thankful for what you provide them or do for them.  That sort of mutual appreciation should comprise the warp and woof of any relationship, whether they are family, friends or a partner. But it’s that EXPECTATION of gratitude – and a specific vision of how that appreciation looks – that creates that shadow.

I’ve set myself up for that disappointment more times than I’d like to admit. Not that my motivation for doing something is primarily for the thanks – but it’s nice to FEEL appreciated, right? Of course it is.  But then I go from not feeling it and jumping across the wide gap of assumptions to thinking that it’s obviously the OTHER person’s fault for not DOING the appreciating. Or if they are, they aren’t doing it  long enough, hard enough, or often enough to my satisfaction.

When I go seeking some type of proof or demonstration of a feeling in someone else, the fixation on finding it in a particular form is blinding.  If not feeling thankful is nearsightedness, the undue expectation of it is farsightedness.   It’s difficulty in focusing on what’s right in front of you.

It’s like that classic attention experiment. You can try it yourself:

Did you see the Gorilla? It’s doubtful you will, since your attention is focused on something specific.