I read a few articles recently that talked about the link between the two, and went as far as to suggest that gratitude is a stepping stone to being truly happy.
I am wondering if gratitude can be a stumbling block to happiness. I know that might sound crazy, and I am certainly NOT suggesting that we throw gratitude out the window and stop being grateful.
But there is another concept that coupled with gratitude might just make happiness impossible.
The concept of “should”. Yep, those dreaded “shoulds”. I remember having a life changing conversation with a dear friend of mine, a rabbi who has also been a mentor to me. I was really struggling with a certain decision and I said, “I just want to know what I should do.” He looked me in the eye and said, “Oh Cindie, there are no shoulds.” I was speechless for at least a full minute (a stretch for me). It was such a foreign concept to me. No shoulds. He continued, “If you keep thinking that way you’ll end up should-ing all over yourself.”
So the other day I was talking with a good friend about this whole happiness/gratitude distinction. We both recalled times when we were not happy, but did not want to admit it. We would silently go over our laundry list of things that we SHOULD be happy with and leave it at that. This is where the shoulds come in and seriously disempower the gratitude factor.
For instance, picture a person who is not happy in their marriage, and of course no one wants to admit that, so instead they tell themselves “My spouse is a good person, we get along pretty well together, we live in a nice house, we drive nice cars, our kids are good kids, I have a good job, he doesn’t beat me, she doesn’t cheat on me, etc.” and the implication here is “I SHOULD be happy. Who am I to be unhappy when I am so blessed?”
Do you see how the shoulds get in the way here? We don’t feel we have the right to be unhappy when we have so many “good” things in our life, so we choose to be content by just being grateful.
When we understand that there are no shoulds, we can take a look at what we really want, and move towards happiness, taking gratitude along for extra support.
Don’t throw gratitude out the window, throw out the shoulds instead.
It has been said that happiness is the journey, not the destination. Are you stuck in park because you’ve decided to be content with being grateful? Put it in drive, move towards happy. It might be scary. It might ruffle some feathers. It might seem like a rough ride at first.
Realize that if you allow yourself to be truly happy, whatever that takes, everyone else will be fine too.
Love & Magic,