Thankfulness vs. Appreciation… What Is The Difference?
I will be honest with you; I have been practicing something new recently. It has not been an easy thing to practice, in fact, it’s been a little bumpy. The new behavior is definitely something I have known for a long time that I needed to work on, but I just hadn’t made the intentional effort to change. The behavior I have been practicing is letting go and appreciating. The funny thing is, that it started with this excerpt several months ago:
“The one thing that all humans have in common is that everyone believes there is a way things should be and there is a way thing shouldn’t be. When things are as we think they should be we’re happy, and when things are not as we believe they should be we’re upset.”
I saw then and see now, how true this statement is. It’s true about me and it’s true about almost everyone I know. It is all about the fact that we each have our preconceived notions about what is the right way to do something and what is the wrong way to do something. Then we operate our life in a way that tries to control those variables that don’t fit into our tight little world. It’s human psychology. It’s how our brains just naturally operate. And if you notice there are a bunch of “shoulds” in these examples:
- My staff should know what to do in that situation.
- I should be thinner.
- My colleague shouldn’t talk to me that way.
- They should have known not to charge that to the corporate card.
- We should have gotten that deal.
- I should make the meeting more efficient.
- My boss shouldn’t have brought everyone back in the office to work yet.
- I shouldn’t have had so much to drink last night.
- The software should work.
- We should get the funding.
We have witnessed this in politics for years. What Democrats and Republicans have in common is that they both think there is a way the world should be and a way the world shouldn’t be. On top of that, consider what’s become known as “confirmation bias,” the tendency people must embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. When you’re going toe-to-toe with your peer, significant other, sibling, or adult child you both think there is a way the world should be and that is your way – the other person just has flawed thinking. You’re human. You’re also happy when the world cooperates and unhappy when it doesn’t.
This is the basis of entitlement. Entitlement is the opposite of appreciation.
For now, I’d like to make a distinction in how I experience thankfulness and appreciation. Thankfulness is what I feel when the world shows up the way I think the world should show up. But, Appreciation is what I create when I allow the world to show up just as the world shows up. With appreciation, it is almost as if you are watching a train go by, you aren’t reacting to it or trying to control its direction. You are simply aware of it and appreciative of it.
This week many of us will gather around a Thanksgiving table and we will give thanks. Listen carefully. Most of us will give thanks for the world being the way we think the world should be. That’s OK. It’s human. Be human.
Appreciation begins by letting go, little by little, of our egotistical attachment to believing we know the way the world should be and the way the world shouldn’t be. It’s letting the world show up just the way the world shows up. And then it’s choosing (yes, it’s a choice) to appreciate life being just as life is.
It is as Ted Lasso says “Be curious, not judgmental”. Be open and curious. Once we choose freely and experience openness and curiosity, we begin to live in appreciation. Remember this during this holiday:
- When you wake up on Thanksgiving morning and it is so cold you can see your breath…be in wonder of it.
- When your sister, Elizabeth, brings up the fact that she lives in Napa Valley and has a membership to the best wine club on earth…be in awe of it.
- When your Uncle Steve starts to tell you his bear hunting story for the 5th time over so many years,…just appreciate it.
- When your pumpkin pie is a flop and no one eats it…accept it and move on.
Can you believe that wonder, awe, and appreciation are actually our natural states?
Appreciation is the choice to see life with fresh eyes, to be constantly surprised and delighted. It’s the choice to let life grow in value, to appreciate like a fine piece of art.
Try it once as an experiment and you’ll see that you can be open and curious and effortlessly filled with appreciation. This path helps you reduce the amount of energy you expend in being irritated or trying to control the world around you. It can be a naturally self-reinforcing energizing way to live and lead…let me know how it turns out!