So first things first, what do we mean by gratitude? Gratitude simply means thankfulness and gratefulness.
Most of us have a roof over our heads; we have good health, we have beautiful families, have enough money to put food on the table and enough to buy clothes for ourselves and our family. Most people already have more aside from these basic needs. Yet most of us are not yet content. We always want more, we want to do more, and achieve more, of course, you’re not alone.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs talks about five levels we humans want to attain (in order of priority):
- Physiological needs – i.e. food, water, shelter, clothing etc
- Safety needs – i.e. personal security, employment, resources, health, property
- Love and Belonging – i.e. friendship, intimacy, family, sense of belonging
- Esteem – i.e. respect, status, self-esteem, recognition, strength and freedom
- Self-actualisation – i.e. desire to be the most that one can be
This has been taught in MBAs around the world for decades and when I studied this, (many moons ago), I could really connect with it, and it was almost like a ‘to do’ list for me at first as I was young, ambitious and wanted to achieve certain things in life, (another topic for another time perhaps). I was also aware that this model depicts a certain lifestyle that almost says; it is ok to want more; it is ok to be greedy and never be contented.
However, you quickly realise that this hierarchy of needs is not the be-all and end-all. It’s a good baseline to start with if you want it to be. So what happens when you can’t relate to or agree with these needs or wants (depending on which way you look at it)? What happens when you achieve level 5 and then what? What is next? After a little pondering and a lot of soul searching, I came to the conclusion, that there is no magic formula for what is next or what else; it all depends on you, on what your purpose in life is, what is important to you, what difference do you want to make in this world, what legacy do you want to leave behind? This would, of course, be different for different people as we all have different maps of the world.
We are all wired to think that it is ‘things’ that make us happy, we will be happier when we have our own house, when we have more money, when we are slimmer, when we have the latest car or the latest phone, or the salary hike or that promotion and then when we get what we wanted, we are happy for a short while and… until we are not. Then we wonder what is wrong, why are we not happy?
Happiness comes from within you; you get to decide what and who makes you happy. Things don’t make you happy. Be happy and be grateful for what you have already, not what you will get or achieve, or what you ‘think’ will make you happy.
Have you ever seen a young child playing with toys at home or in daycare, perhaps this has been your child or a friend’s child? Have you ever noticed that despite giving the child the latest, the most expensive toy with all the bells and whistles, after a few minutes of play with it, all they want to do is take a kitchen pot or a pan and a wooden spoon and bang the spoon on the pan and be content with the noise it makes? It’s true, isn’t it? It’s the simplest, most basic of things that entertain a child at that age and they are happy, why? Because they don’t know any better, or worse as the case may be!
What happened, or what changed as we grew into adults? We want more; we want the latest gadget because our friends have it, we want the latest designer outfit because our competitor is wearing it, we want to look like that person on that TV commercial or that ‘beautiful person’ on that fashion magazine cover.
The pressures, the standards and the expectations we strive to achieve for ourselves and our loved ones!
There are some of us that started on this path of striving for success (based on our own meaning of success that is) for different reasons, myself included. But generally speaking, we are so easily sucked into this worldly ‘wants’ of life and materialism, which is so beautifully portrayed by large corporations worth trillions in their tantalising, mouth-watering and enticing ads, that’s why they manage to sell us both what we need and what we want. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself with ‘wants’ once in a while, the real question is, do you have an awareness of your wants vs needs?
We sometimes forget to be happy and grateful for what we already have and who we are. So let’s stop comparing ourselves to others, let’s stop doing what others do. Let’s stop buying into what others are buying into. Listen to your inner self. Do what feels right for you, do what feels good for you, be YOU!
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey
Like most people, I used to be aware that I needed to be more grateful for what I already have, what I had already achieved, but there was always something else that got in the way. I soon realised I was not alone; we have all been there, we are all so occupied with the fast pace of ‘doing’ life, that we forget to ‘enjoy’ life. We live and do so much for the future that we forget to be really ‘present’ in the present.
So here are top seven gratitude hacks to try today:
- Practise gratefulness - Don’t just try and feel grateful, practise it - pray, meditate, be happy, be appreciative, making it a thing to do on your to-do list and if you practise it every day, it will become a habit, and over time it will become a part of you. Start today!
- Quality, not quantity - It’s the quality of life that’s important, not what you have, want or need. Who or what do you have in your life today, and what if it was not there tomorrow? Do you tell them or appreciate them enough? Have you told them this? Try it today!
- Legacy - If you were to die tomorrow, what is the legacy you want to leave behind? We all hope that we live ‘till we are in our 70s/80/90s, but there is no guarantee, is there? What if you live even longer than that, and the people that you love go before you do? What regrets would you have, or what regrets would you not want to have? Start today!
- Giving back - I struggled, you struggled, our parents and ancestors struggled with one thing or another, how can we give back and help others instead, how can we make a difference to someone’s life? Try it today!
- Values - What are your values? How can you work, live and be happy with the values that you have? Do you try and make an effort to work with people with similar values? If money was not an issue, would you work with someone where your values were not aligned? Do people around you know and understand your values? Do they understand who you are and what you stand for? Try it today!
- Appreciation - Part of gratitude is being thankful and being appreciative of everything, everyone, and every day. Just simple things go a long way, from saying thank you to a waiter serving you at a restaurant, thank you to your spouse for remembering your birthday, thank you to your boss for letting you go and take time off to attend a workshop. Thank you to someone in front of you, who simply holds the door for you as you approach it. Try it today!
- Relationships - We humans crave communication, we are a relational species. Research shows that if we have people and relationships in our lives, we are happier, hey we even live longer! It can’t get better than that right? After all, if like me, you are based in the UAE, where there is so much culture, people from different walks of life, so many opportunities to network and meet people, don’t put it off like I initially did, start today!
With increased gratitude, you will feel happier, energised, have a greater degree of empathy and optimism with a renewed zest for life, come what may! Who doesn’t want an extra dose of dopamine today?
About the author
Farzana Kazemi FCIPD, MANLP, ICF Coach
Founder/CEO, NLP Master Coach & HR Consultant
Farzana is a multiple award-winning “Human Capital Leader” 2018 and a “Women of Substance” Award winner 2020. An experienced and qualified NLP Master Coach, a Woman Entrepreneur, Mentor and an Advocate for Women Empowerment.
She is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), holds a Post Graduate Diploma in HR from Wolverhampton University in the UK, is certified with British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Institute of Legal Executives (CiLEX), is a Certified Coach with International Coaching Federation (ICF) and a Professional Member and NLP Practitioner with the International Association of NLP (ANLP) in the UK.
She is the founder and CEO of Trailblazer Consulting and helps individuals and particularly women in becoming masterful in their craft through NLP Coaching, helping them explore and better understand their identity, overcome any limiting beliefs, set and achieve their goals, whilst improving their quality of life, through a transformational journey. Farzana has helped dozens of clients already through executive coaching, business coaching and women leadership coaching.