Philosophy, Society

Gratitude and why you shouldn’t expect things to “just work”

I’m utterly convinced that the key to lifelong success is the regular exercise of a single emotional muscle: gratitude.

– Geoffrey James (hat tip to swissmiss)

Continuing the line of thought from my two previous posts, it feels like many of us have (or at least I have) come to expect many things that probably shouldn’t be expected. What I mean is this conception of “how things are supposed to work”, and the believe that somewhere on this planet there are those “true professionals” that do things that way. That conception, that if you adhere to a couple of smart principles, including the scientific method, sound reasoning and a lot of grit, you eventually end up with a process that is “the right way”. And the thought that if you do things that way and do them thoroughly, you will eventually come up with a “proper” product, solution, or at least a satisfactory conclusion concerning that particular problem. And if you don’t, you are just doing it wrong, have too little experience and probably aren’t (yet) one of those “true professionals”.

But what I’ve come to realize, is that those “true professionals” don’t really exist. That even the most professional experts, most of the time, have not much of a clue of what they are actually doing and are just making things up along the way. Of course, experience and formal training help, but even the best of us, most of the time, have to navigate a vast decision tree with simply too little information.

So what’s that got to do with gratitude? Well, if you expect that things can, should and are done “the right way” (that is assuming you are not working with or using a product of complete idiots, or believe you are yourself one), then you expect things to “just work” in the “expected way”. If they don’t, you are disappointed. But what’s even worse: if they do, you just ignore the fact that it just worked, without ever feeling any gratitude. Simply because that’s what you were expecting all along, that things work the way they are supposed to. So however things turn out, either you get disappointed or don’t feel much at all.

On the other hand, if you were to expect that things usually don’t “just work”, it is much easier to feel gratitude every time they actually do. And you will have a much happier life, giving you the power to tackle harder problems (not expecting to solve them on the first attempt).


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