As we get ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow in the States, in my work with entrepreneurs I’ve been thinking a lot about the dichotomy between entitlement and gratitude. I think it’s one of the most powerful, and impactful, decisions an entrepreneur can make. I wrote a thing about it, and included a practical exercise you can use to make this powerful shift, below:
You’re acting entitled
If you’re like most people, you hear that and you immediately get defensive. Maybe even just reading it, right now. “Am not,” you say. And you think you’re telling the truth.
But put aside what you know about what it means to act entitled, the image of a spoiled three-year old perhaps, and really think about it. Think about something you’ve recently complained about, and consider what’s behind that complaint.
If you’re honest, when you look under the sheets of your complaint you’ll find that you feel entitled to the thing you’re complaining about being different than what it is. (You might resist this, but it’s what’s there if you’re honest with yourself.)
Realizing this — that you’re acting the way you might teach your kids not to act — can have the remarkable effect of moving areas of your life that haven’t moved in a long time. Seeing yourself in a new way can change you, if you let it.
Next time you catch yourself complaining about something, lift up the covers and see the entitlement underneath. Give yourself the gift of catching yourself in the act, owning your entitlement even if it’s uncomfortable.
Entitlement or gratitude. Each moment is a choice.
If gratitude doesn’t feel like a choice, try this exercise
Here’s a quick, two part exercise to illustrate the power of attention, paraphrased from The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:
Look around the room, identifying everything in a 360-degree radius that is white. Be specific in your inventory, and make sure you find everything. Go ahead, do this now and I’ll wait.
Now, without looking around the room again, recite all the green things you saw. …
You find what you look for.
This holiday season, at home, at work, or over Zoom, I invite you to choose to look for things to appreciate. You’ll find them.
Quote that sums up my thoughts on entitlements vs gratitude
Am I better off making up an alternate reality in my mind and then fighting with reality to make it be my way, or am I better off letting go of what I want and serving the same forces of reality that managed to create the entire perfection of the universe around me?
— Michael Singer
What I’m grateful for
This Thanksgiving, a vastly incomplete sampling of things that I’m grateful for:
The many people sacrificing to save lives, both COVID related and not, and the many people sacrificing to get us a vaccine.
The way the sunlight hits the elm leaves outside my home office window, long after all the other leaves have fallen.
The generosity of so many people sharing their love and compassion online (this is my experience of the internet, it may not be yours, in which case see the exercise above).
The worldwide recognition of the importance of community.
The right poem at the right time.
The forest, walking distance from my house.
The amazingly deep relationships I’ve formed since COVID, many over Zoom.
The teachers at my oldest son’s school and the teacher at my youngest son’s home-school-pod.
My youngest son’s dimples.
My oldest son’s boundless energy.
My wife’s unquestioning support, for our family and for everyone in her life.
My wife’s bravery amidst uncertainty.
My wake up call, now over a year old.
Receiving a not-so-gentle nudge to make a change.
Rediscovering my love for writing, and an audience of leaders I’m so lucky to share my journey with.
The many generous people who continue to believe in me and support me.
How remarkably serendipitous my life has become, in such a short time.
The remarkable men and women I get to work with every day, and their inspiring visions that I get to help bring into the world.
The courage to live my one wild, precious life fully, even (especially) if I don’t understand where it’s all headed.
Christmas lights before Thanksgiving.
May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live with ease.