Don’t Use Gratitude To Self Medicate

An attitude of gratitude may be the most powerful tool in my tool bag. That’s why I have to be very careful how I use it.

There are still many mornings when I wake up feeling like I had a shit sandwich for bedtime snack the night before (and I’m not just talking about my breath). That’s why part of my morning routine is to write down 10 things I’m grateful for in my journal. [ I just had a vision of myself as the most interesting man in the world and saying, “I don’t always write down 10 things I’m grateful for but when I do, it works.”] I have no idea how it works because it’s way too simple for my brain to comprehend.

I’ve also used gratitude as a way to get trapped in the sticky web of complacency.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve done this in the 12 step meetings over the years. I’d be sitting there with my shoulders slumped, puking some inspirational cliches of gratitude out of my mouth while feeling anything but inspired.

In other words I was being dishonest.

Gratitude is a pretty bland dish unless it’s served with honesty.

It sounded something like this: My marriage is on the rocks, I hate my job, my kids aren’t speaking to me, I’m 50 pounds over weight and I feel like shit but, HALLELUJAH, life is grand because I didn’t use today. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful to be clean but, gratitude wasn’t the first emotion I was feeling in those moments, believe me.

I’m all for acting “as if” because it’s worked wonders for me in the past but, at some point it just becomes lying to myself and to others. It took me a long time to align with my core value of being honest and I’ve created checkpoints  to insure that I don’t backslide in that area.

That’s how I recently discovered that I was using gratitude to self medicate.

The past couple years have been amazing . I took a road trip and visited every state in the lower 48, I meditated with gurus in New Mexico, went to some awesome events, walked on 1500 degree coals with Tony Robbins, got trained and certified as a recovery life coach, and wrote a couple books. I lost 40 pounds and had more energy than I’d had in decades. I checked off more bucket list items than I did in the previous 40 years of my life. I had a TON to be grateful for so I thought I’d pause and celebrate while reflecting on my growth.

Before long, months had passed and I realized my growth had stopped. I was sitting behind a computer instead of being out there connecting with people, the weight was beginning to pile back on, and I knew I was not living in my integrity.

Once again, I was stuck in a rut and this time I was abusing gratitude to keep me there.

Gratitude can be just as stifling as guilt if I use it as an excuse to sit on my hands and do nothing. I’ve learned to trust my heart language over my head language and my heart was telling me it was time to get off the proverbial couch and take action.

In my book Addict To Awesome, I talk about the benefit I get from setting daily intentions to simply improve 1% each day.  Today I’m adding something to my daily routine to help me sustain momentum.

I recently discovered this cool tool from one of the greatest coaches in the business space. From best selling author, Marshall Goldsmith’s book called Triggers I learned about his daily question checklist and adopted a version of my own.

I created my own checklist of the top 6 things I want to focus on improving in my life and I’m grading how I did each evening with a number from 1 to 10. I list each one as a question beginning with, “Did I do my best to…” and answering them honestly each evening before bed. This allows me to place my focus on the areas I’m slacking in.

I start with a meditation of self acceptance to avoid judging myself on my progress. I’m old school so I like doing it on a piece of paper but you can use an excel spreadsheet too.

If you’re feeling stuck your body is telling you it’s time to grow. Don’t shrug it off by abusing gratitude like a drug to self medicate.

Rock On!