Gratitude vs Gratification

When something makes us feel good, we want more of it. From the late-night snack of a pint of ice cream to the planned week of vacation, we want to feel good. And we usually want it right away! Two of the main ways that we have of feeling good right away are the feelings of gratitude and gratification.

They can both be addicting, but the difference between them is like “the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning” as Mark Twain once said. One makes an earthshaking difference and the other creates a fairy twinkle that we all chase from time to time.

That may be a little exaggerated. Let’s look at some hard definitions and see how gratitude vs. gratification actually plays out in the world that we live in today.

The Definitions

Simply put, gratitude is the good feeling we get or the expressions of appreciation that we make when something good happens to us. Most of the time, when we feel thankful, we feel good. It’s not that complicated.

Webster’s dictionary states that it is a “state of being thankful.” Think of the joy that a small child experiences when they get something that they have been wanting for a long time, the look on a loved one’s face when a crisis is averted, or the quiet peace radiating from a completely contented couple in love. In most cases, Psychology Today states that gratitude wants to be shared–you want other people to be just as happy as you are

On the other side of the coin, the state of being gratified is “a source of satisfaction or pleasure.” Remember the feeling as you get a second helping of your favorite dessert? How about the look on a teenager’s face when they level up in their video game of choice? Gratification wants more and more, particularly when you are able to have the feeling extended immediately. This leads to instant gratification, which, as stated by Positive Psychology, can become a real problem.

It’s important to realize that gratification in and of itself is not bad

Practically Speaking

What does this look like in the workplace and at home? Examples abound of both of these happiness generators in action. You may have noticed that someone really likes to fill the printer at work or deeply enjoys watching the coffee brew. These are examples of instant gratification.

At home, similar patterns can play out. Coming home to a clean home that your significant other has just gotten ready for you can spark a large amount of gratitude. When shared between both the cleaner and the one who came home, the evening could be full of happiness and peace.

On the other hand, instant gratification can take the form of a fun night out, an extra dessert, a spontaneous trip and much more. Other forms of gratification include buying a new dress or suit, splurging on something that you’ve been saving up for and so on and so forth.

Think of the days that nothing seems to get done. Sometimes, gratification (in the form of social media, longer lunches, and corridor chatter) gets in the way of getting things done. How about the coworker who loves to bring in tasty homemade goodies to share? They want to please you and themselves, but it is best? Sometimes, it can be trying if you’re on a diet and they insist that you take some of their goodies.

It’s a balancing act that can feel equivalent to walking (and falling) off a tightrope. How can you keep everything together?

The Balance

At the end of the day, gratitude and gratification should not be at war with each other. Rather, they should be balanced to suit you and your individual lifestyle. Sometimes that will lean one way and sometimes it will lean the other way.

The important thing to remember is that gratitude is internal and gratification is external. You need both in order to have the richest experience available to you. After all, both gratitude and gratification are about maximizing your happiness and the happiness of those about you. This is a very good thing indeed.

What Is Gratitude?

Of all the characteristics we value here at Alpha Kappa Psi, perhaps the most rewarding one is gratitude. The concept of gratitude extends much further than simply saying “Thank you.” Rather, it is a state of constant gratefulness for the good things in one’s life, both big and small. Not only is it a virtuous trait to let people know your appreciation when they have helped you in some way, but staying alert and aware of all positives in your life can be beneficial for the self. Robert Emmons, a Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, said that gratitude is both an affirmation of goodness and the acknowledgment that the sources of goodness are external, coming from sources outside ourselves. What does this mean for our daily lives, especially when it’s easy to get bogged down by stresses and nagging deadlines? Let’s take a look at how gratitude can be expressed in the workplace, with friends, and with family.

Gratitude in the Workplace

In a workplace setting, demonstrating gratitude can go a long way towards motivation and a positive environment. A study performed by Glassdoor found that four in five employees said they were motivated to work harder when a boss showed them appreciation for their work. While this kind of positive reinforcement often comes from management, any employee can foster this kind of gracious culture by taking time to make others’ efforts feel appreciated. A survey conducted by the John Templeton Foundation revealed that people are least likely to express gratitude in the workplaceFor example, your coworker may have worked diligently to put together an updated list of company vendors. While they may have done this after being asked by a manager, their efforts mean less work for you and your peers when you need to find the contact info for one of these third-party companies. Let others around you know that their work is noticed and appreciated. It might also be helpful to take time out of your day to take note of the things you’re grateful for at work, as a study performed by Robert Emmons found that keeping a gratitude journal improves mental health and well-being.

Gratitude with Friends

Expressing gratitude to your close companions is not only a kind thing to do, but also beneficial for your relationship. A study by UC Berkley found that gratitude can make people feel more invested in friendships, meaning that when you show gratitude it can encourage those helpful gestures by your friends and even jump start good deeds of your own. Our friends are usually the people we turn to when we’re looking for help. In fact, they can sometimes be reassuring to us even without us expressing that need for assistance. How often has a funny text from a friend or a relaxing group lunch been just the thing you needed to get through a particularly hectic work week? Even if you’re not in need of anything, your pals validate your feelings and add joy to your daily life. Letting your friends know your gratitude for the things they do can make them feel more valued. You can do it by letting them know how they help you throughout the day; you can also show it by returning the favor. If a friend is often giving you rides to concerts, maybe offer to pay for the tickets. If they took you out for dinner, you could cook for them. Whatever you choose, being genuine with your emotions and making an effort is an excellent way to keep developing your friendships.

Gratitude with Family

When we consider the link between gratitude and family, it’s hard to not think of Thanksgiving. This holiday often brings together family from all over to eat, catch up, and – of course – say thanks to one another. While this yearly event is certainly convenient, it doesn’t need to be the only time you express gratitude to your family. Instead, consider trying to schedule monthly or even weekly conversations with those in your extended family. Even if you don’t have time for a full-blown catch-up session, you can still reach out to them with emails, video chats, or even letters. Not only is this a great way to make relatives feel important, but it can also be vitally important for your older family members. A study from the University of California, San Francisco found that 40 percent of seniors regularly experience loneliness. Another study by the Association for Psychological Science said that loneliness among the elderly can increase the chance of mortality by a whopping 26 percent. Letting these folks know that you’re grateful for them, whether it’s for a specific act, or just in general, can go a long way in making them feel and live better. Gratitude can be expressed in many ways, but in the end it’s truly about remaining aware of all the goodness that comes from those around you. That goodness might come in the form a helpful document from a coworker, a night out with a friend or a caring chat with a loved family member. Whatever it may be, showing your gratitude is a great way to build relationships and improve your own sense of well-being.

 

Al Baker: 2019 PBLI Keynote, Chicago

Al Baker, Minnesota ’09, joins the Alpha Kappa Psi community in a new role this year as an event presenter. Baker will kick off Saturday morning sessions with a keynote address at the 2019 Principled Business Leadership Institute February 8-10 in Chicago.

Servant Leadership Checklist

As proponents of servant leadership, Alpha Kappa Psi is always excited when others want to join us on this amazing journey. We believe that the theory and practice of servant leadership are paths to growth and greatness, and we want to spread the word!

However, it can be very difficult to practice servant leadership with only a theory and a set of principles to guide you. That’s why we have put together this practical checklist of servant leadership in action. No matter where you are in the journey of leading by serving, we have action steps for you and your chapter.