Can You Be Ambitious and Grateful?

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Photo by pelican

Photo by pelican

Does feeling grateful make you lazy?

That’s one of the questions Janice Kaplan had on her mind while writing her book, The Gratitude Diaries. She wondered what impact gratitude might have on ambition. Would feeling more grateful decrease her motivation to achieve her goals?

Those questions led her to Dr. Robert Emmons, a researcher at UC Davis who’s spent over a decade studying the impact of gratitude. In response to Janice’s questions he said: “I’ve often heard the concern that being grateful will make you complacent and lazy and not motivated to improve your lot in life. But our research shows just the opposite. Grateful people are more successful at reaching their goals than others.”

Emmons found that feeling grateful can give us a sense of purpose and a desire to achieve that actually increases our motivation. To test this hypothesis,

[Emmons] asked participants in [a] study to write down six things they wanted to accomplish in the next ten weeks. Some of them were randomly assigned to keep a gratitude journal once a week. . . . At the end of the experiment, Dr. Emmons determined that the grateful group made 20 percent more progress toward their goals than the non-grateful group — and seemed to be striving harder.

Dr. Emmons found that grateful people felt inspired to take action, not sit back passively.

So it sounds like gratitude can actually increase motivation. If you want to hear Janice share more insights from her book, click here.

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