I should be grateful…


The terrible “shoulds” – an obstacle to gratitude

“I should be grateful I even have a job in this economy.”

Ah, the terrible “shoulds”. Those insidious feelings  – what you are supposed to do, think and feel.  Many coaching clients feel guilty about what they have when there are so many people in worse situations in the world. #firstworldproblems might not be trending as a hashtag these days but for my clients in Tokyo, they are extremly comfortable in the grand scheme of things.

So the guilt begins…”I should be grateful for this job… even though I can’t see my future path, even though I feel burnt out, even though I never see my family.”

One of the ICF Core Competencies says a coach “communicates broader perspectives to clients and inspires commitment to shift their viewpoints and find new possibilities for action. ”

When you find yourself with a case of “the terrible shoulds” try to turn the situation around. Ask yourself:

  • Why do you need to be grateful for it?
  • Could you accept why you are not grateful?
  • What would happen if you were not grateful?
  • What would the worst case scenario be if you were not grateful?

You may find that you can acknowledge that it is ok not to be grateful. This acceptance may move you to change and action. As a friend said to me in the past, ” ‘not so terrible’ does not need to be your goal. You deserve more.”

Finding gratitude when you feel you have nothing

Some days, it’s really hard to feel grateful for anything. You know those days when everything seems to be stacked against you. My coaching mentor advised “You need to work with the client to trust that there is a learning experience in all of this. There is a reason they are facing these challenges.”

When you ask yourself “How am I going to use this situation?”, you open yourself up to experiencing an opportunity for growth.  It becomes a moment of choice. Choice brings back your control. You become action oriented, future focused and you can reclaim a sense of lightness.

It’s important to realise that you can be grateful for what you are, not just what you have. You can be grateful for your feelings, for acknowledging your strengths and your awareness of your weaknesses.

Build a regular gratitude practice

I just ordered my second copy of The Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.


It’s a great way to build a daily practice. Bookending your day helps to set you up for a happier mood and send you off for a peaceful night’s sleep.

I highly recommend it – it’s easy to use, beautifully designed and really works to set your mood.

Other people use social media to do gratitude challenges – sharing gratitude with your wider community can help bring joy to others. Gratitude is all about abundance and generosity so this sharing practice can be meaningful…just watch out for the “humble brag”!

Coaching activity

Close your eyes, take a deep breath in and a slow steady exhalation.

Now, think of all the things you are grateful for.

Open your eyes and write down the first three things that come to mind in the comments box below.

How does it feel? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience with increasing your mindset of gratitude.

5 thoughts on “I should be grateful…

  1. Hello Jennifer.

    When I did this exercise the first things that came to mind are;
    1. I’m grateful to be alive. I’ve outlived my dad by 7 years and my oldest sister by 1. He had no medical care, my sister had a triple bypass.
    2. I’m grateful to be living in Japan. I like it here, I’m comfortable here and there are few places that I’d rather live.
    3.I’m grateful to have the time now to explore what I want to do. That’s never happened before.

  2. I should be grateful that:
    1.) I’m alive. I’ve outlived my dad by seven years and my sister by one — both died of heart disease. I have to learn to live with it. I can change my lifestyle, but I’ll never be able to change my heart muscle.
    2.) I’m living in Japan. This is where I want to be. Not in the US, Canada, Mexico, Thailand or Bali. Here. I’m comfortable here.
    3.) For the first time in my life, I get to do what I want to do. I like that, a lot.

      1. I feel like it’s taken me long enough. But on the other hand, I’ve always considered my self a late bloomer. I’m just trying now to “bloom” on things in this lifetime. . .

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