Gratitude equals wealth. Wealth equals gratitude. You’ve probably heard one of those expressions before… or at least something similar. Certainly the connection seems true on an internal, emotional level. It’s hard to imagine feeling wealthy without also being grateful. And if you’re truly grateful, you probably feel wealthy as well, regardless of your actual circumstances.
Because of this apparent connection between wealth and gratitude, many so-called wealth experts suggest that if you want to increase your wealth, you should focus on being more grateful. This sounds pretty good on the surface and meshes well with the Law of Attraction. The idea is that by feeling more grateful, you’ll feel more wealthy and thereby attract more abundance into your life.
Having tested this for myself extensively, I found there was an effective way to practice gratitude and an ineffective way. Unfortunately, the ineffective way is much more obvious, and I was stuck with that form of gratitude for many years. But eventually I progressed towards a deeper understanding of gratitude and found a more effective way to practice it, one that yielded much greater external abundance as well.
First, I’ll address the ineffective form of gratitude. Let’s call it Level 1 Gratitude. This is gratitude for your possessions and your immediate circumstances. It’s the kind of gratitude we learn as children: Thank you for the gift, for the candy, for the trip to park, etc. When you practice this as an adult, it spawns thoughts of gratitude for things like:
Note that Level 1 Gratitude goes beyond material possessions. It’s the default form of gratitude you’re likely to come up with when you attempt to make a list of things to be grateful for.
I’m not suggesting there’s anything bad or wrong with this form of gratitude. It’s certainly better than having thoughts of scarcity. However, in terms of activating the Law of Attraction, its effectiveness is relatively weak.
Often when people attempt to use Level 1 Gratitude, it’s because they’re actually feeling complacent or negative about their circumstances, but they’re trying to look on the bright side and build some positive momentum. If you’ve ever expressed gratitude by starting with the words “at least,” you know what I mean. At least I have my health. At least I have a roof over my head. At least I have a vacation coming up.
The underlying message is: What I have is OK, and I can temporarily feel grateful about it if I push myself to do so, but genuine gratitude isn’t my default feeling because ultimately my circumstances just aren’t that exciting. More often than not, they leave me feeling empty or complacent rather than grateful.
When I choose to do so, I can notice my life circumstances and feel grateful for them. I can feel grateful for my marriage, my kids, my house, my career, my friendships and so on. The essence of the experience is no different than when I found myself in far less abundant circumstances.
Even when your overall circumstances seem negative, you can still temporarily pop into a state of Level 1 Gratitude just by changing your focus. For some people this can be the catalyst for a major attitude change, but in most situations it only provides a temporary reprieve with no major lasting benefit.
The reason Level 1 Gratitude usually fails to trigger the Law of Attraction is that Level 1 is too weak. It’s like drinking synthehol — it has no bite. You can enjoy this state of gratitude temporarily, but overall you’ll remain stuck in your old patterns. Level 1 Gratitude is fragile since all it takes to knock you out of state is a change in circumstances or a change in your focus. Even getting the mail can kill it.
Let’s proceed to Level 2 Gratitude. I think of this as “holistic gratitude” because it’s independent of situations and circumstances. This is a feeling of gratitude for life itself, for existence, for anything and everything you experience. But rather than being a temporary emotion that requires constant focus, Level 2 Gratitude is more of an underlying attitude. With practice it becomes part of your identity.
Level 2 Gratitude encompasses everything in Level 1, but Level 2 goes beyond that to include being grateful for:
Level 2 Gratitude says, “How wonderful it is to exist!” Circumstances are irrelevant because this form of gratitude is a choice that needs no justification. It is a sense of utter fascination with the very notion of existence.
You become grateful for the adventure that is life, including all of its twists and turns. This form of gratitude is synonymous with unconditional love because there is no attachment to circumstances or outcomes. Consequently, there is no fear of loss or change.
Level 2 Gratitude is like having a constant echo in the back of your consciousness saying, “Wow!” Everything else is experienced on top of that Wow. Gratitude becomes the canvas upon which your life is painted.
Perhaps the closest analogy I can offer is to imagine playing a video game. The game is totally state-of-the-art. You’re amazed by the graphics, the music, the gameplay, the characters, etc. It doesn’t matter so much if you win or lose because the experience itself is what draws you in. You’re so fascinated by the nature of the experience that the details are secondary.
If you can remain in that state of wonder, you’re likely to perform well at the game and enjoy the experience. Eventually you’ll get good at it. Your glorious accumulations may include a high-level avatar, tons of gold, and alliances with other characters. But that stuff is only the result of your enjoyment, not the cause of it. The game can still be fun even when you’re just starting out and have no meaningful possessions. In some games you can even go deep into debt, and yet the experience is still fun.
For more on the whole “life is a game” concept, be sure to read Life – The Ultimate Game. Many people find this analogy helpful for getting past fear and loosening their death-grip attachment to circumstances. Letting go of this conditional attachment is the key to experiencing Level 2 Gratitude.
When you feel grateful for existence itself, you move from doing grateful to being grateful. At this level you finally activate the Law of Attraction because you’re broadcasting gratitude all the time. It becomes part of your identity. Ultimately you attract circumstances that resonate with who you are.
When your feelings of gratitude are conditional upon temporary circumstances like your stuff, your job, and your relationships, your base identity doesn’t change. But when you root your gratitude in something permanent, it becomes a permanent part of you. Instead of saying, “I am grateful for…” you just say, “I am grateful.”
I must have spent at least 10 years practicing Level 1 Gratitude (mostly in vain) before I began shifting towards Level 2. It was a very gradual process as my feelings of gratitude became more unconditional. It started with me attempting to feel grateful for things I wouldn’t normally feel grateful for, like my breathing, the bushes on the street, music, my biggest failures, etc. This helped me see that no matter how negative, meaningless, or routine something seemed, it was still worthy of gratitude. Gratitude is a lens for uncovering beauty.
So if I can suggest a how-to process, I’d recommend practicing gratitude where you’d least expect it to work. Select an unlikely target X, and then hold the thought, “I am grateful for X.” Eventually you’ll shift towards a more unconditional feeling of gratitude, and you’ll be able to drop that “for X.”
In practical terms I’ve found that as my gratitude has become more unconditional, my life circumstances improve to keep pace. These changes are very noticeable, like increases in my income or seeing my relationship with my kids improve. In keeping with the Law of Attraction, this is to be expected because if I’m grateful for everything in my life in advance, I should attract the circumstances that are congruent with those thoughts and feelings.
Level 1 Gratitude has its place, but if you want the universe to back up your feelings of gratitude with some actual results, eventually you need to progress to Level 2. When you’re living the life of your dreams, this is how you’re going to feel anyway, so why wait? Challenge yourself to create these feelings now, even in the most unlikely circumstances, and notice how you begin attracting the relationships, opportunities, and resources that resonate with those feelings.