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Gratitude Is the Key to Financial Success

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The coronavirus pandemic disrupted our lives in ways most of us never imagined could be possible. COVID-19 didn’t just affect us physically. It also affects us emotionally and financially. Yet not all these effects were bad. It also prompted us to feel grateful. For some, gratitude was a coping mechanism. For others, gratitude meant focusing on what they had instead of what they lost.

We’ll be very happy to let go of many habits we developed during coronavirus lockdowns. But this habit is not just one to keep. It’s also one to apply to other areas of your life. Gratitude for what you have alters your financial perspective in several ways. After all, financial success often isn’t about getting more. Instead, financially successful people usually know how to hold onto what they have. An attitude change could unlock this secret in your life.

Direct Effects of Gratitude

Most advertisers attempt to trigger emotional responses which prompt people to buy certain products. For example, many car commercials say almost nothing about the vehicle advertised. Instead, the commercials focus on product use, like fun road trips, which trigger that emotional response.

Gratitude redirects these emotional responses. If you are grateful for the vehicle in your garage and the road trips you’ve been on, you are less likely to reach out to a dealer. 

Instant gratification impulses are a related issue. When you drive by a fast-food restaurant on your way home after a long day, you are most likely tempted to pick up dinner. This decision is also rather easy to rationalize. Latent advertising effects remind us of the convenience that fast food offers.

Gratitude eases these temptations. One recent study indicated that gratitude increases patience and makes delayed gratification more appealing. On a related note, gratitude decreases impulse buying. The carefully-displayed products at grocery stores look much less appealing if you are grateful for the food which is already in your refrigerator.

Hedonic Adaptation is a closely-related concept. Essentially, we all have a base happiness level. Life’s ups and downs do not permanently change this baseline. We simply feel better, or worse, for a brief period of time. Admittedly, that “brief period of time” could seem like an eternity in some cases.

So, gratitude helps you avoid the buying-happiness trap. Once we realize that acquisition is just a quick fix, we normally look inward for happiness.

There are other direct effects as well. For example, gratitude usually increases generosity. In this context, “generosity” doesn’t necessarily mean giving things away. Instead, generosity is more about respecting the people in your life who have had a positive impact. This respect usually prompts people to make a positive impact in other people’s lives.

Such generosity always comes back to you. Some people call it karma. Others call it reaping what you sow or paying it forward. This benefit could be financial. Generosity also makes you memorable to others, so they are more likely to think of you when they are hiring, need a contractor, and so on.

“Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have; it depends solely upon what you think. So start each day by thinking of all the things you have to be thankful for.” – Dale Carnegie

Indirect Effects

As mentioned, gratitude is often related to respect. This respect includes self-respect. Several studies suggest that grateful people have better diets, exercise more, sleep better, and otherwise take care of themselves. So, they have fewer illness symptoms. Better physical health and lower materialistic impulses is a good combination for anyone.

What does this combination mean to your finances? Gratitude increases productivity. Instead of worrying about your health or your next purchase, you are focused on the task at hand.

Financially successful people usually make good decisions and have strong willpower. Gratitude supports these traits.

There have been a number of delayed gratification experiments over the years. For example, study participants might have a choice between a $50 payment today and a $75 payment in thirty days. These studies consistently show that people who are grateful for what they have and can resist immediate “get more now” impulses are happier and more productive.

On a related note, bosses know how much simple expressions of gratitude increase productivity. One former President of the United States noted that Congressmen and Senators were much more likely to back controversial new proposals if he thanked them for their support of a previous initiative. The evidence is not just anecdotal. One study suggested that such expressions increased a work team’s productivity by 50 percent.

How to Be More Grateful

Knowing the benefits of gratitude is one thing. Incorporating gratitude into your daily life is something else. How can you unlock these benefits and reap the financial benefits they bring?

Toward the end of every day, write, don’t type, five events or things that you are grateful for. The items themselves aren’t necessarily important. These lists help convince us that overall, life is pretty good. That understanding is usually the foundation of gratitude.

Allow your mood to affect your decisions. When you are feeling good, that’s a good time to make spending decisions. Make an extra IRA contribution or donate some money to charity. Later, if you feel depressed, you are less likely to spend money frivolously, since you have already “spent” it elsewhere.

Finally, focus on the positive aspects of your everyday life. Avoid negative people and negative social media posts. The positive energy these habits generate make it easier to be a grateful person.

Lyle Solomon has considerable litigation experience as well as substantial hands-on knowledge and expertise in legal analysis and writing. Since 2003, he has been a member of the State Bar of California. In 1998, he graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, and now serves as a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in Los Altos, California.

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