You Don’t Need a New Thing to Be Grateful For

Every night, I write down three things I’m grateful for. I’ve been doing it for nine years. That’s almost 10,000 times I said “thanks” when I didn’t have to.

At first, I tried hard to be creative. “What did I not write down yet? What’s something unique to be grateful for?” James Altucher is big on this:

When stuck in traffic, be grateful to be living in such a magnificent place that everyone wants to be there.

When a child yells back, see the birth of independence of yet another unique personality beginning its private journey on this planet.

As it always does, however, eventually, life happened. I got lazy. Busy. I had bad days. When I felt tired, I just threw three quick things together. When I was sad or unmotivated, I listed the same stuff.

At first, I felt bad whenever I repeated a previous reason. “I’m not being as grateful as I should be. If I was more grateful, I’d find better things.” Then, I realized:

Gratitude is not a creativity exercise. It’s a gratitude exercise.

You don’t need a new thing to be grateful for each day. You need to understand it’s the same things, over and over again, that make you happy. Don’t feel bad for covering your bases. After all, the basics are what matters.

At least 200 of my thanks went to coffee. You could say that’s boring. I say it’s reassuring. How comforting if, time and again, you realize all you need is coffee, cheap groceries, and free music on Youtube.

If you need a new gratitude fix every day — if you chase ever bigger outcomes in hopes of putting them on that list — you’re doing it wrong. Gratitude is not a game of ambition. That’s the opposite of what it’s for.

Sometimes, I still try to be creative. Instead of coffee itself, I might pick my coffee maker, which, despite also counting nine years, hasn’t broken down yet. But whenever I catch myself writing down another thing I’ve used a thousand times, I smile.

A warm bed, free wifi, fresh air. These are the things that make life an honor to wake up to, not winning an Oscar or seeing the pyramids. Those are just the gravy — and we all know fries taste best with ketchup.