Are older people more grateful than younger people? Or is it the reverse?
Like most children, I was brought up on a seemingly standard set of “rules” from a very young age. What I remember most was being taught the importance of being a good person and developing manners. Being grateful to others by saying “please” and “thank you” was always noted as a staple of courteous interaction.
I always considered myself to be quite polite, but I would not say that I have always been grateful. Much of my life was evaluated through a lens of comparisons. Where I lived, the things that I had, my grades in school, my job, my friends, and so on. Many of those comparisons left me feeling like I had the short end of the stick. Simply put, no matter how well I was doing, someone always appeared to have it better than I did.
With age, I have developed a deeper appreciation for how fortunate I am and how great my life has truly been. I think back on my experiences traveling, going to camps, and getting a great education and I cannot believe how much I took for granted. Many of the things that I used to think would be most important to me simply aren’t even on my radar anymore. My perspective has drastically changed.
The question is, have I become more grateful with age, or do I simply have more context to compare my experiences? Personally, I think it is the latter, but that becoming more grateful is part of growing up. As we progress in life we are forced to take matters into our own hands and adopt accountability for our actions, feelings and outcomes. We become more grateful with age because we have finally banked enough experiences to form true opinions on what is important to us and what makes us happy.
I believe that the question of whether older people are more grateful than younger is flawed. It isn’t fair to compare one’s ability to be grateful at a respectively younger or older age. How can one be expected to truly appreciate something without the context of understanding how great it really is, or the alternative? In my opinion, being naïve and seemingly ungrateful is an integral aspect of growing up. Our ability to learn from our experiences, develop goals and frame our expectations is an essential aspect of maturing.
Looking back on it now, it seems strange that we are taught about manners in such a programmed fashion of saying “please” and “thank you”. Rather than teaching us how important it is to be polite to others, we should be teaching youngsters about gratitude and intentions. We were taught to say “thank you” when someone completes a task, but we weren’t necessarily taught to think about why the completion of that task was important to us, and how it made us feel.
Growing up is all about trial and error, screwing up and learning lessons. From there we are able to identify what we are grateful for, and chase that feeling. I believe that you are supposed to become more grateful with age. It is part of the process of taking accountability for feelings and the understanding that your own happiness is not dependent on anything but your own perspective. Learn what you are grateful for and work hard to surround yourself with those things so that you have no choice but to be more grateful with age.
By Ben Nachmani