Gratitude: It works like Happiness

Adedolapo Olisa
8 min readMay 27, 2023

In this piece, I will go over a recent quote about gratitude. Especially the mindset of knowing you have ALL you need and being grateful for that. The mindset of pursuing more out of confidence that you have more than you need.

I’m at Hen House, a Persian restaurant in Irvine. It’s my first time here even though it’s pretty close to where I live.

I ordered the popular koobideh combo — beef and chicken — but I’m addition, I asked for a native dish and got a bowl of soup. It’s apparently a popular soup nationally and I won’t go wrong. I got the water cup which just means I didn’t pay $5 or whatever the charge is for soda, soft drinks, as we call it at home. I took the water cup and got a cold sweet tea. I hid it behind the black box of tissues.

As soon as I sat down, the guy manning the cashier who took my order asked me if I wanted tea while I waited — hot tea. I said yes, why not right ?

No, if you thought any of these details had anything to do with gratitude. It doesn’t. But it does shed some light into my head space.

I am more present.

I am more aware of the details around me. I am less lost in my head.

I am less focused on what is not happening.

I am here, now.

I am thankful.

I am not fixated on what isn’t working.

I am not distraught by what is missing in my puzzle of need.

Pardon the interruption. The food finally came out. I’m gonna go eat and see if I stay in my train of thoughts.

Gratitude

I randomly found myself watching “McGregor Forever” on Netflix. He is this brash Uber confident UFC fighter. Probably the most famous UFC fighter in history.

He is famous because he backed up his trash talking. McGregor would predict how he would knock people out and then proceed to do it. UFC is not WWE but he managed to make it his own lol show.

Every fighter wanted a match with him because it was a retirement payday. You were gonna be entertained not only because you are watching how he would win, oftentimes I was watching to see if what he saw going into the match played out the way he saw it. He was generally spot on.

Anyways, I started watching his documentary and he got to a point where they asked him what he was scared of. He said fear doesn’t register for him. He doesn’t fear losing which explains the brashness. It made me feel like it was a super power! Imagine having no registry or capacity to feel fear.

He proceeded to say something very interesting. He said he doesn’t pursue goals, (I am paraphrasing) out of want.

I don’t want anything. I don’t need anything. I don’t like putting that energy into the world. I have everything I want, I need. Even if I don’t have it yet, I believe it’s already mine. It makes me grateful because I enjoy what I have.

It all made sense. That sequence followed his story of his wife. The woman that stood by him before he was anything and how he is faithful to her.

I haven’t researched him. I don’t know if this is even true but I remember feeling like the last thing I expected to see for a guy so brash and confident and famous and athletic. I didn’t expect a segment on how much he loves his woman and how there is an aura around him of people desiring the kind of relationship he had with his woman.

I connected all the dots and started to make sense of the difference. His wife is not a supermodel but it doesn’t matter. He valued her loyalty, her love, her commitment, her presence throughout all the stages of his growth.

McGregor didn’t pursue fame. He didn’t desire winning the MMA championship because of the money, the fame, the respect that came with it. He didn’t need anything. He wasn’t out to prove to his friends that he caught the best fish in the sea. He was always gonna come home and love his woman whether he won or not. And his woman was gonna be by his side too and that was mooooree than enough.

I think of the phrase: God will not love you any more or any less than He does love you today.

A lot of times that statement makes sense but as soon as I think I have a grasp of the depth of it; I am reminded that it’s deeper. In the low times usually when I am wrestling with guilt and shame. I feel a strong delight at that truth. When I am pious and religious, I resent it.

Such is the dilemma of desires that find their root human attainment.

I want God to love me above all.

I want God to say of me that I have a heart after His own heart.

It’s not enough to be just another man or soul that knew Him and followed Him.

I want to be seated at His right hand or invited to his footstool.

I want that because of something I am or did. I want that because I earned it. I want the satisfaction of holiness, set apart from the mere mortals.

I am content when I stick out.

The tricky thing with this mindset is the intoxication it creates for sticking out. Imagine how many players make the NBA, then imagine how many have been NBA champions, then imagine how many have been NBA finals MVP.

Of those that have been finals MVP, imagine how many have been it multiple times. Imagine how many have been finals MVP on multiple franchises. The levels to exclusivity and greatness doesn’t have a climax. The envelope is constantly being pushed and just when a new apex predator is established, another is forming to dethrone him.

I live my life like that. I live my life focused on zeroing out anything that will allow me rest and relent and be grateful because gratitude is the opposite of in-satiety.

The in-satiety needed stay driven for more accomplishment requires an obsession with next and a total eradication of long lived satisfaction in what is and what has been done.

“Because those who are full, don’t go for another plate.”

There is the 80/20 rule that states that it takes 20% of the time to make 80% of progress. Said another way, it takes 80% of the time to get from 80% to 100%.

The last mile of excellence requires so much more than one is usually naturally designed to give. In the case of those obsessed with achievement, it is a constant war against satisfaction in order to find the extra gear to pursue perfect even with a full knowledge that perfect is not a destination one attains. It is however the emptying of satisfaction that created the requisite thirst for separation, for adoration, for being better. A tiny bit better, a fine margin improvement in the final 20% feels akin to discovering the precise mathematical equation that allows man speak to aliens.

McGregor doesn’t seem to have this problem. He somehow manages to be obsessed with winning yet full of gratitude.

This is what struck me deeply at my core.

The problem is not being satisfied. It is being ungrateful.

Gratitude is a different beast from desire. It is a contentment that separates what comes next from what already is.

I see gratitude now in my mind as I see my dad dissecting a whole chicken. Especially at that point where he is cutting out the gall bladder. I hope that is how you spell it. The sack containing the bile which if pierced ruins the whole meat.

It was always fascinating because you have to lose to the gall bladder. It’s gonna take some meat away from you otherwise you will burst it open. Yet the precision of the butcher encourages him to practice honing his craft by learning to lose less and less meat to the gall bladder safely.

In the grand scheme of things, the butcher is not measuring how much meat he has lost to the gall bladder.

Imagine a butcher being so angry with the gall bladder for taking some of his meat and then proceeding to ruin all the meat he has got for it.

This is often what I do. I close my eyes and refuse to see the sizable volume of meat that is enough for my dish. Instead I am obsessing over the tiny meat that I lost to the bile.

A butcher loves the battle with the bile, the opportunity to hone his dissecting craft but he doesn’t lose perspective over who has more meat.

Tunnel Vision

What are you NOT grateful for ?

I started to ask myself this question now because answering it puts things in perspective. Answering it helps me see how ridiculous my focus is.

It’s so easy for me to rattle on about why I SHOULD be grateful but I find that it doesn’t really put things in perspective.

It’s like being hungry then eating a dry meal and becoming thirsty. And someone says why are you acting like you will die ?

If Infact, I am thirsty enough to believe that I will die without water, then the fact that I was hungry and I ate and now I am full is irrelevant. The problem is, I am rarely so thirsty that I will die soon. Often, I am thirsty because I just ate and before I discard the fact that I was just starving, I lose sight of the change in obsession. So much so that I lose sight of God’s ability and consistency in provision.

I have been in constant dire need for the past 10 years of my life. Make it 15 years yet what I am in dire need of has changed every year sometimes multiple times within the same year, yet I have been unable to rest knowing there is no need in the past that He hasn’t provided.

Of course McGregor’s confidence and mindset was intriguing to me for many reasons. But it struck home for me because I believe it is the root reason why he loves his wife so passionately. He doesn’t need the next high, the next trophy woman, the next model; he doesn’t pursue next out of a desire to unlock access to more.

He pursues excellence as a purposeful way to live and hone his craft. His confidence in reaching his goals however high they get do not seep into an ingratitude that drains his soul of present satisfaction.

It’s Biblical

Gratitude is biblical. Grace was designed for this very purpose. To erase the dependency between God’s love and my work, my achievement.

Grace was designed to center the object of my gratitude on what is done already and not on what I must do.

One cannot truly live recognizing the depth of grace and still mingle with ingratitude. They are not compatible.

It feels so good to see. To realize that the hallmark of my sorrow has been the exile of gratitude.

For where does my gratitude start if it is not my recognition of His grace.

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Adedolapo Olisa

I’m an aspiring story teller that is learning to let stories tell their own morals. You’ll find me where Faith-Tech-Art meet.