On Becoming Grateful

Ryder Carroll
16 min readNov 20, 2020

Tis the season to be jolly, to give thanks, to count our blessings, and be grateful. It’s something we’re told often “you should be grateful.” The implication being, that we’re not grateful. What we’re not told is: how. How do we become grateful? More importantly, why should we become grateful? Let’s start there. Allow me to share a cautionary tale.

A few years ago, I was on vacation with a group of people. One of us was burdened with the unfortunate talent of finding a fault in any given situation. On a sunny day, she would bemoan tomorrow’s cloudy forecast. When we made good time there, she would worry about the way back.

On one of our last nights, we treated ourselves to a table at a fancy torchlit dinner at a restaurant tucked into a rainforest. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime sort of over-the-top experiences.

It was a muggy night, so we ordered drinks to cool us down while we waited for our food. Soon a waiter emerged, balancing a black lacquer tray. Perched on this tray, was a long-stemmed glass of golden wine so crisp you could see the pearls of condensation forming.

It was the first drink to arrive at our parched table. All eyes followed the glass until it was elegantly placed in front of Miss Misery. Rather than enjoying this tiny cosmic win, a wide frown spread across her face.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t reconcile her expression with the scene. It was a chilled, clean, heavy pour of an expensive vintage. The rest of our table had noticed her scowl and — judging from their expressions — were as perplexed as I was. I couldn’t help myself but ask:

“What’s wrong?” She looked at me indignantly, waving her hand at the glass as if it had just insulted her. “Well look at it! There’s too much wine in the glass, it’ll get warm!”

There are those who see the glass as half full. There are those who see the glass as half empty. Then there are those — like her — who see a full glass and experience it as being empty.

Now it would be easy to dismiss her as privileged and spoiled. Sure. It would be hard for me to invent a better example of first world problems. So why did I choose this story? Because she’s attractive, rich, and healthy, and loved. She has all the requirements people believe are…

Ryder Carroll

Creator of the Bullet Journal®. NYT Best-selling author and digital product designer, living in Brooklyn, NY.