Grateful vs Thankful, what are the key differences? And furthermore, what are quick, actionable applications of grateful vs thankful in real life you can apply today? That’s the question I’m going to answer in this article.
So, please read on if you finally would like to know what the difference is between grateful vs thankful and why you should ditch the word grateful from your vocabulary:
Being grateful and thankful are key habits. They have the potential to boost your happiness, productivity and success. Do you want to be a more thankful person? Download this checklist with 6 tips on how to be more thankful, and boost your happiness and productivity at the same time!
Difference between Grateful vs Thankful
First some definitions:
By definition, grateful is feeling or showing appreciation for something done or received.
The definition of thankful is feeling pleased and relieved.
So, both grateful and thankful are positive feelings and both grateful and thankful are triggered by some event. But the difference between grateful vs thankful is that by definition grateful is directed outwards the person who is feeling it, while thankful is generated inside the person.
Let me explain:
If you are like me then probably you use grateful vs thankful interchangeably but in fact, they are not really the same. There is a difference and knowing this difference can make you more powerful in your communication and especially in the way you communicate with yourself. This is important because this will have an impact on how you feel which ultimately determines the level of your success and happiness.
If someone asks you where you are grateful for in your life then what they really mean is what external circumstances do you appreciate. This means that the feeling of gratefulness can only be generated by the outside world. So, if you want to be grateful, you need something outside yourself, and you cannot generate this feeling on your own.
Examples of the use of grateful:
- I am very grateful for your help.
- I am very grateful you like me.
- I am very grateful for this book I got.
Do you see that grateful always need someone else?
With thankful this is something different:
Thankful is a feeling you can generate on your own. The outer circumstances can still be the same though, but the feeling is different. For example, Peter helped me by fixing my car.
Now let's compare grateful vs thankful in two sentences:
- Grateful sentence: I am grateful for your help, Peter.
- Thankful sentence: I am thankful Peter helped me.
In the first sentence, you express your gratitude towards Peter. And at the same time, you are saying that you would not have been happy without Peter. So, there is a feeling of helplessness underneath this feeling of gratitude.
However, with the second sentence, you generate the feeling of gratitude yourself. You could say this sentence even in the absence of Peter, just reflecting on the experience where Peter helped you. So, the gratitude is not reflected towards Peter, the gratitude is reflected towards an experience you have had. But what if Peter would not have helped you? But instead, someone else had repaired your car? Or maybe your car is not repaired yet? Even then you could experience a feeling of gratitude, for example, you could say: “I am thankful that my car is not repaired yet because this gives me the opportunity to walk to my office.”
So, the difference between grateful vs thankful is that with thankful you can experience happiness and gratitude on your own without being dependent on others.
Boost your happiness and success and choose Grateful vs Thankful wisely
If you want to be more happy and successful in your life, then I suggest that you ditch the word grateful from your vocabulary and use the word thankful instead from now on. Why, you might ask?
Well, let me explain:
If you use the word grateful, you make yourself powerless whereas if you use thankful, you make yourself powerful. Whatever happens in life, you need to understand that the ultimate freedom you have as a human being is that you can always choose how you respond to external events. This is the ultimate gift we have as human beings. And it is totally up to you how you respond. You are not dependent to the Peters of this world for your happiness. You can choose to be happy every time you like. And happiness fuels action and the right action leads to success.
No matter where you are in your life, there’s always something for you to be thankful for. Even if you have lost everything, you still have your life and your ability to choose how to react to your circumstances. This is what Viktor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist, and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, has found. While being tortured in the Auschwitz concentration camp, he found that he still had the power to choose how to react to his circumstances. This gave him the power to survive.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space lies your power to choose your response.
In your response lies your growth and your freedom.
- Viktor Frankl
So, between stimulus and response, there is a space in which you have the power to choose your response, for growth and freedom.
Or as Seneca, 2000 years earlier, has put it:
"Our actions may be impeded … but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions because we can change and adapt. The mind adapts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The obstacle to action advances the action. What stands in the way will become the way."
What Seneca meant with this is that we don't control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it, like Viktor Frankl also said. There is no such thing as an obstacle, or a problem or a setback; there is only an opportunity to react differently than we used to be.
So, no matter where you are in life you have always a choice how to respond. And if you choose to, you can choose to be thankful more often than not. This way you will boost your own happiness and success, and it will make you more powerful.
May I never be grateful? Well, yes of course, but ...
Depending on your religion or life philosophy, you may believe in God, Allah, or the Universe. And you may want to express your feeling of gratitude towards these higher powers from time to time. There is nothing wrong with that of course. So, if you want to be grateful and thank the higher powers, then that’s just fine of course. The issue with grateful vs thankful though is that you have to choose on purpose which word you are using and why you are using it.
As long as you are aware of the difference in the power these words have, then you can use the word grateful if you want to express your gratitude to whatever higher power you believe in. But, my suggestion is to use the word thankful at the same time too. And be also aware that you are not dependent for your happiness or success to others and that you have the power in yourself to realize a higher level of happiness and success in your life. So, it’s all a matter of consciously choosing on purpose how you phrase things so that you don’t give your power away and become reactive instead of being proactive.
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Conclusion about grateful vs thankful
Grateful and thankful are both positive feelings of gratitude. The big difference between grateful vs thankful is that grateful implies that you need others to be happy, while you can be thankful without being dependent on others or external occasions. Instead, you can always choose to be thankful if you choose to.
If you want to be happier and more successful then ditch the word grateful.
So, if you want to be more successful, happy, and powerful ditch the word grateful from your vocabulary and always use thankful instead because this immediately boosts your feeling of happiness and power. And as said, happiness fuels actions, and actions fuels success.
Over to you
Please leave a comment below by telling us how you are using the words grateful vs thankful in your life.
Thank you already in advance for sharing your thoughts and insights!