written by LOU BLASER

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.


A book I’m currently reading challenges me. It is asking me to suspend my disbelief and fight the urge to look for evidence of its veracity from past experiences.

I may just end up throwing the dang book at the wall, TBH. But for now, I read a few pages every day and remind myself to keep an open mind. Which, I suppose, is the lesson to be learned.

One particular idea has lodged itself in my brain. The author, Joe Dispenza, writes:

You and I have been conditioned into believing that we need a reason for joy, a motivation to feel gratitude, grounds to be in a state of love. That’s relying on external reality to make us feel different internally; it’s Newton’s model.

Dispenza is asking us to change our relationship with gratitude. To begin to feel grateful before — not after. Not to wait for things to happen before we can feel thankful.

Can you give thanks for something that exists as a potential […] but has not happened? If so, you are moving from cause and effect (waiting for something outside of you to make a change inside of you) to causing an effect (changing something inside of you to produce an effect outside of you).

From cause and effect to causing an effect.

There’s an element of this that comes dangerously close to the Law of Attraction, which is why this idea is difficult for me to read. The Secret was one book I DID hurl at the wall.

On the other hand, research on how our brain functions points to how our brain constructs the reality it wants to see.

Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations.

If we can visualize (i.e., let our brains see) the desired situation, and feel grateful for that situation before it actually happens, as Dispenza suggests, then we can begin to feel the positive emotions that accrue from that gratitude.

And emotions, as James Clear discusses in Atomic Habits, ultimately drive behavior.

Every decision is an emotional decision at some level. Whatever your logical reasons are for taking action, you only feel compelled to act on them because of emotion.

So, in a way, by being grateful in advance, we are encouraging the positive emotions that will drive the behavior that will lead us to the desired result for which we are grateful to begin with.

It’s a little like skating to where the puck will be, a quote often attributed to hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

But instead of simply projecting where it might be, it’s about actively engineering where you want it to be.

What do you think? Are you sold?

  • Social scientist and Harvard professor Arthur C. Brooks makes a case for choosing to feel grateful — even when we don’t feel it. Acting grateful does not make us inauthentic. “Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.” Not only will acting grateful make us happier, it also tends to bring out the best in people around us. Choose to be grateful. It will make you happier.
  • “It is human nature to fall into when thinking: I’ll be happy when such-and-such happens. We do this with happiness, and we do it with gratitude as well. […] It is as if we are waiting for good fortune to come our way first. A growing body of research says we should not postpone gratitude. We can learn to jump-start gratefulness even when we are not in the mood. Moreover, it is precisely when facing difficulties that practicing gratitude can have its greatest impact.” Science Says You Shouldn’t Wait For Things to Go Well Before Showing Gratitude
  • While we’re on the subject of being grateful in advance, if you find yourself writing “Thanks in advance” in your emails, you might want to reconsider. It’s a fairly loaded way of signing-off emails and can lead to some misunderstandings. Grammarly offers five alternative ways to say “thank you in advance”. (Oh, I know it’s not exactly the same thing 😉)


“It’s important to think outside of the box when it comes to gratitude. Mother Theresa talked about how grateful she was to the people she was helping, the sick and dying in the slums of Calcutta, because they enabled her to grow and deepen her spirituality. That’s a very different way of thinking about gratitude—gratitude for what we can give as opposed to what we receive.” — Robert A. Emmons, leading scientific expert on gratitude


Meet Generation Jones’er Bernie Borges

Two of the many fascinating things I learned about Bernie is that (1) he has been working out consistently every morning, at 6 am Monday-Friday, for the last forty years (!). And (2) he has been told that he sounds like Casey Kasem. 😉

Here’s a quick profile of Bernie.


Some people, apparently, are just naturally predisposed to feel more grateful than others — as in, they actually have the gene associated with gratitude.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of them 🥺 and have to work on a deliberate gratitude practice.

How about you? Do you find it easy to feel grateful all the time?

Best wishes for a joyful and easeful week ahead.

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.