Gratitude for Achievements and Successes

November 22, 2021

Louis Tay

We live in a culture that holds up highly successful people who, through their effort and grit, have made it far in life. Some of the individuals that quickly come to my mind are Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Jack Ma, Neil Armstrong, and Amelia Earhart. They undoubtedly have indomitable spirits and incredible talents, and we often hold them up as self-made successes

Although there is a ring of truth to personal effort, it is also equally true that multiple others have supported the successful individual. And multiple factors have uniquely contributed to an individual’s success.

But why is it hard to see these other factors beyond personal effort?

Psychology has shown that people are biased toward attributing outcomes to inherent characteristics of the person rather than the situation, known as the fundamental attribution error. Given this bent, we find it easy to attribute outcomes to personal effort but harder to attribute outcomes to external factors.

Fundamental attribution error can play out in our own lives. It takes effort to think beyond our own personal efforts. It requires deliberation to name those who have helped us. This may be why gratitude does not come naturally but needs to be cultivated.

During this season, it may be a good time to start developing a thankful heart. Pause to acknowledge others that have nurtured our interests, drive, and talent. Express gladness for their help during challenging times. Appreciate your family members and friends who have been by your side.

Whom can you be grateful for this week?

Be well,

Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week! 

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