Trying to Force Gratitude

Here is a story that explores the concept of gratitude by presenting a martial arts student seeking to expedite their mastery of his craft. The teacher’s response, although unexpected, holds a valuable lesson for cultivating gratitude.

A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it.”

The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.” Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice every day, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?”

The teacher thought for a moment, “20 years.”

~ Zen Story

I like this story for several reasons. We can identify how gratitude relates to the story and provide suggestions on how to be more grateful:

  1. Embrace the journey: The martial arts student in the story is focused on the destination, desiring to master the martial system quickly. However, the teacher’s response challenges this mindset, emphasizing the importance of embracing the process and journey towards mastery. By cultivating gratitude, one can learn to appreciate and find joy in the present moment and the progress made along the way.

What can you do? Shift your focus from the desired outcome to the present moment. Recognize and be grateful for the opportunities for growth, learning, and progress that the journey brings.

  1. Cultivate patience and perseverance: The student’s impatience reflects a common tendency to seek immediate results. The teacher’s counterintuitive response highlights the need for patience and perseverance in mastering any skill, understanding that it takes time and dedication to truly excel.

What can you do? Develop a gratitude practice that focuses on the journey, acknowledging the small victories and milestones along the way. Express gratitude for the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop skills, even when progress may seem slow.

  1. Practice gratitude for challenges: The teacher’s response indicates that the student’s impatience will only serve to prolong their journey. Consequently, the story implies that challenges and setbacks are an essential part of the learning process. These challenges provide opportunities to develop resilience, problem-solving skills, and perseverance.

What can you do? Embrace challenges and setbacks as valuable experiences for growth. Maintain a gratitude mindset by recognizing that obstacles offer opportunities for learning, self-improvement, and personal development.

  1. Avoid comparison and embrace personal progress: The student’s eagerness to master the martial system quickly may stem from comparing themselves to others or external standards. The teacher’s response reminds the student that their personal progress should be the primary focus rather than attempting to outpace others.

What can you do? Practice gratitude by acknowledging and celebrating your own progress. Avoid comparing yourself to others and instead appreciate the unique journey and progress you are making in your own life.

  1. Attitude of gratitude: The teacher’s response implies that an attitude of gratitude is crucial in the pursuit of mastery. Gratitude helps shift the focus from a mindset of lack and impatience to appreciation for the process, opportunities, and learning experiences.

What can you do?: Develop a daily gratitude practice, such as keeping a gratitude journal or expressing gratitude to others. Focus on the positives, even in challenging situations, and foster a mindset of gratitude for the opportunities and lessons that arise.

By incorporating these suggestions into our lives, we can cultivate gratitude by embracing the journey, practicing patience and perseverance, appreciating challenges, avoiding comparison, and nurturing an overall attitude of gratitude.

Take a moment to imagine a life filled with gratitude and appreciation, a life where you focus on the positives, no matter how small. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Here’s your chance to make it a reality!

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By signing up for the Gratitude Burst, you’ll receive a daily email straight to your inbox, bursting with inspiration and practical exercises to help you embrace gratitude. Each email is carefully crafted to guide and support you on your gratitude journey, ensuring that you experience the full benefits of this incredible practice.

So, what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on this life-changing opportunity to enhance your well-being and live a more fulfilled life. Sign up for the Gratitude Burst today at  (or on this page!) and experience the incredible power of gratitude for yourself.


  1. Julie A Jordan Scott on July 2, 2023 at 8:31 am

    Paul: this post made me laugh outloud (literally!) the Zen story… oh my goodness I see myself in each part of it. Your post is so incredibly helpful and thoughtful to many who may think gratitude is some kind of magic bullet… and to others, who have been practicing for a long time it is also a helpful refresher.

    Many, many thanks!

    • Paul on July 2, 2023 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks, Julie – sometimes it is the simple things that make sense, but only when we are not caught-up in the fixation and attachment of the outcome!

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