The below story might explain what is the attitude of gratitude. A few years ago, at my old workplace, I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker. She was telling me all about her exciting adventures backpacking across India, the people she met, the food she ate and the incredible nature sceneries she witnessed. One of her stories stood out for me. She used to have this little habit in one of the locations where she stayed. Every evening, she used to climb up a hill, where the view from the top was breathtaking according to her and watched the sunset while giving thanks to this wonderful world for this beautiful event. There, she promised to herself to keep that habit when she returned home. Unfortunately, she didn’t. When she returned home, she started university and caught up in different routines.
Her story left me pondering. Mother Nature has graciously given us this breathtaking spectacle for us to enjoy each and every day, and we rarely take up on her offer. While we are on Facebook, Instagram or The Bachelor, the greatest show on Earth, free of charge, is right outside our window; just five minutes each day, that’s all we have to invest to enjoy this miraculous creation. Is this not something to be grateful for? Honestly, it takes me longer to fix myself a cup of coffee.
Let’s cut to the chase
I want to share with you a little habit that improved my life. Don’t roll your eyes just yet! You probably read something like that before, about this “one thing that will change your life”. I too fell for those click baits. But not this one.
I first heard about expressing gratitude from author and blog writer James Altucher’s excellent book “Choose Yourself!”. In his book he writes:
“Now, every day when I wake up I am grateful. I have to be. And I have to count the things that are abundant in my life. Literally count them. If I don’t they will begin to disappear. I’ve watched them disappear before. I don’t want it to happen again. “
For the next two weeks, I want you to keep a gratitude list, and test drive this little habit for yourself. What do you write on your list? Well, pretty much anything that you feel grateful for on that day. I do mine every night at 8pm, and here’s an example of a ‘typical’ entry:
- I’m grateful for my health and the health of my loved ones.
- I’m grateful for that awesome sandwich I had for lunch.
- I’m grateful that my bus came right on time.
- I’m grateful for the joke Brandon told me today at work.
- I’m grateful for that random smile from a random stranger.
- I’m grateful for this glass of water I’m about to drink.
- I’m grateful for the roof over my head and the food on my table.
- I’m grateful for all the blessing that I got, and the blessings I’m getting.
Now, for me, every list starts the same and ends the same (#1 and #7). What goes in between could really be anything – big or small. A sandwich, a compliment, a raise, a big money prize – whatever works for you. The important thing is once you are writing your list; try to feel, even for a split second, a sense of gratitude. Count your blessing or they will disappear, or better yet, you will lose track of them. It’s the tendency of our mind to focus on the negatives. I guess it used to serve us back in cavemen time (but I’m no expert). But today, it stands in our way for a richer and fulfilled life. Writing a gratitude list daily will tune our inner focus to the blessings we have.
Short term benefit
I’ve first learned about the concept of keeping a gratitude journal from Bob proctor’s excellent program 6 minutes to success. Keeping a gratitude journal is the BEST way, that I’ve found, to become a much more optimistic and positive person. After doing this for a while, maybe a week or two, you’ll spot potential entries for your list as they come across your path during the day. Soon you will discover that pretty much anything could be reframed and make the list.
But, let’s say you had a really awful day – the worst! Everyone was mean to you, you had a stomach ache and nothing seemed to work overall. So, what do you write then? In those rare cases (and they are rare), you’ll just have to squeeze your mental gears a little bit harder. Be grateful that the day is over, be grateful for your furniture or how about expressing gratitude for waking up today? (!); not everyone was lucky as you. Maintaining the list trains our mind to look for the positive. Some days it will flow right out, and some days it will be a small effort. Nonetheless, you are taming the beast!
Long term benefit
Let’s talk about Professor Anderson (no need to look him up, I made him up). Professor Anderson is a renowned physicist. Ever since he was a student, Prof. Anderson had one goal in mind – to win the coveted Nobel Prize. For his entire career, Professor Anderson worked his butt off, steering the wheel towards the Nobel Prize.
Professor Anderson made a name for himself in the field of physics, and soon other prestigious
awards, grants, and accolades followed his name. But, it wasn’t enough for him; it wasn’t what he wanted. Finally, his day arrived! Prof. Anderson won the Nobel Prize. He sat in his den, with scotch on the rocks, and looked at his life’s dream staring back at him. At that moment, something was off. He wasn’t satisfied. He felt empty inside. How can that be? He got what he wanted, and he surely earned it.
You see, for his entire career, Prof. Anderson practiced dissatisfaction instead of gratitude. Because he wanted the Nobel Prize, no matter what blessings entered his life, he was unpleased. So, when finally the Nobel Prize entered his life, he continued his deeply ingrained habit of not being happy with what he got. Sounds familiar?
Keeping a gratitude list changes that. The list teaches us to appreciate all the things in our lives, big or small. And it doesn’t really matter what happens in our external world, our inner world is at peace and content. Eventually, that empty feeling of ‘not enough’ will fade, and something new will fill its place; the feeling of the luckiest bastard alive! And when things just seem like it can get any better, they do! It’s like Byron Katie said:
When life is so good, that you are positive it cannot get any better, the law is – that it has too. that is the way of it. and what is – is the story of the past.
Phewww, long post. But it will be worth it – I promise. Go out there and practice gratitude. When everything in your life is a blessing, you just keep getting more and more blessings from the universe. We live in an abundant world. “But people are starving”, you say. Yes, that is quite tragic. Man’s made world is not abundant at all, but the universe it inhabits is. Think about that breath of air you just inhaled. How many humans, animals, insects and microorganisms live on this planet? And we all have air. And as far as we know, it won’t run out anytime soon. “But the air is dirty and polluted”, you say. Gosh, you need a gratitude list! Hey, if you don’t believe me – just ask Oprah.
And please, watch more sunsets 🙂