Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Gratitude – What is it good for?
Over the past year, I have given a lot of thought to Gratitude. That word seemed to be popping up all around me, and I have learned to pay attention when an idea or thought frequently emerges. I was hearing it in my business training seminars & coaching books. I heard it from Pastor when he challenged us to write down 100 things we were grateful for and to review the list daily. I heard it from a motivational CD series I listen to frequently. Repeated in what I was hearing was some version of, “Be grateful for what you have, if… you want more, you want peace, you want happiness, you want love….” I made a conscious decision, like so many of my mentors had, to embrace gratitude and thought maybe if I shared it with you, my results might encourage someone else.
I have so many examples that it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll just share one of the most significant. 1 year ago just before Thanksgiving, my husband lost his job (I know that so many people can relate to that.) 1 Stop Bead Shop had never been positioned to support my family, but now I was in the position as primary provider. There were so many reasons that we could have become depressed or negative about the situation – after all, we had to cut back on spending, make lifestyle changes, etc. It was a bit intimidating. But, I made a conscious decision to be grateful for what we had rather than focus on what we might have to give up. I am grateful that we have a home, a healthy family, the support of family & friends, a good business with great customers and employees that, as it turns out, can support us, and through it all the promise that, “All things work together for good for those that love the Lord & are calling according to His purpose.” We had no way of knowing that 1 year later, we would actually be grateful that he lost his job. Our entire family is closer and happier than ever. And, my husband, who had been living under a cloud of stress for years, is free of that cloud and has found a new career path that he’s really excited and motivated about for the first time in his life.
So why do you care? You may not. The nice thing about a blog, is that the writer gets to be a bit self-indulgent. But, I’m hopeful, not necessarily that you’ll celebrate with me, but that from my story you might take inspiration.
The more I “DO” gratitude the more things I find I have to be grateful for. And yes, I said, “DO” gratitude. I have found that being grateful takes a conscious decision and conscious thought – at least at first. I had to train my brain to think about what I was grateful for first thing in the morning when I got out of bed. I really like my bed, and would often rather chose to stay in it rather than get out. That has, over the years, set the stage for me to allow myself to get up grumpy, “I hate mornings,” rather than get up grateful. So, it was a conscious decision to say “Thank” when my first foot hits the floor, and “You” when my other foot hits the floor. “Thank you for this day, and the opportunities the day holds.” After that I have set aside time to say my thanksgivings for the day and really think about the things that I am thankful for. Some mornings that alone can take 20 minutes. There are big things to be thankful for like the sunshine to warm us and make us cheery, or the rain that waters my plants so I don’t have to pay for the water to water them – yep, I can be thankful for the weather either way. There are personal things to be thankful for, like that I was born with all my parts working correctly, that I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, sense, or that I still have all my teeth. There are family things to be grateful for, like that my kids came home safely from school today. There are business things to be thankful for, like a staff that I truly enjoy spending time with every day and loyal customers who make it possible for me and my staff to do something for a living that we truly enjoy. There are mundane things to be grateful for, like air conditioning and hot running water – 2 amenities that make be grateful I was born in this century and not earlier. There are life things to be grateful for like being born in this country where I’m free and relatively safe, and where we’ve all got it pretty good compared to some places in the world. You can see where the gratitude process each day could take a very long time as I really start to list all the things I have to be grateful for each day.
Did you know you can even be grateful for your big toe because it allows you to balance and makes it possible for you to walk?
So what happens when you spend all this time being grateful? Many of the things that seemed worth complaining about seem insignificant or get forgotten altogether. Many of the things you thought were worth complaining about can actually be seen from a positive point of view, which in the long run makes you a more positive person. When you’re more positive, more people like you and want to be around you. And, when you start looking through eyes of gratitude you start seeing all the people around you differently too. Something happens – it’s almost like gratitude turns into love – which of course it does.
Okay, so enough guishiness (not a word – I made it up). I wouldn’t have bothered to share all this with you if I didn’t have a purpose. My hope for you, is that you’ll try it too. Imagine a world where more of us were grateful for ALL the blessings we have. What would that world look like? I imagine that it would be a world where everyone is nicer to each other, because we are all so grateful for our blessings that we can focus our positive energies on being kind and helpful to one another. I like that world. I hope you’ll come live in it with me. There’s an infinite amount of room in the world of gratitude.