It’s Thanksgiving week here in the US and in honor of this, my favorite holiday, I’d like to talk about gratitude.
We all know that gratitude is an important part of social interactions, meaning it’s polite to say, “please” and “thank you”.
However, there’s an aspect to gratitude that goes way deeper than good manners; one that has carried me through dark valleys and propelled me to sunny peaks.
I want to share it with you today because it can help you, too. Plus, this kind of gratitude is disappearing and I want to help keep it alive.
We are an ungrateful people, really. Political rancor, economic despair, general anxiety seem to be at an all-time high. Folks are unhappy about practically every aspect of life. Heck, just the way the world is reacting to such a silly thing as the Twitter acquisition tells you what you need to know about the current state of affairs.
Louis C.K., of #metoo fame, had a great bit about this back in 2009. It’s called, “Everything’s Amazing And Nobody Is Happy”. It illustrates exactly what I’m talking about.
So what gives? Why are we so unhappy?
I think the root of our problem lies in our focus: We’re self-centered.
It wasn’t that long ago that being selfish was considered a character flaw. Now, we’re encouraged to be like little gods, wroth that the world doesn’t revolve around our every whim. Politicians tell us that we deserve better. Consumer brands encourage us to fulfill our every desire. Media feeds us a steady stream of sycophantic content. (I mean, look at the name YouTube.) And, financial institutions stand at the ready to underwrite our consumption, whether we can afford it or not.
What started as, You deserve a break today, McDonald’s iconic marketing slogan from the early 80s, has metastasized into a society that celebrates unabated self-centeredness.
All the #selflove isn’t working. We’re miserable.
And how could it? Do we really think buying the latest Apple product or getting a million “likes” is the pathway to fulfillment?
Of course not.
However, practicing gratitude can lead to a deep sense of fulfillment and joy. And it’s easy to do.
You just have to think about the things in your life that you’re thankful for. And, before you complain, everyone has something they can be thankful for.
Do you have a family member that loves you? Did you eat today? Do you have food for tomorrow? Do you have a job? Are you relatively healthy? Can you see? Hear? It’s November—are you warm? Do you have a friend? Do you sleep at night without fear? Can you afford to buy new shoes? Is the sun shining?
I realize these all seem like silly things, but when you take time to think about them you start to realize how important they are, and how much worse off you’d be without them.
That’s the trick. When you think about what you’re grateful for you are putting your life into it’s proper perspective. You are essentially taking it out of the context that the modern world imposes on us—money, sex, power, pleasure, greed—and then recontextualizing it within what is good and true.
In the world’s context, you can’t be satisfied without acquiring as much as possible. It’s an impossible game, dependent on feeding the never-ending hunger of our egos.
But, when you take a moment to think about what you’re grateful for, you start to put your life into the right context. You start to see it more reasonably. Yes, your job may be boring, but you have a job. Recognizing this blessing is a great way to gain a better perspective on your work. Of course, that’s not to say you ought to just accept your boring job and toil away for the next 30 years. If it’s not the right job for you, then find another one. But, you can have a sense of gratitude and humility as you go about your search, and something tells me you’ll likely land something better with that attitude.
Whenever I am unhappy about my situation, and it happens, I try to stop and zoom out a bit, look at my life, and identify all the good that’s in it. In very short order my heart changes and I have a much better attitude about whatever I’m facing. And the great thing is, a better attitude usually leads me to finding a solution to what was making me unhappy.
Try it. I do it all the time and it works. Here’s how to put it into practice:
First, get undistracted. Stop whatever you’re doing, take your headphones out of your ears, and focus. Then, take just a few minutes and think about everything that you’re grateful for, great and small. You can simply think about them one at a time or you can write a list if you like writing.
If you really want a kick in the pants, do what I do and say what you’re grateful for out loud. I do it by talking with my wife. I tell her what’s bothering me (poor girl) and then I say something like, “Even so, I have to admit …” and then I list out all the good stuff that I’m grateful for. And, no, this isn’t some woowoo Law of Attraction horse crap. I speak my gratitude out loud because I need to say it and I need to hear it. Somehow, speaking and hearing myself has a really powerful impact and can move me from a pretty foul mood into one of humility and positivity.
Gosh, I hate how much I sound like a new age guru here, but the fact remains, it works. See for yourself. Take some time and think, write, or say the things you’re grateful for. I think you’ll be surprised by how it changes your whole outlook.
And, I must tell you that I am grateful for you. Thank you for becoming a subscriber and for helping me make Broadside a reality.
God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving.