There is a lot written about gratitude and understandably so. The saying – “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy” – definitely rings true.
That said, I don’t think the test is just about being thankful. I think it also matters when you are thankful.
For example, when I am down with a bad stomach or an injured foot, I naturally think about a fully fit body and find myself giving thanks for the fact that I only have minor niggles to deal with. But, those are examples of forced gratitude – gratitude that is caused by an intervention of sorts. Similarly, it is relatively easy to be thankful for your life or for those of your loved ones when you hear about someone passing away. Again, that’s thanks to an intervention.
So, I think the type of gratitude that really counts is when you give thanks at times when you don’t have any reason to give thanks. When everything is going great, we rarely find the time to stop and give thanks for everything that’s going well. But, I’d argue that doing so is a sign that you’ve got the “being thankful” skill (and it is a skill) down.
And, good thing too. There are few more important skills for a life well lived.
There was a moment in my 15 minute meditation routine this morning when Andy reminded me to appreciate gravity. A part of the exercise involves being aware of the weight of the body on the chair and the weight of the legs on the floor. And, of course, that wouldn’t be possible without gravity.
I thought the idea of appreciating gravity was symbolic of many a good thing in life. Gravity, to me, is one of those things that does its job every single day and, yet, is conspicuous by its absence from our attention. We take it for granted.
There are so many things and people in our lives that are exactly like gravity. An example that comes straight to mind is the human body. Every part of this incredible system just does its job. We only realize and appreciate this when we fall sick. How about appreciating it every day while we’re healthy?
It is also incredibly pertinent when it comes to appreciating people. So many companies and teams take their people for granted – especially those silent warriors who plug away at what needs to be done with unerring consistency. Often, true performers function like gravity. While they’re around, we never realize the impact they’re making simply because we take it for granted. If they weren’t around, these things would happen, wouldn’t they?
Let today be gravity appreciation day then. As we move through the day, let’s think about the many forces, things, and people we take for granted.. and appreciate them. This isn’t so much about them. This is just about us building this habit – to observe what is really going on, to notice efforts that might otherwise go unnoticed and to appreciate the good things.
For, when we learn to be appreciative, we learn to be thankful. And, when we learn to be thankful, we learn to be happy.
I am listening to “Wonderwall” by Oasis as I’m typing these words out. This was among the first songs I fell in love with and has so many great memories attached to it as it has stayed on every music playlist I’ve had since my early teens.
It is 8:07am on Wednesday – I am looking ahead at a packed day with a new project commencing, a project wrapping up, two assignment meetings and a couple of other notes. It is going to be back-to-back and I’m looking forward to that.
It is at such moments that I realize that it is in these moments that we actually live our lives. Too often, we think of the weekend / the next big break as our only respite. But, this moment is where we live have our day-to-day struggles and challenges. And, it is such moments that add up to a life where we’ve hopefully explored the length and breadth of the road we traveled.
Sure, it isn’t perfect and there are a few things that would be nice if fixed. But, I’m thankful for this moment. It is said that it isn’t happy people who are thankful but it is thankful people who are happy. I believe that. Remembering to give thanks takes work..
But, in the final analysis, I can think of very few other things that will matter as much as being grateful for all we’re blessed with and savoring the simple things that make up the bulk of our experience. Let’s live today.
We gravitate to things we’re good at. Doing something we’re good at feels great – we’re in our element, we feel good about ourselves and we’re appreciated for what we do.
If success builds careers and failures build character, it makes sense that we gravitate to areas we can be great at in our careers. Notching successes matters. However, in our personal lives, I think it is critical we become beginners from time to time. We can do this by attempting a new difficult side project, learning a new skill or simply doing something we haven’t done.
I am experiencing this in a small project where I am, by far, the beginner. It has been a fun experience attempting to do the basics, feeling very grateful to the experts around me for having me around and encouraging me, and just experiencing the joy when I occasionally do a couple of things right. Being a beginner is a very humbling experience.
Someone I met said she would regularly ask people – “when was the last time you did something for the first time?”
That’s a question worth asking every once a while.