Too often we fret over all kinds of ‘what ifs’ that may in fact never happen. What if I lose my job? What if my business fails? What if my child doesn’t get into the school of his choice? What if I get ill? What if I have to replace my car? What if my parents need to move in with me? What if I am successful? Fretting over unknown ‘what ifs’ in life is both exhausting and nonproductive. Now imagine a different kind of what if. What if we live our lives in a perpetual state of recognition and gratitude rather than in fear of what ifs? What if you whole-heartedly blessed everything that happens to you? Without judging anything as right or wrong, without wishing things had been different, without coming up with a better outcome; if you just stopped and sent a wave of thanks for everything in your life? What would your life be like? Do you already feel a sense of peace and contentment?
Intuitively, we feel the difference in our hearts. The difference between living in fear of what ifs as compared to simply expressing gratitude for what is. When we are grateful for what is, we feel the radiance of the possibilities that can come our way (much like the above image). We’ll discuss how gratitude helps us overcome fear in an upcoming post; but in the meantime, let’s take a look at how our attitude of gratitude affects our everyday life.
Gratitude through Each Day
What would life look like if we simply expressed gratitude for everything that happens to us? Let’s explore the same scenario through a filter of gratitude versus one of good versus bad judgment.
A Typical Day Experienced through Judgement
We’re startled awake by a noisy alarm clock, chirping birds or a noisy neighbor. If only we could have gotten more sleep. It’s going to be a tough day and we need all the help we can get. After all, we want this to be a good day. So we better hurry, catch a shower and get on with it. Perhaps the kids need fed or you once again have to wake up in this big old house, alone again. We’ll worry about that later, right now it’s time to hurry and get to work so you can pay the bills. Oh the bills, they’re never-ending. And the boss, he’s always so demanding of your time. Traffic is backed up again! Really, if only other drivers could drive. You have better things to do than sit in traffic.
The Same Day Experienced with Gratitude
The day starts with a nod of thanks to the good start of another day as we awaken to the alarm clock or the chirping birds or the noisy neighbor that awakened you in the morning. You give thankful recognition for the comfy bed and the warm shower. Whether you share your home with your family or enjoy the quiet and solitude of the home you occupy alone, you are thankful. Is your next step off to work? You feel a deep appreciation for a place to be of service, to share your gifts, and to earn money to pay your bills. Traffic is backed up as expected, and even this is reason to be grateful. You have time to listen to your favorite music, to read or chat with a friend while on the bus, or to take some quiet time for introspection and relaxation.
You get the idea. The two scenarios are identical. The only difference is whether you choose to live a life of gratitude or a life of judgment. It’s all about recognition and gratitude for everything in your life. It’s easy to get into the habit of judging. Moving on, let’s take a look at the concept of good or bad and how applying gratitude versus judgment transforms our thought processes.
Good or Bad
Although we might be tempted to call things good or bad, or right or wrong, we really have no idea what the true value of each thing or each experience really is. You may be familiar with the parable of the Chinese farmer. Paraphrased, it simply goes like this: The Chinese farmer gets a horse. The horse runs away but then comes back with another horse. The farmer gives this second horse to his son, but then the son is thrown from the horse and breaks his leg. In the end, because of his broken leg, the son is spared from being drafted by the emperor’s men to fight in a war. In each stage of this story, what apparently is bad news ends up resulting in the good news.
Much like the Chinese farmer story, without knowing the final outcome and all the twists and turns, we really don’t know what is good and what is bad. We simply know what happens. We never know what unexpected gifts are around the corner. So when it comes to good news or bad news, the truth is – who knows? By being grateful for what is, you will more fully acknowledge and accept the gifts that come your way.
Transform Your Life with Gratitude
So how do you acknowledge things that happen in your life? Blessing it, being grateful for it, or expressing appreciation for it has the direct effect on us of lifting our spirits, of bringing us to a place of receiving blessings. It’s a way of enhancing our world by transforming ourselves. For as long as we can keep ourselves in a state of gratitude – continuously, for a prolonged period, or even temporarily, we become magnets to more blessings. And while the added blessings may start out small and seemingly insignificant, they will grow in their magnitude and in their meaning.
Going back to the Chinese farmer parable, rather than bemoaning the loss of the horse, what if you were grateful for the years of service the horse provided, or even for the fact that you yourself are still able to work?
Sound too good to be true? Are you willing to give it a try and find out for yourself? In the next section, we provide simple – yet effective – exercises to help you express gratitude and to see how it directly affects your life.
No need to make this complicated. Simply keep your awareness on expressing your blessings for today. Then do it again tomorrow, and again the next day. Whenever you catch yourself, realizing that you have forgotten, just start over again. First thing upon waking each morning and before you close your eyes at night, send a wave of thanksgiving and set your intention for holding the attitude of gratitude all throughout your days.
If you would like to take it a step further, for extra credit per se, we recommend journaling. Below are three easy ways to get started.
Three Ways to Journal Gratitude
Many individuals find it helpful to journal first thing in the morning or the last thing in the day, just before bedtime. Frederick and his wife Melinda started journaling three years ago, at Thanksgiving, when she was healing from breast cancer. They attest that journaling works!
- Journal each morning or last thing in the day. Write down ten things that you are grateful for every day.
- At breakfast or dinner, share 3 things with your family or partner for which you are grateful.
- Share a ‘secret’ journal with your partner. Every few days jot down something about your partner for which you are grateful. Make it a nice little surprise for each other.
Your attitude of gratitude is just the beginning. Hopefully, you are feeling excited about the benefits that will come your way! In upcoming posts, we’ll share how gratitude helps us open our hearts and minds, connect with others, and overcome our fears and anger.
With gratitude, watch your world become one of the great blessings. Enjoy!
Images – ShutterStock