We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~ Thornton Wilder
This week I’m thinking about being thankful, and how I believe dwelling on it helps achieve success, both personal and in business – whether as an author, writer, or blogger. It doesn’t matter. Whatever the mountain you want to climb, perseverance, a little luck, and gratitude will help you gain the top.
The word “gratitude” is tossed around by everybody nowadays, even in mainstream media. Volumes have been written about why we should give thanks for everything we have, from electricity to ATMs. Often, when we hear or read about appreciating our good fortune, we nod and agree, tick off a few good things that have happened lately, think “yeah, that’s cool,” and move on.
But if your cupboard is bare (or you think it is), it can be impossible to relate. An attitude of gratitude is easy when there’s a new BMW in the garage and lots of dough in the bank, right? Appreciating where you are and what you have is a cinch when where you are is Paradise and what you have is everything you’ve ever wanted.
It’s just that not many of us are in that place. So we have the right to gripe. It’s okay to grumble, complain, vent a little vent, dance a little poor-me-why-me dance. In the dark, with a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of Jack, a box of tissues, and appropriate sad music playing in the background.
Nobody’s dissing your right to throw a hissy fit
Just so we’re clear, venting is okay with me. No judgment. I’ve done it (often), and I bet you have, too. It makes us feel better (for a while) and it draws sympathy, and that’s always nice. People rally around, commiserate, share their own hard-luck stories and tell you how what you’re experiencing is sooooo much easier than what they went through. (Wait, what?)
Basically, what we all want is peace, stability, security, comfort, success of some sort, and loving companionship. Maybe a little acknowledgement, a little recognition. Here’s the thing: Complaining about why we don’t have these things will not draw them into our lives. Consistent grumbling won’t get us any closer to what we want.
Consistent gratitude will.
Gratitude is a vehicle
Why should you count your blessings when nothing about your life feels blessed? The short answer is because appreciation focuses your mind on the positive. It shifts your thoughts away from what you don’t have to what you do have – however limited those things may be, they’re there when you look for them. Being grateful for what’s working keeps you from dwelling on what’s not.
And that’s a good thing because you’ll be happier when you think mostly about good things. It’s logic. When you’re a happier person, you’re peaceful. Relatively drama-free. Receptive to opportunity. And that attitude opens the door for more of the same.
Gratitude is a vehicle, it’s a method. Appreciation is a tool you can use to create more. You can’t think about good stuff and feel bad. Positive and negative emotions are incompatible. You cannot be deeply grateful and unhappy at the same time.
The secret isn’t never to be down, it’s how long you let yourself wallow that counts. Dwelling on your GOOD fortune can help you shift – every time.
The more we have, the less we appreciate
Millions of people in the world don’t have electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, or a car, yet studies show they’re often happier overall than we are. How is that possible? Because we in the modern world take these things for granted. We choose to think more about what’s missing than the magic that is ours.
And that’s our choice. We choose how we feel, to a certain extent. We have the ability to give more power to one aspect of our life over another. We have the ability to focus on the mindset, “I don’t have enough,” or, “I am so frigging lucky.”
When was the last time you thought that thought?
Talk happy! Your success will grow, your relationships will improve
Feeling and sharing appreciation is free. The upside to your wellbeing and your relationships is tremendous. Gratitude can help you learn to live your life as if small things were a miracle. Being grateful will help you concentrate on what you have in the here-and-now. Giving thanks for what’s good on the one hand can help adjust your perspective about circumstances and conditions that can’t easily be changed, such as your stagnant career as an author. (Oh, no, wait – that’s me.)
Research backs this up: Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress. And when you share it by sincerely praising and recognizing those who support you, it’ll come back to you.
Writing prompt/Exercise: Keep a journal filled with good stuff
Gratitude authority Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., is author of the book, Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. His work shows that keeping a daily gratitude diary increases alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy, and provides relief from depression and stress. Journaling is an effective way to help increase long-term happiness. And here’s another neat statistic: It can also increase our willingness to help others and improve our progress toward achieving personal goals.
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Image by Patrick Hoesly