The Sages asked, “Who is rich?” then answered, “That person who rejoices in their lot.”
So, it’s a week or so after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.). On that special day, we are constantly reminded to feel gratitude and express gratitude for how much we have to be thankful for. Indeed, with all of life’s hurriedness and angst, it’s so easy to forget the many blessings we have. And, having a special day to re-center us is certainly an excellent idea.
I know with me, it sometimes seem like such a stretch when thinking about actually listing the blessings that we – especially in Western Civilizations – are fortunate enough to have and for which we should be appreciative? Personally, I always have to think really hard, then I feel a sense of embarrassment because I know I’m trying to look for all the “extra-special” things, and unintentionally forgetting the “regular” things.
So, just what can/should we be grateful for? By the way – in what I call the “politically correct” aspect of the world of personal development – sometimes the use of the word “should” is discouraged. As though there is a judgment associated in using that word. I respectfully disagree. In my opinion, there are indeed certain “shoulds” in life, and one is “gratitude.” Being grateful for what we have is a key to happiness.
The Sages asked, “Who is rich?” then answered, “That person who rejoices in their lot.” That doesn’t mean that one must settle. Actually, when one begins with a foundation of gratitude for what they currently have, they’re much more likely to be able to obtain even more of what they desire. This, in part, because the person who acts out of gratitude is more pleasant to be around, more easily attracts others into their life (and network) and tends to operate out of a sense of confidence and positive expectancy.
They are also – as Wallace Wattles taught in his 1915 classic, The Science of Getting Rich – more closely connect with the Source of all abundance, which in turn leads to greater abundance. Depending upon your theological beliefs you may or may not identify with that last statement. Even so, you’ve most likely noticed that those with gratitude tend to be more successful in most ways, including financially. And, they then have even more to be grateful about and grateful for.
A Gratitude List
Let’s look at just a few things which “rate” gratitude, or gratefulness:
Comfortable shelter. A job or career that satisfies you (again, not that you can’t strive for more, while still appreciating what you have), while paying you enough to feed yourself, and any other mouths for which you are responsible. A vehicle which takes you from point A to point B. Clothes that keep you warm. A spouse or significant other you love and who loves you. Family members you love and who love you.
Those are really good. Let’s dig a bit deeper:
Eyes out of which you can see, from your loved one in front of you, to the magnificence of a sunrise/sunset, to the deep green grass to the majestically beautiful mountain.
Ears out of which you can hear, from your child saying, “I love you,” to your dog barking, to anyone telling you hello, to the music playing (even loud, obnoxious music that isn’t your type).
A mouth out of which you can communicate after using your mind to first reason out what you’re going to say :) , from telling someone you love, “I love you,” to warning someone to look out for the banana peel, to sharing a funny story, to offering much needed advice to someone who has come to you for help.
Legs with which you can walk, fingers with which you can touch and feel, and arms with which you can hug.
Let’s go to even more of a micro level
You know that cup of coffee you enjoyed this morning, or might even be enjoying now? There’s a lot to appreciate there, as well.
Of course, it probably just tastes incredibly good. But, more so, how did it come to be that you could even have it there to enjoy?
Well, first it had to be grown somewhere. Then, cultivated. Then shipped. Then blended. Then transported. Then, transported again. Finally, it was in the store where you either bought it in a can or bag, or it was already brewed for you. And, anything you put into the coffee to enhance your level of enjoyment from it had to go through a similar process.
Then, you got to taste it…the warmth, the richness, the flavor, the incredible feeling of simply enjoying a cup of coffee while at your computer or perhaps reading your newspaper. While you’re at it, take a moment to also appreciate all the work from different people and places that went into the producing of the newspaper and/or the computer. It’s almost overwhelming how much there is for which to be grateful!
(By the way, to really appreciate the magnificence of what it takes to bring us practically any product at all, purchase a nifty little pamphlet called “I, Pencil” by calling 1-914-591-7230. It’ll blow you away. You can also read it for free here.)
How do we apply this appreciation in our dealing with others? So often we become angry at the difficult person whose bad attitude makes our life difficult. If we can look at this person, however, with total appreciation for what they are; a fellow child of our Creator, a human being doing the best they can based on their knowledge, upbringing, circumstances and way of seeing the world, we can have a whole new respect and level of appreciation for that person and what they represent. Even if what they represent to us is simply a learning experience from which we can grow to be a better, more understanding, and more effective person ourselves.
As we see, appreciation for everything we’ve discussed, and much more, is not limited to one day of Thanksgiving. We can practice the “skill” of appreciation as much as we want to, every single day. Do this for as long as it takes to take hold – it will change your life!
For whatever reason it is, for the first 35 years of my life I tended to focus more on what I didn’t have than on what I had. Thus, it didn’t matter how much I had; since I didn’t truly appreciate it, it was as if it didn’t exist. What did exist? That which I didn’t have or didn’t like. And, my level of happiness reflected this.
Once I embraced the attitude of gratitude; being grateful for what I had, and – let me repeat this from two paragraphs ago – practicing the “skill of gratitude” – my life changed for the better…and in so many ways.
I hope that you, my U.S. friends enjoyed your thanksgiving and that you, my friends outside the U.S. enjoyed a day of peace and gratitude, appreciating the fact that you have so much to appreciate…and appreciating that.[Ed Note: Bob Burg speaks at corporate conferences and entrepreneurial events. His books (which include Endless Referrals and The Go-Giver have altogether sold over a million copies. His newest book is Adversaries Into Allies: Win People Over Without Manipulation or Coercion. To get Chapter One, visit www.adversariesintoallies.com]