On Finding Gratitude

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Another Thanksgiving day has come and gone in America and another Black Friday with it.

I’ve found myself glued to videos on YouTube of people trampling each other on the way to toys or discounted electronics. It’s a morbid kind of curiosity that really confounds me.

To see people purposely harm each other when all that is being offered is the opportunity to spend more money on another thing they don’t need and that won’t make them happy.

You’d think they were passing out food, or water, or jobs, or love, or compassion. But no, just more stuff.

Now I’m not trying to give you too much of a lecture. I think we all kind of know that this time of year is a kind of sad hypocrisy. A season where so many cultures give thanks for family and life, but are told to spend their money on everything in sight because it’s marked off 10% and how will the neighbors know you love Christmas if you don’t turn your home into a catalog display?

For comparison, here’s a video shot by some kind people handing out food to a homeless shelter. No one is rushing, no one is trampling. They are simply grateful for a hot meal. Listen to what one man says at the very end who didn’t manage to get a meal…

But sometimes it can be hard to be grateful for all that we have. We’re not really taught this. We’re taught to reach, to yearn, to want more, more, more. We’re told we should be trying to get the bigger house, the nicer car, the promotion, the beach vacation, etc.

Just admitting to people that you’re happy with a simple life making enough money to pay your meager bills is like telling them you’re settling for something less than great. You can see it in their faces.

Don’t you want to be rich? Don’t you want to have it all?

Aspiration is a great attribute. But it can and very often does lead to constant dissatisfaction with the life you have at this very moment. And the life you have at this very moment is wonderful. You may not always think it, but it is. It is rewarding and it is hard and it is flawed and it is surprising as hell sometimes and it is all yours and all there ever will be.

Gratitude is like a muscle, it’s hard to use if you get out of the routine. It’s so easy to find what we think we’re missing in life, and hard to see the things that we already have. But as the gratitude muscle is flexed, it becomes easier and easier until the gratitude you radiate seeps into other people and grows inside of them too. They carry it out into the world and on it goes…

For this holiday season try some simple exercises to get your gratitude muscle back into shape:

1. Stop writing “to-do” lists. Start writing “have-done” lists. 

At the end of the day, or week, write down all the things you accomplished. Doesn’t matter if you just made it to your doctor’s appointment on time, write it down.

Looking at a list of the things you’ve done will help you not feel like you’re always rolling a boulder uphill. That’s an important feeling to have.

2. Enough with all the gift purchases. 

Everyone is so worried about buying enough “gifts” for everyone they know. We all need to admit the truth: we don’t need more Christmas presents. We don’t need the socks, the gift cards, the electric razors. 
We need to appreciate the things we already have. But there are people who are needy. They need food and blankets to stay warm at night. They need help. You can research and find a charity that could use your valuable time or dollars at CharityNavigator.org.

3. Tell your friends and family why you’re grateful for them.

Write it in an email or make a phone call. It doesn’t have to be the most weepy, sentimental exchange you’ve ever had. Just say, hey, I really appreciate that you do X because it means a lot to me and I just wanted you to know. You don’t have to make a big production out of it. Just send some love through the wires. It will mean more than a mass-produced greeting card or iTunes gift card.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving (if you live in the States) and a great holiday season!

11 Responses to “On Finding Gratitude

  • Oh, I really, really like the idea of a have done list

  • It feels a lot better than the never ending to-be-done lists if you ask me! Sorry it's taken me forever to reply, Cybele!

  • Hi James, another james here. Being grateful is a big one, I'm slowly learning it is one of the key pillars of happiness. I really like the blog just having a read through it now. In fact, I have just started quite a similar blog, thanks for the inspiration!

    • Hey James! This is James! And other various pen names. I like to keep things fresh. Thanks for stopping by and reading! Blogs are funny things, you get really energized for a while, then take some time off and feel guilty about it. I think the key thing is to just keep posting when the urge hits you and keep connecting with like-minded others like you're already doing. Make sure to let us know where to check out your blog!

  • Hi James. It is just getting started (www.occamslastrazor.com), I'd appreciate any feedback you or anyone else may have over time. As I say its early days yet but I'm looking forward to writing on it and hopefully connecting with others. The connecting thing is a big part, especially around this topic of simplicity which I find fascinating. Will stay in touch!

    • Looks great! I think the key is to brainstorm topics and make a huge list. Then you can just pluck things and build your post. You're off to a great start, seriously good job.

  • Cheers James, I appreciate it. Yeah lot's of ideas floating around, I'm looking forward to exploring them. Y'know, there is something to this simplicity lark 😉 !

  • Just ordered "Just Live Simple", looking forward to reading!

    • Dude, that's fantastic! I'm honored! I really hope you enjoy it and get something valuable from it.

    • Really enjoyed the book, great read! Read it during the commute to work this week. Will likely do a review/share my favourite bits on my site at some stage in the future if that's cool. Whens the next book ;)?

    • Thanks so much for reading it! I'm thrilled! I'd love to hear your thoughts on it in a review, I'd totally be honored. Next book? That IS the question, no? Hard to keep focused with other writing projects popping up, but when it does happen, I'll definitely let you know on here. Thanks again, Jim!

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