I've been speaking and writing about gratitude for many years, and I'm still amazed at how challenging it can be to focus on what I'm grateful for at times (especially when I'm feeling sorry for myself, complaining or focused on what I think I should get, instead of all that I already have). I'm also blown away by how powerful and transformative gratitude is when we choose to pay attention to it, experience it and express it.
I recently met a man who had been in prison for almost 30 years. When he was asked what he appreciated most about being out of jail, he said, "Seeing the stars, listening to children laugh and hearing dogs bark." Wow—think of all the simple things we take for granted that we could choose to be grateful for each day, instead of focusing our attention on what we don't have, what we want or what we think we deserve (but haven't been given yet).
What are you grateful for? What do you appreciate about the things you already have in your life? What do you love most about the people around you?
How often do you ask yourself and others these powerful questions? Sadly, many of us don't take the time to ask or answer these types of questions on a regular basis, especially in the midst of these difficult times and the stress and expectation of the holidays.
I hope you and your family have been and will be spending time focused on what you're grateful for during this time of year. However, focusing on gratitude is something that we can do all the time, not just on special occasions or during the holiday season.
There are many reasons (i.e., excuses) we have for not focusing on what we're grateful for:
- We're too busy and stressed out
- We're waiting for things to work out perfectly (which they almost never do)
- We don't want to brag (especially now, when lots of people are going through tough times)
- We focus on what needs improvement and the many things we still have to get done
- We focus on all the bad stuff in our lives, about others and in the world
- We pay a lot of attention to what we don't have, what we want and what we think we should get
While all of these reasons make sense and are understandable, they simply and sadly get in our way of tapping into one of the most powerful emotions and states of beings we have access to: the power of gratitude.