As a little girl, I remember hearing that I could see my glass as half full or half empty. At the time I knew that this didn’t have to do with fractions, but I wasn’t exactly sure what it did have to do with. I remember picturing a glass half-filled with water and flipping my perspective of it being half-filled and then half empty back and forth in my mind. Many of us were introduced to the concept of choosing our outlook towards life with the water glass metaphor, and the idea that we have a large degree of choice over whether we focus on the fortunate or unfortunate events in our life. Since then, I have heard similar, more philosophical perspectives; “where attention flows, energy goes” and “what we focus on expands.” Today, the idea of focusing on the positive events in our lives is wisdom backed by a large body of research and conveys the growing recognition that our mind, and how we choose to direct many of our 60 000 – 80 000 daily thoughts, heavily influences the quality of our experience with life.
If that’s the case why don’t people just choose to feel grateful all the time?
Because often we feel like we are on a jam-packed-goal-driven treadmill that doesn’t leave room for really savouring the good things that are happening around us. Oh, sandwiched between the daily rush of living, we may briefly notice some of the good stuff, but soon our attention is swept up by another problem or time crunch, so we quickly move on … and our memory of the good stuff slowly fades. Also, it is hard to feel genuine gratitude when we are genuinely stressed, and overwhelm is a state too many of us find ourselves in too often. On top of these challenges, sometimes we have unexpected encounters with difficult people, bad luck or unpleasant tasks. And, ironically, when bad things aren’t happening and we have our overfilled lives under control, we quickly adapt to the pattern of our days, and succumb to the boredom of routine.
You see, I get it. I’ve worked in high stress jobs and poor economies. I’ve been treated badly by others and had to learn to negotiate my way around people who push limits. I’ve been subject to unrealistic expectations (sometimes my own), stereotypes and injustices. There are many paradoxes in life, and developing the ability to embrace gratitude amidst chaos, injustice or boredom is simply one of them.
Which leads me to the #1 reason I am a Gratitude Coach; since what we focus on expands by becoming a Gratitude Coach I am choosing to help those who have a readiness to intentionally create space to live with a deeper, more joy-filled life.
Unless we deliberately choose to create a consistent gratitude practice, life can shortchange our ability to savour gratitude, and along with this rob us of the ability to feel some of the joy that is already present in our lives. Yes, bad things happen to all of us, challenges and struggles regularly come our way, but good things are also happening to and around us all the time. Taking time to notice and appreciate them is what gratitude is all about.
There have been times when I have gone out of my way to share a kindness with someone only to have that person not even notice. Their gratitude barometer not only failed to register my action, it clearly wasn’t even turned on! Sadly, there have also been times when I have been equally oblivious to the generosity others have shown me because my barometer wasn’t on! When we do this we are really missing out on some of the juiciness in life. Well, not anymore. I want to savour all of my life’s juiciness!
Living in Gratitude is Not Living in Denial
Let me be very, very clear about something, gratitude is not about living in denial, or pretending, or reciting affirmations that have little to do with one’s reality. Living a gratitude-filled life is about being aware of the things that don’t go our way, the disappointments and processing our pain. But, at the same time, always holding space within our spirit for the beauty and gifts within one’s life at the same time.
Like the water glass metaphor, living with gratitude is not about telling yourself that your glass is full when it isn’t; it’s about being aware of both the water and the emptiness within the glass, but choosing to give as little energy as necessary to the bad stuff. Let’s face it, haven’t there been times when you’ve complained about something just to have a bit of gossip to share? Living with more gratitude is mindfully choosing to put that energy into turning towards and savoring the sweetness of the touching, beautiful stuff.
I hope this message resonated with you in some way. Thank you so much for the time that you took to read this, I am truly honoured. As a thank you I would like to let you know that there are two free gratitude intentions on my intentions page for you to enjoy at anytime. These are guided meditations that set the foundation for you to go through your day in a state of gratitude. Check back soon for more gratitude musings and free research-backed gratitude tips as I would love to travel on a journey towards experiencing more abundance with and love for life.
Yours, with love and gratitude,
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be notified whenever a new blog is published.
Image by Helena Lopez
Gratitude Tip for Parents
Want to hear more about Gratitude and get a useful strategy for building gratitude? Check out this 3 minute clip by one of my favourite researchers, Brené Brown, as she speaks on joy and gratitude: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IjSHUc7TXM