Feeling and living gratitude is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your life. Ever since listening to Shawn Achor speak at a Commonwealth conference several years ago, I have been writing down at least three things I am grateful for every day. A grateful person is said to be a happier, more appreciative, and more loving person, as well as, per Achor, a more effective person. This method works for me, and you can find more about it and a bunch of other ideas in his book, The Happiness Advantage, which I highly recommend.
The big picture
Gratitude is something you may not think of that often. I have written about gratitude every year or so here in the blog, usually in the context of an event that makes me focus on the bigger picture, which is about how often I tend to think of it. Today’s post comes from the same well—I’m going in for surgery this afternoon. It will, hopefully, be a short-term problem rather than a long-term one. The signs are good, and the odds are in my favor. Nevertheless, something like this makes you take a hard look at the bigger picture of your life.
As I turned 50 this year, some kind of self-examination was probably due. You never know exactly what you will come up with, but I was pleased to discover that, by and large, I am doing all right. I attribute quite a bit of that to mindful appreciation of just how lucky I am, which brings us to gratitudes. I won’t get into too many details, but I have a wonderful wife and son, a close extended family, and great friends. I also work for one of the best firms in the world, Commonwealth. In this context, it is easy to focus on the good stuff because there is a lot of it.
“I get to”
It’s not all good, of course. What the good things provide, though, is a foundation for dealing with things that are not so good. One of the more simplistic forms of mindfulness is replacing “I have to” with “I get to.” I get to take my son to school, take my wife out for dinner, go to work every day. Once you focus on the good things, that kind of phrasing becomes more natural and meaningful. It even becomes possible to think, after some effort, “I get to have an operation.”
No one wants an operation. I certainly don’t, in isolation. Considering the alternatives, though, I’m grateful for the chance to resolve the problem now. I am deeply grateful that my family supports me. I am deeply grateful that I work for a company that provides good benefits, great time off, and the flexibility to work around this. Once again, the many good things provide cushion when something is not so good.
Focus on the good stuff
Focus on what you are grateful for. I strongly suggest you write down three things every day. They don’t have to be big things—I refuse to write “my family” every day, even though I am always grateful for them. Sometimes a gratitude is just for hot chocolate on a cold day. What matters is focusing on the good stuff.
I expect to be out for the rest of the month. As we did last year, though, there will still be a blog post every weekday, and I hope to be back in the loop in the next week or so. We also have Peter Essele (a member of our Investment Management and Research team) stepping in to do some posts, which will be a great addition.
Finding the light
Even in a dark period, you can walk in the light. By lighting a candle every day, you are much more likely to have light when you need it. I am fortunate enough to live and work in candle factories, making a holiday season that might have been depressing into something that I can approach with something like joy. Joy that I can actively move against problems, joy that I have the support and tools to do so, joy in all the many blessings I have. I hope you have the same.