A Couple Things I’ve Learned About Gratitude
When I am grateful, my life is much better. I am more open with people, I am more optimistic, and as some kind of weird self fulfilling prophesy I am far more psychologically equipped to solve problems in a unique way.
But, gratitude is not something that is ingrained in me. Maybe it is by genetics, or environment, maybe even society as a whole that has laid my default foundation as one of irritability and discontent, keenly aware that everything could be much better and probably is for someone else. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like advertising and social media. But I digress.
Some things I have learned
- First is commitment.
Like anything, when the going gets tough gratitude becomes really hard to practice, although when things get difficult this is probably when your gratitude practice should increase 2–3x.
2. Second is substance in the (gratitude) list.
One trap that I fell into was that I kept a gratitude journal and kept writing the same things over and over. I don’t think that redundancy in this case is a good thing. Although, while reading Tim Ferriss’s new book Tools Of Titans he mentioned a practice that I thought was great and created some well intentioned randomness.
Specifically, having four different categories of “1. an old relationship that really helped you or valued highly. 2. An opportunity you have today 3. Something great that happened yesterday, whether you experienced it or witnessed it. 4. Something simple that is near you or within sight.”
3. Third is gratitude as action.
Gratitude has most definitely helped my mindset in the past, I still have to improve and get better during the rough patches, but it is improving.
There is still an issue that I see within myself and with others who claim to be filled with gratitude, which is the dissonance between gratitude of thought and gratitude of action.
For example, can I really be grateful for my health if I choose to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day?
What I have learned here is to try and have one daily action that I employ that is in congruence with on thing from my gratitude list that is lacking.
Gratitude is powerful for me because it completely shifts the paradigm from why is is happening to me? to how am I so lucky that this is happening to me? unconditional of whether the external stimulus is positive or negative.
Flaneur Nassim Nicholas Taleb says it beautifully in prose at the end of his book The Black Swan …
“I am sometimes taken aback by how people can have a miserable day or get angry because they feel cheated by a bad meal, cold coffee, a social rebuff, or a rude reception… We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions.
“Imagine a speck of dust next to a planet a billion times the size of the earth. The speck of dust represents the odds in favor of your being born; the huge planet would be the odds against it. Don’t be like the ingrate who got a castle as a present and worried about the mildew in the bathroom… remember that you are a Black Swan.”