We all have something to be thankful for.
Dark days are over …well maybe too early to proclaim that but certainly the temperatures here in South Limburg are now (low) double digit and the surrounding landscape is showing its appreciation – the grass already looks a little greener and the birds are getting busy outside!
In fact on Tuesday evening there were scores of migratory birds returning northwards, at first I saw thousands but then when I looked closely it was a myriad of mosquito’s outside the window…but there were birds, just not thousands – a good omen I hope. Fortunately on Thursday with temperatures of 17-19 degrees here in Limburg the birds started returning in their hundreds , Spring is on its way
Following on from this I have been looking for some positive inspiration to reflect on this week as the last few have certainly needed some. I am always thankful for where I am in my life , sure I’ve made many mistakes along the way and yes I have learnt from them. And yes, Life also has a way of throwing terrific curve balls, when that happens it’s very easy to cuss and complain and bemoan your fate. Truth be told we all have a lot to be thankful for, I think the problem is we don’t always stop and reflect on this and this leads to a sense of entitlement.
I found this little reflection of an interview with Seth Godin some years ago, makes sense for me !
In this interview ( I guess 5 years or so ago) the topic of Gratitude was put on the table, interesting to see SG’s take on this and some practical fixes ( always a good thing)
I think that gratitude is a profound choice. It is not just something that some people do. There is a way to look at life as a “have to” or a “get to” there are all these things in life we could do because we have to do them, or there are things in life we do because we get to do them. What is fascinating is it has nothing to do with the truth of what is in the world. It has to do with our narrative about what is going on. Someone who loves being a surgeon says, “I get to do surgery tomorrow.” Someone who is just grinding their way through exactly the same job says, “Ugh. I have to get up early tomorrow and do surgery.” Same hospital. Same kind of patient. One person has a “have to” posture, one person has a “get to” posture. What we know is that people who have a “get to” posture are happier, and they do better work.
Let me now take that and say we can agree on that living life knowing you “get to” do something is better. How do we evoke that feeling? What is the easiest way to do it well? The question I would ask is, “What is the opposite of gratitude?” I think the opposite of gratitude is entitlement. People who are entitled to something, walk around expecting that the world owes them something, whereas the people who are grateful for something are eager to share that gratitude with others, and that lines up exactly with “have to” and “get to.”
If you think about all the things in your life, whether there are things in your life that everyone can agree are amazing, like some stranger walks up to you and hands you a dozen roses, to things that are much more problematic, like chemotherapy, we get a choice with how to interact with those things. If someone hands you flowers because you are an opera diva, you say, “Well of course I am entitled to get flowers because I practiced for eighteen years, and I just gave an amazing performance and gave an amazing speech.” Whereas if you are truly grateful for someone doing something they did not have to do, it gets better.
It gets better if you can be grateful that you have chemotherapy. How is that even possible you could be grateful? I will tell you how it is possible. In most of the world, chemotherapy is not an option. You are just going to die, and those people would be super grateful to have a chance not to be dead. So we momentarily say, “I did not ask to be in this situation. Given that I am in this situation, I am grateful that I get to make this choice.” The long answer to your question, I think, [is]that gratitude is a clue to our brain about adopting a posture that makes elements of our life better.
So just how can you do that?
This is the thing about neurology. What we know from MRIs, and the brain, and everything else. We know that if you spend the whole day, never mind all day, that if you spend thirty seconds making a sad face, you will become sad. We know this is true. We know that if you get all worked up, without having anything to be worked up about, so many hormones will be released in your body that you will be the kind of person who is now worked up about everything. I did not have to do a lot of work. I just started faking it. Fake being grateful for things, and then you are.
Be patient, you get there eventually.
It does not take that long. Part of what we do as humans is we construct this narrative. We spend a lot of time trying to teach people a lesson, and people don’t want to be taught a lesson. It is not worth it. It is just not worth beating yourself up to beat somebody else up. That person who cut you off in traffic doesn’t even know you exist. That twenty minutes you spent hyperventilating and cursing him out, they don’t even know it took place. Instead, you should be grateful for that person who cut you off in traffic, because it is better than not being grateful. You can hear all sorts of narratives as to why you are grateful. Well guess what? He slowed me down, which meant that at that next intersection where there was I accident, I did not get killed. Thank you for saving my life.
Perspective is everything