First I’d like to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving / holiday season. Giving thanks seems to be an appropriate theme for today’s philosophical pondering.
I’ve pondered this topic for many years of my life, yet the power of Gratitude continues to amaze me. This is a time most often filled with family and friends coming together to participate in life’s joys and wonderment. It is an opportunity to acknowledge those who left us throughout the year, as well as those that have joined us.
This holiday season my family and I have Kay McGlothin and Jim Oliver in our hearts and minds. Over the past two years we’ve welcomed Kian Danley, Lawson Oliver, and Wendy Oliver with open arms. I’m grateful for the time I had with Kay and Jim, while I am also Grateful for the opportunity to see these tiny humans grow into titans.
Gratitude requires us to acknowledge the uncontrollable. Being Grateful about the time I had with my grandmother requires me to acknowledge that those times have come to an end. Death is just one of those uncontrollable things that we all have to accept.
That sounds wicked negative doesn’t it? My point is that by acknowledging death, we can acknowledge that life is temporary, and yet, certainly worth living. I’ll have the opportunity to be a character in my nieces and nephews lives. Vice Versa, my nieces and nephews will have opportunities to influence my life… that is awesome, exciting, and really meaningful to me.
Nature is uncontrollable. Droughts, fires, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, famine, earthquakes, plague…mother nature is a mother fucker. The material things we love and cherish can be burned down or flooded in a matter of minutes. We take our every day items such as food, water, shelter, and clothes for granted on a daily basis. It’s easy to take them for granted because they practically are granted…until they aren’t.
It seems especially easy to take things for granted in industrialized consumer economies, where historically extreme poverty is difficult to find. We’ve successfully secured access to food, water, shelter, clothing for most citizens of these societies. It is a wonderful accomplishment. One that ought to be celebrated, perhaps more often.
As we develop these massive and productive economies, I would hope that we don’t lose sight of nature, and just how special and fragile our set up really is. Nature will frequently come to humble us. Reminding us that something created and gained, can also be destroyed and lost.
To me, Gratitude is in a way humbling yourself. Realizing that the world does not owe you, and that most of life is merely uncontrollable. These are two empowering and beautiful ideas to me.
I think it is important to have an understanding and an appreciation for true privileges. And I don’t mean owning a sweet sports car…by true privileges, I simply mean turning on hot running water, having a roof, or even the ability to dress yourself. These are items that are easily taken for granted, and yet they are very crucial to our survival and well-being.
So many people attach their happiness to some distant goal, achievement, or acquisition. I’ve found that to be an unhealthy and unsustainable way of life. The analogy I often use is “chasing a carrot on a stick”, or perhaps the “perpetual hamster wheel”. It’s all work and chase with little to no real reward.
I think its useful to reverse this cycle and just be Grateful for where we are now, Grateful for the people we are with now, Grateful for the good times, filled with pleasant memories and sweet joy. But also Grateful for the tough times of pain and growth.
Its possible to be satisfied with what we have right now, rather than focused on what we will have, or what we really want to have… When I practice Gratitude I feel a change occurring, internally. Its like a mood booster. And when my mood is boosted i have more focus and i’m more engaged, creative, critical, productive and positive. I actually believe that everyone is capable of unlocking this potential.
I’m not saying we all ought to stop striving to become better versions of ourselves (whatever that means to you). Its okay to have dreams, desires, and to really want more out of life. Its okay if you aren’t content and satisfied with yourself or with your life. Of course, we should continue to improve and transcend throughout our life time! This transcendence actually injects meaning and quality into our lives. So gratitude is not meant to lock people into contentment
Tying happiness to a distant achievement or goal puts me in this loop that feels deeply unsatisfying. “I’ll be happy once I get (X)” we often tell ourselves. Then we get it … Finally! … and sometimes its unsatisfying when we get it OR it feels incredible but now what? Well, Then we might start searching for Y. “Now I know I’ll be happy once i get (y)” and this continues. Is there a better approach to life? I believe so.
I think that when we reverse that cycle and turn it into (be grateful -> positive moods -> quality work -> success) we build a mental framework (or attitude) that propels ourselves. It seems to be healthier and sustainable. Even in terrible moments we can still make an effort to be Grateful for the opportunities of that moment.
Also, while times are amazing and joyful we can still make an effort to really appreciate just how amazing these times are. Good times have their own set of opportunities to be Grateful for. We might also make an effort to find something that we are taking for granted, while it isn’t truly granted.
This is a positive outlook on life that also acknowledges and understands how life can be cruel and negative. I think that is powerful for anyone.
I encourage you to take time out of your day to list things you are Grateful for. Make a habit of this and develop your own ways of remaining Grateful. Doing this has certainly improved my life in many ways and I’m positive it can improve yours.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this piece. I know that I’m not the wisest, smartest, or most articulate guy on this planet. Sage.Express is merely a platform for me to express my thoughts and expose these rough drafts to open criticism. I’m truly just exploring random ideas and I really do appreciate your interest and support.
I hope you found something in this writing that is applicable to your life. Please comment or contact me if anything happened to strike a nerve, or if something really resonated with you.
Below is a link to one of my favorite TED Talks. David Steindl-Rast is a catholic benedictine monk with a very insightful message on Gratitude. I believe he’s much more articulate than I am… This dude really hits the nail on the head, so I encourage you to check it out.
Cheers, Happy Holidays, and Be Grateful.