Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Living with an Attitude of Gratitude

I’ve read a number of articles over the years, and indeed, met people who are actively trying to live with one. I’ve seen books about it. I’ve read blogs where people list the things they are grateful for (thanks Carin!) and most recently, the place I work (a very large Canadian financial institution) has begun to promote an employee health-related initiative where we are being asked to try to live with one.

So what is it, exactly, this “attitude of gratitude” thing that is all over the place, and why on earth would you care to try to live with one?

Well, as best I can see, it’s a way of thinking – one where no matter what is going on, you look for something, in every situation, to be grateful for. Some days that is WAAAY easier said that done, I admit it. Why live with one? Or at least try to? You feel better. Honestly – that’s it.

Gratitude is a way to help manage the challenges of the day. I try never to use the word “problem” when faced with a situation that isn’t as positive as I’d like. I like to use the word challenge because, in my mind, it re-frames the situation and turns it into an opportunity to improve a situation either for myself or for someone else.

If you are only ever grateful for the things that go right, well, then you also only get half of the experience that you are being presented with for your life. In finding something to be grateful for in the things that don’t go smoothly, happily, positively or successfully, we can actually turn how we feel about these situations into better experiences.

Yes, OK, sometimes it takes time (in my case, sometimes years) to be able to honestly look at a situation experienced, and find something to be grateful for in that situation. Other times, before the challenge has been resolved something shines forth as a reason for gratitude.

When you look at the most horrific break-up you experienced, you can still find something there to be grateful for. In my case, the worst one ever took me years to work through – some aspects of which I still struggle with. Today, though, I am truly and honestly grateful for it AND for how it happened. I learned a lot from the situation, both about relationships and about me and just how very strong I am.

Today I offer my gratitude for my worst client of the day and my best. My worst client was at the beginning of my work day. From that experience I took away the fact that I really do not take rudeness personally any more – at least not from a client. I’m also grateful for his being at the start of the day, because each and every person I served for the rest of the day was pleasant and happy and smiling. My best client laughed with me. She could have had a bad morning, but actively chose not to let it get to her, and not to bring the negativity from her previous errand with her when she came into the bank. Instead of being frustrated and anxious, she took her situation in stride and allowed me to help make it better. She also came back later on in the day with the second half of her situation and allowed me to help her resolve it in full. She left feeling better AND with a smile on her face.

I also offer gratitude for my trip to the grocery store after work. When I was coming through the check-out line, in the next line over I saw the woman who manages the pet store where I buy Jasmine’s food. Comments and laughter flying back and forth, I am reminded that I love living here in the Comox Valley and also WHY I love living here. Same reason I loved living in the Channel Islands – it’s small enough that, when you are out shopping, you nearly always see someone you know.

Finally, I offer gratitude for the greeting I get when I come home from work. My sweet girl Jasmine is ALWAYS thrilled to see me. Her bright eyes and alert face tell me (as do her licks and wiggles) that she is glad I am home. She then proceeds to follow me from room to room because I am her pack and her person. She’s asleep on the floor beside me as I write this – neatly blocking my way to the door so that she can be certain to come with me when I finish on the computer.

So tell me, what are you most grateful for tonight? What positive or challenging things from your day can you offer thanks for? Don’t worry about writing it down, or even about saying it out loud – though both help. Whisper it in your mind and hold it in your heart. The awesome thing is that tomorrow will give you even more to be grateful for – all you have to do is open yourself up to it.

With love across the waters,

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