Friday, August 6, 2010

Gratitude: What's Present vs. What's Missing

So many of us strive for being/doing/having more, better, and different. In other words, our focus is on not enough, not good enough, or something’s wrong. Relating to ourselves and our lives from a place of lack is a debilitating, as it has us go to wanting to fix and change. While it is okay to desire improvements, it’s equally important to recognize and appreciate what’s really great about our experiences and our worlds.

It is not about what’s missing, but what’s present. When was the last time – especially when things felt like they were not going your way – that you looked to what is so awesome about your life it brought you to tears? There is something really powerful in what I am talking about. That there is beauty in our lives every day, every moment… even when we feel that it’s not as good as it could be.

Similar to my recent post on winning, we get to say whether our lives are working or not. It’s all a point of view, and an opinion that we get to choose. When I work with my clients on the Wheel of Life, I often get levels of satisfaction of less than "5" (on a 0-10 scale) in one or many sections of the Wheel. When I see that, I will inevitably ask, "What makes that a #?" and they will rattle off a list of all that’s wrong with that sector of their lives. When we reorient the question toward what’s working, present, and wonderful, the number goes up.

It’s all perspective and we get to define and redefine the scale at any time. Being challenged around money could be a "0" or could be a "5" when we look to where poverty/homelessness would fall on our scales. In fact, I would assert that our day-to-day challenges could still regularly yield a level of satisfaction to over 5 in any/all areas of the Wheel if we shift where we place our focus.

Practice gratitude. For the next week, identify five things every morning when you wake and five things every evening before you fall asleep that you feel good about, that you are grateful for, that you appreciate, that are working. Use these Wheel-related questions if it helps. Here are five things I woke feeling grateful for this morning:
  1. Career: I get to do what I love every day, because I chose to make it so.
  2. Money: I have abundance/prosperity and all my basic needs are handled. I have the ability, resourcefulness, and desire to continue making it so.
  3. Health: I take care of my body, mind, and spirit every day – and I see/feel the results.
  4. Relationships: I have a lot of love in my life – from family, friends, and from people I know (and don't know) I impact.
  5. Spirit: I feel connected to and One with God/Universe/Source and know I am being taken care of.
It might feel clunky at first. I have a lot of practice with this, so I can get to some juicy stuff pretty quickly. Start by noticing some of the simple things, like gratitude for having a hot cup of coffee, getting a seat on the train, having a job that you like most days, or getting your kids into a bath without a big fuss. As you get in practice of looking for “wins,” what’s working, and what’s present, you’ll find that you are more optimistic and appreciative about yourself and your life.

As a bonus assignment, give thanks regularly to the people in your life... and to life itself... for all that you are grateful for.

Here’s the rub: Life is a beautiful thing we cannot take for granted, as it could be snuffed out at any time. It is important to embrace all aspects of the good and not-so-great as part of the experience, and simply love all that it is, and just as importantly, what it’s not. That’s what unconditional love is all about – loving and appreciating all facets. We are on a journey that has delivered us to this moment for the purpose of learning and growing, but also being conscious and present NOW. Practice being here and paying attention.

I’ll close with a memorable quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” And miss what's so cool about it...and about you.