Human nature being what it is, most of us are unhappy with some part of our lives, our actions, and our inactions. For some it’s paralyzing to contemplate closing the gap between who they are at the moment of contemplation and who they want to become. For other’s resolutions for a better them are tossed off like a throwaway line and an improve fest. This is clearly not a modern desire: centuries ago the Psalmist asked forgiveness for what he had done and what he had left undone.
But it’s the New Year again resolutions are expected; they are de ri·gueur. Even so, I won’t be making any resolutions this year. I will instead wrap my year in the firm grasp of gratitude. And no, I won’t be buying the pre-packaged Year of Gratitude thank you notes complete with journal. That’s not the gratitude jolt I’m looking for.
Rather I want to live each moment of every day looking for reasons to be grateful rather than reasons to be hurt, scared, frustrated, or angry. I want to sow seeds of gratitude not seeds of doubt, resentment, fear, or anger. I am under no illusion this will be an easy task. While I have much to be grateful for, I have jagged edges of fear, uncertainty, and anger waiting to cut me.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Cultivating a habit of gratitude. I love that Emerson chose the word cultivate. The very word is full of forgiveness and grace. Webster’s 2nd definition for the word cultivate is “try to acquire or develop.” Try, not ‘have’. Try, not ‘achieve.’ Cultivation is a continual process requiring engagement, modification, inspection, and reflection.
As I age my list of ‘Things I am Grateful For’ has changed. I am no longer grateful for my A on an English Lit test. Nor am I grateful that Sam sat next to me in class. I’m not grateful for new designer jeans, a bank error in my favor, or the advent of summer break. I am grateful for my life with all it’s warts, hardships, struggles, and pain. I am grateful for the choices I have made, the experiences I have had, and the people in my life– everyone of them, even those I don’t like. Tucked in to the moments of a day there are countless opportunities to be grateful. Gratitude doesn’t have to be reserved for the big moments, the big events, the big feelings. It should be there with us, as present as our underwear and our iPads.
In Poland, France, Moldova, Serbia, and dozens of other countries, monuments to gratitude stand tall and solemn; reminders to all of great sacrifices made in both wartime and in peace. As I cultivate a habit of gratitude I can be gracious on myself when I slip into anger, frustration, or despair. When I fall back to a habit of ingratitude, I can gently remind myself of my desire to live in gratitude, no matter the experience.
“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.” ― Oprah Winfrey
In 2014 I will #gratitude, I will “pin” gratitude, and I will quietly talk with myself at the end of the day. I have no preconceived ideas about how this will change me, improve me, make me more serene. I only know that I am grateful today and that’s how I want to go forward.
- Gratitude (toddlohenry.com)
- Self Improvement? Bah Humbug! (emotionalfitnesstraining.com)
- How Gratitude Can Change Your Life (thechangeblog.com)
- How to Start a Gratitude Practice to Change Your Life (tinybuddha.com)
- 6 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude (psychcentral.com)
- Motivational Monday: The key to happiness (whiletravelingabroad.com)