I think the end of a year is as good a time as any to think about what makes us feel grateful. Gratitude is a full circle concept for me. I have to remember to be thankful for things I do for myself, as well as the external aspects of life.
The external thanks
Many of us take the time to thank people at the time they do something. Some of us take that time every week in church, some every year at Thanksgiving. It is considered good manners to say thank you.
If expressing gratitude to others is considered good manners, why is it considered bad to express gratitude to yourself? Is it considered bragging?
The internal thanks
When you thank yourself for your skills, your outlook, your whatever, I think you reinforce the best aspects of yourself. If you focus on what you like about yourself, the things you don’t like will fade to the background.
It takes time and practice and it’s not something we necessarily feel right doing. It is a step on the path to an optimistic outlook. As an optimist, I think this is a wonderful outlook. Of course, some people are going to like their pessimistic outlook. No one is judging – okay some people are, but do you really care?
Should we all start the day with an affirmation? I have to admit that doesn’t appeal to me. I know people who do affirmations and they find power and change in the repetition of their goals, their values, their commitments. It just doesn’t work for me.
Gratitude exercised – my version
I do two things to feel grateful for who and what I am. I congratulate myself on learning things or achieving things. No big fanfare, just a quiet mental ‘job well done’. No buts, no qualifiers. It reminds me that old dogs may not be able to learn new tricks, but old people can if they want to.
The other thing I do is thank my inner critic. As a writer I have this little voice inside that tells me how bad the writing is as I type. I spent years arguing with that voice. One day I just said, “thanks”; now I can get on with the good stuff”. The voice got a little quieter.
Because I’m a human being, that same voice is happy to tell me what I can’t do, what I’m afraid of doing, what I shouldn’t do. I still don’t argue. I just think ‘thanks for the information’. Then I decide whether I’m going to deal with it or not. For example, I don’t see the need to spend any energy getting over my fear of spiders. I don’t encounter them often so a scare now and then isn’t a bad thing. And sometimes I decide to just go ahead. Like the time my voice said, you can’t be an author.
Can you stop believing everything you tell yourself?
It’s a big step. It’s about taking control of your outlook. Here’s the secret I learned. That little voice isn’t yours. It’s the distillation of what you think other people believe about you. Kids believe they can do anything. Somewhere along the line, that belief gets taken away.
The bottom line
When life throws crap at you, thank it for the fertilizer.
Here’s an article over at Reader’s Digest about David Hochman who practiced a month of gratitude.