Why an attitude of gratitude can give you some perspective.Mar 14, 2022
Gratitude shouldn't be a platitude
The war in Ukraine continues. As I write this, we are well into the third week and the devastation, suffering and impact it is creating is far-reaching. To watch mothers fleeing their homes with their children, some making the heart-wrenching decision to send their children on buses, hopefully to safety, without them, doesn’t bear thinking about. These are just some of the images we are seeing on a daily basis. Three weeks ago, Ukrainians were leading a life no different to you or me. They couldn’t have imagined they’d be in this terrifying position in such a short space of time.
There but for the grace of God go I.
I practice an attitude of gratitude on a daily basis but the current situation in Ukraine has me feeling even more grateful for what and who I have in my life. It leads me to look at life through a totally different filter. Maybe we are reminded of how precious life is, how lucky we are, how much we love our nearest and dearest, how fortunate we are to have the freedom we have, how there are so many things we have the opportunity to do; maybe the war in Ukraine jolts us into action for taking things for granted. Because for so many, right now, all they are doing is trying to survive.
I know we each have our own personal challenges and struggles and whilst I am not suggesting for a moment world events negate those, for some people who have more than they acknowledge in life, it perhaps puts things into perspective.
Being grateful for what we’ve got is good for the soul– to take stock of what we have and for the opportunities available to us, compared to so many others.
I have recently been spending a lot of time focusing on a huge work challenge – a challenge in the positive sense – I have really put myself out on the plank as it were and have worked really hard on focusing on achievement and the feeling that creates. I admit I have felt anxious- quite a bit actually but over the past three weeks, I have said one word to myself to get things into perspective: Ukraine. It is almost like putting on an emergency break- or seeing a Stop sign; it immediately enables me to get perspective on the situation- to run everything through a different filter.
Somebody said something very wise to me recently: if we put all our problems into the melting pot with everyone else’s in the world, would we want our problems back? Absolutely. We all face different difficulties and sometimes we are pulling on all our internal resources to get through it, but when you hear, read and see what so many people are facing with conflicts in their country, you kinda realise that maybe you can find a way through your issues easier than they can theirs.
Reasons to be cheerful- 1,2,3
I saw a wonderful post on social media which is food for thought about what we can feel grateful for:
- Early wake-ups = Children to love
- House to clean = Safe place to live
- Laundry = Clothes to wear
- Dishes to wash = Food to eat
- Crumbs under the table = Family meals
- Grocery shopping = £ to provide for us
- Toilets to clean = Indoor plumbing
- Lots of noise = People in my life
- Endless questions about homework = Kids’ brains growing
- Sore and tired in bed = I’m still alive!
Writer and philosopher Gilbert K. Chesterton once said:
“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude”
Thinking about Chesteron’s quote, it’s perhaps true that very often we moan and whine about the things in life which very often, many would give their eye teeth for. We perhaps don’t give a second thought to what we have right in front of us and take it all for granted. Yes, we might lead busy lives but surely whilst we’re chasing our tail, we’re losing sight of what’s really important in life.
When we shuffle off this mortal coil will we think: “I’m so glad I worked those extra hours for that big bonus” or “thank goodness everything in my home was always perfect and looking nice” or, are we more likely to treasure the sunset walks we had with our loved one, the family fun playing board games whilst the dust continued to gently pile up on the mantelpiece…? It’s thinking about what and who are important to us and valuing what we have but sometimes, perhaps we’re working within the perimeters of aspirational values and need to remember what our consciously chosen values are.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal is a great way of staying connected to and focused on the good stuff, as well as acting as a motivational tool if / when times get tough. It doesn’t have to be some swanky mole-skinned number– it could be a pocket notebook but think about keeping a record of all the things that happen that you are grateful for. These can be small or large, and isn’t necessarily just about appreciating the kind actions that other people have wanted to do for you, it’s also about being thankful for the little unexpected things in life that put the extra spring in your step. For example, the shop assistant with the sincere smile, a driver slowing down to let you cross the road when you’re in a hurry, the downpour that doesn’t start until you’ve reached your front door and there being your shoe size in your favourite pair in the sale. Writing three things daily keeps you focused on the good stuff.
Once you begin to focus on gratitude, through Confirmation Bias, your brain will then be looking for the positive things in life that proves you right– that there’s a lot to be grateful for. You’ll find yourself surrounded by good stuff thus generating even more good stuff! Make a habit of writing in your Gratitude Journal each evening; you’ll be amazed at how quickly it fills up.
The benefits of living life consciously
If you’re having a particularly challenging day or you’re perhaps feeling blue and feel like everything and everyone’s against you, you can look through your notes and see all the wonderful things which happens in your world. You can literally write anything in this journal– I write when my neighbour brings my wheelie bin back to my house, when I catch the post in time, when a tractor driver waits to pull out onto the narrow road I’m travelling on, so I can drive past first. These are the little things in life we take for granted but which very often can give us a little boost when we’re consciously aware of them.
As we say on the Winning Edge programme, it’s about living life consciously – it’s not about putting a positive spin on everything and wearing rose tinted glasses because that’s just not real life – conscious thinking is what helps us to notice what’s going on around us, to help us to live in the moment.
I think all too often we take for granted this thing called life without fully appreciating all that we have. And perspective- perspective helps us to run our troubles and our woes through a different filter. It may be hard to see a way through some of our circumstances because maybe we are perpetuating negative thoughts, but we can redefine and decide to think differently about the situation and maybe realise it's not so bad after all.
I have previously shared this slightly over the top clip I came across on social media and feel it’s pertinent to share again because of the current situation in Ukraine, plus the many many conflicts in the world which innocent people are living through. It reminds those of us who are fortunate to be living a very different life, that we surrounded by things to be grateful for.
And if you are feeling anxious and helpless about the war in Ukraine, there are opportunities to help in so many ways– be it donating money, supplies, volunteering at a charity, or taking in a family. You decide what you are able to do to help and you will then feel more empowered than helpless.
I will leave you with the very wise words of Maya Angelou:
"When you have an attitude of gratitude you wake up saying thank you."
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Do you have a glass is half empty attitude to life? Do you feel you’d benefit from a change in mindset- to be more consciously aware of the way your thoughts are directing your life?
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