Welcome to another Thursday! Last week’s conversation about creating your own sunshine is coming in handy today, as I’ve been holed up in my bunker during a blizzard! Have you attempted to connect with the beautiful moments of your life this week? I hope you’ve been able to grab hold of your glowing memories and used them to brighten the cloudy days 🙂
Gratitude, and specifically having a “gratitude practice” is so integral in my life, that I’d like to talk about it again this week.
I don’t know about you, but I have the ability to find something to complain about in pretty much any situation. Orchestrated on my own, planned by someone else, in my favorite places in the world, with my favorite people, eating delicious things, listening to beautiful sounds and I have the innate ability to pull the threads and unravel the entire thing. I don’t think of these complaints intentionally, of course, my mind just goes there!
I used to see it as being refined, particular, attentive to details, perfectionist, a sign of the fact that I was classy and hard to please. What can I say, I am gifted at wrapping my imperfections in pretty packaging… While there is something to be said for attention to detail and improving in every situation, when your mind instantly picks out every detail of an experience that could be improved, you find yourself in a world of disappointment and discontentment. We usually complain about things that we have no power to change or wouldn’t if we had the ability. When we focus on these complaints, rather than improving anything, as cathartic as they are, they amplify the negative aspects of a given situation. Who wants to be friends with that person? What fun is it to make something for a complainer, to do something kind for someone who can find fault with kindness?
I sound like a complete monster. But in reality, I think I’m in good company on my throne of whinging.
Thankfully, I have found an antidote. A high-powered super-serum that knocks the wind out of the sails of the complain train before it makes much ground.
You might have guessed that it’s gratitude. Excellent work, you’re right.
The power of gratitude can free you from the self-inflicted prison of complaint.
Gratitude and discontentment can’t exist in the same moment. While your mind is filled with gratitude for the experience that you are having it is distracted from the random things that the brain automatically wants to complain about. I said “moment” quite intentionally. Thoughts flit around our minds within fractions of seconds and it can be hard to stay in the moment! Ever been in a truly beautiful moment, savoring the bliss when a little nagging complaint wafts in and casts a shadow on the experience? Funny thing about the human mind. Those negatives seem to swarm in whether we want them to or not, and once they land, they multiply. Complaints magnify the problem.
So how can gratitude do anything in a mind in which gratitude is so easily tarnished and the natural instinct to find fault is so powerful?
I have a few tips I’ve collected and put in to use over the years.
- Start each day grounded in a surplus of gratitude
Institute a practice of gratitude for yourself in which you start each day in appreciation and recognition of the amazing gifts in your life. Whether you take two minutes to list some things you are grateful for before you jump (or crawl, let’s be honest) out of bed, or “count your blessings” while brushing your teeth, make a way for your day to start from an “attitude of gratitude”. It’s much easier to keep the random thoughts of discontentment at bay when you are operating from a surplus of wonderful emotions.
- Exchange expectation for gratitude
This one is borrowed from Tony Robbins, and is one of the keys of the astounding life that he has created for himself. When enter each experience with gratitude for the opportunity vs expectation for a desired outcome, we enable ourselves to embrace whatever comes, and appreciate instead of finding fault.
Heading out on your commute with gratitude for the day ahead, the vehicle that keeps you moving, the city in which you live, maybe only the money that you get from going to work, instead of the expectation of a smooth drive will enable you to roll with the traffic jams and inconsiderate drivers that you will inevitably encounter. Starting your day by being thankful for your umbrella, and the sunshine yesterday, instead of expecting every day to be bright and cloudless will allow you to seize even the darkest of days. When balancing the budget it’s all too easy to be frustrated when it feels like the funds you need and want just aren’t there. Other people’s spending habits, expensive wardrobe, lavish vacations and grand homes can be a source of expectation and complaint. We expect that we should be able to have the same financial freedom, enjoy the same levels of apparent frivolity, not have to worry about money for a minute. Even in this, one of the most contentious topics, being grateful has power. Perspective change can create life change. Being grateful for the lifestyle we have, appreciating the power of the money we have earned, and recognizing that others wish they had what we have now, can help shift expectation and complaint into power.
- End each day by finding events of the day to be grateful for.
Scientists have studied it, motivational speakers teach it, the vast majority of the most successful people on the planet agree, reflecting on each day with gratitude improves your life. Again, even if it’s only a few minutes, going back to the emotions of joy and excitement that you felt throughout the day changes your brain to look for them in the moment and increases your ability to stay grateful when the mind wants to complain.
The pleasure of complaining is a tricky one to overcome. Complaining can make you feel smart, you won’t be duped into enjoying something less than perfection. It can give you some significance and connection, other unhappy people are drawn to the person who can most eloquently talk about the random inconveniences and unhappy moments of life. But gratitude can give you joy. Contentment. Beautiful experiences to talk about and relive. A connection to others in the moment, savoring incredible things together. Significance as the guy in the room who had the most fun in spite of all the crap going on. Incredible variety as you go into every situation not with expectations of perfection, but preparing to find gratitude in the imperfect.
It doesn’t come easily. There isn’t an quick and simple, once and for all solution. But believe me, the results are well worth the challenge.