Gratitude is not an attitude, it’s a lesson learnt.

To appreciate where you are, remember where you’ve been.

The ‘Gratitude Attitude’ has been the recipe spruiked to us for happiness and contentment but yet again in our quick-fix world it’s just another shallow method for an instant buzz. Frankly, coffee gives me that without the need for thought.

Gratitude is defined as ‘a feeling of happiness that comes from appreciation’.

The concept is based on what you have and who you are – right now.

The philosophy is recognising what you have, not what you don’t.

However what today’s ‘Gratitude Attitude’ lacks is the yang to the yin.  We can’t understand real happiness until we’ve learnt sorrow. We need to experience pain to recognise joy, we need darkness to appreciate the light, we need heartbreak to teach us love and we need the hardship to learn appreciation.

But the zinger to life is this-  it doesn’t stop there. You might think after you’ve been through the hardship, you deserve peace and to cruise from here on out. But no. First,  revel in that happy moment. Savour it. Remember it. Appreciate it! BUT you can’t stay there. Despite how much we work towards that happy moment it isn’t the end of the line, simply a stop on the train line of life.

We are hardwired for discontentment and the next ‘high’ so the longer you stay in that happy place the less joyous it’s going to feel. Eventually, the appreciation becomes apathy and you’re going to have to get back on the train and move forwards towards the things you haven’t yet done, received or achieved to find that appreciation again.

How do I do it?

If I haven’t already lost you by saying gratitude won’t last,  you’ve got to be wondering what do I do then? Hard work and suffering are the answers to future satisfaction and gratefulness.

1. Hard Work

Once a day, do something you don’t want to do. Something that’s hard, something that’s uncomfortable. That thing that has already popped in your head when you read this that you’re trying hard to ignore right now and substitute with an easier something. That thing!  It doesn’t have to big or life changing. It can be small or simple but it has to be something you’ve considered and thought it’s too hard right now.  You could start by tackling those papers that need filing, going for that walk,  or creating that budget.

At the end of the day spend a moment and reflect on it:

  • What did you do?
  • Why was it hard?
  • How does it feel now that it’s done?
  • Consider whether it’ll be easier next time.
  • Did it align with what is important to you?

I bet it felt hard because it was something you felt you should do rather than wanted to do. Should items are usually good for us, aren’t a lot of fun and we have a little-inbuilt rebellion against these things. I’m pretty sure this started as kids when we had to eat our vegetables and they tasted gross.  Nowadays we know we should go to bed early, exercise more, caffeinate less but we have to go against our the grain of comfortable existence to do it and that’s why it’s hard…and that’s precisely why we should do it.

Appreciation for your efforts will follow,  a little self-pride will grow too and you may even notice a rise in self-esteem. You faced the yang so enjoy the yin. The true gratitude mentioned above has been achieved because you earned it. Appreciation now has meaning.

2.Suffering

When you are suffering it is all hard.  Do not chase suffering. If you have not yet experienced its agony in your life, you will. It’s a season in all our lives that we often have no control over how or when it strikes but the point is it is a season and it will pass. You will not be the same person afterwards but you can control your perception of the experience.  If gratitude is what you seek then accept the experience, don’t be a victim to it.

“To appreciate where you are, remember where you’ve been.”
– S. McKiernan

You have seen the other side and are grateful you made it through. Consider it a time of preparation and training; mental, emotions and physical. For once you’ve been through this period not only will you appreciate your current position you’ll also know in yourself that when the time comes again (as it will)  you’ve done it once and you can do it again.

Gratitude does not simply come from counting your blessings.  Whether you’ve chosen to tackle something hard or simply survived a truly hellish period the points are:

  • you actually know why these are blessings now, what the effort was to achieve them and how they should be valued,
  • you know the feeling of appreciation won’t last forever so you’ll hold onto it a little tighter and for a little longer until it comes back around again, and finally,
  • having gotten through the hardship you should’ve gained motivation or courage to do it again with more self-awareness, confidence and competence.

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