I’m not a billionaire. I’m assuredly not the financial equivalent of a Tiger Woods or a Bill Gates. Despite this fact, establishing a regular practice of “gratitude” – being, thinking, and then feeling grateful for those things that life does give up, is well, crucial to happiness. A happy person is more likely to experience “greatness” than say an aggressive person. Research backs me up (ME McCullough, RA Emmons, JA Tsang, SB Algoe, PC Watkins, AM Wood).
It’s too easy to allow ourselves to think good thoughts only when positively evaluating our situation is effortless. But this is no way to lead life. Happiness is elusive enough. The effort aimed toward cultivating positive emotions is as significant and valuable as is putting out the effort to earn a living and raise a family.
At times I get down on myself despite the great life I have. I have struggled to find ways to shake off the negativity of self-loathing, self-pity, and generally depressive feelings that plagued me as a younger man. One day, I started looking for strategies and tools that would help me to keep my thinking right and not focus on what I don’t have. Here’s what I found, so far.
Cultivating a daily practice of gratitude in our lives is potentially the most potent tool we’ll ever find. I know its fashionable to conceive of ourselves as hunters. Eat what we kill. Many of us like to believe that we go out and get things, bring them home, and then we own them. We can do what we want with them. We have freedom.
As a mental model, this thinking falls short and leaves us feeling bad about ourselves unless we are always 100% successful. And this is impossible. It may be more efficacious to our own emotional state to focus on what life actually provides. Life gives stuff to us even though we still have to put out an effort to receive them. You know, “all in.“
Seriously engaging in our lives may not necessarily equate with hunting things down. Perhaps engaging in life is more closely akin to “awareness” or a meditative state. It may be an important discussion to initiate.
Ultimately, I think we’re considering a certain quality of “energy” and how to cultivate it. As mental models go, this concept of energy may be broader and more potent than a focus on money and material possessions. Consider the type or quality of energy we are aligning with and perpetuating by “hunting” and compare it to the gentler, more appreciative energy of feeling grateful for those things that life quietly gives up.
Again, it’s a valuable consideration that goes to the quality of our own experience. What is the emotional climate you’ve been creating today, this week, month, year?
Carl Rogers – noted psychologist – has written about the valuing process as it relates to combating a person’s incongruence, or feelings of inadequacy despite having made several life achievements. In business, value process management (VPM) is the management of processes that have to do with value creation and dissemination throughout the entire organization. I believe the common ground or a shared goal between the two is in creating or seeing previously overlooked value.
Whether we’re considering growing a business’ value or an individual’s happiness, it seems to me, that it is worthwhile to spend effort on actively appreciating and illuminating previously overlooked value. From the perspective of “gratitude,” we simply need to employ new cognitive processes or devise new belief systems that value who we are, what we are doing, and how we are feeling.
What I’m saying is that we should get in touch with what is deeply important to us again, and not limit our focus to more immediate and perhaps superficial desires of life. When we do take the time to guide our decisions and actions with more meaningful values, life becomes easier to appreciate. We take an important step toward living a life of greatness.