Give this some thought: That you’re reading this sentence means that you are wealthier and better educated than 99% of people throughout human history. You likely have almost immediate access to more than half of all of the knowledge ever created by the human race. It also means you have the ability to educate yourself about things people in years past spent their lifetime learning.
Assuming you’re in the western world, then you currently live in the most free and tolerant society that has ever existed. There is less racism and sexism than at any other time in history. Your world has more economic and social mobility than ever and traveling across borders remains easier now than ever before.
Oh, you say that you are unhappy with your romantic life, but just think, a few generations ago, casual dating was impossible, contraception was only for the very wealthy, and you could be disowned by your family for even sneaking around with the wrong person…man or woman (and forget gender issues). A few generations earlier than that, you likely never went to school with someone of the opposite gender and your parents surely decided for you who you married. In some countries, you could have been killed for sleeping with or even flirting with the wrong person.
Your come to my office and tell me that your family frustrates you, but did you know that over one-third of the people in the world has only one parent and approximately 150 million children grow up with no parents at all?
If you’re in college or you went to college, you are part of a worldwide elite. You are part of 7% who had the opportunity. You will probably never live like 60% of the people in the world, at a subsistence level, and it would take a failure of society in general for you to ever be starving like almost 25% of your brethren around the world!
You’ve heard stuff like this before. It doesn’t actually make you feel better, right? Yeah, you’re lucky, but you still struggle with your confidence, you still feel socially nervous, you still feel inadequate, and you still worry too much about money, work, debt, family, and friends. Your love life still sucks. Sure, you’re eating well at local farm-to-table restaurants and you have that flat screen TV with Amazon Prime, a $40,000-plus car, you can do long division on your phone and code in some obscure machine language, but your say that life isn’t exactly smooth either. Awww.
For decades research has clearly and unequivocally connected gratefulness and appreciation to happiness. How grateful are you? People who are happier tend to be more grateful and appreciative for what they have than others.
For decades research has
clearly and unequivocally
and appreciation to happiness.
But what is also true—and almost always found to be true—is that it works the other way around too. Consciously practicing gratitude makes you happier. It teaches you to appreciate what you have and helps you remain in the present moment. Practicing gratitude increases your accountability, leading directly to greater self-esteem and more internal happiness. Not to mention it makes you a hell of a lot more pleasant to be around.
Your parents may be oppressing and insufferable, but they do what they do because they care about you, and it’s the only way they know how to show it. They aren’t perfect and it might even feel like this is counterintuitive, but be grateful you have people who love you at all. They may not show it in the way you wish they would, but adult up, and use it as an opportunity to help them, communicate with them, develop a better relationship with them, and have a better life with them; those people who gave you the life you enjoy today.
Improving Yourself and Your Relationships
You may be overweight, but didn’t you enjoy all the good food you ate, and don’t you really know how to get thin and look great? Of course you do. Use the knowledge as a tool to set new goals and improve yourself.
You may be single and lonely, but at least you live in a society which accepts open communication between men and women and is liberal about dating practices. If you are honest, you will admit that at least you have the means to get out there and improve your personal life.
You might not be the person you want to be, but at least you have developed the self-awareness and have available to you the drive to notice what makes you unhappy. Who knows, you might discover that you have the desire to do something about it. You really are a part of the first generation in human history that has truly accepted that we are always capable of improving our lives:
In the past, people assumed if they were born into it, or not, they were screwed.
Recognize How Lucky You Are
You’ve been blessed. Even if you rarely remember or acknowledge it, regardless of how it might feel in any moment. And here is the rub; you’ll keep forgetting all this unless you regularly remind yourself. Remind yourself often. Make the mindful choice to be grateful. Remember that it could be worse, it could always be worse…really worse!
The human mind always exaggerates the negative. Psychologists have found that the loss of something is two- to four-times more painful than the joy of gaining the same thing. You remember the loss of a five dollar bill much longer than you remember the finding of that twenty dollar bill. It’s a mechanism that has kept our species alive and thriving, but also unfortunately keeps many of us in a continuing state of irritation and stress.
The human mind always
exaggerates the negative.
Did you ever wonder why the negative news gets reported and spread much more readily that the good stuff? It’s why we can hardly turn away from a car accident or a couple fighting. How often do you find it easier to relate to people through coarse complaining and ugly gossip rather than through honest and open gratitude?
It’s just easier.
Now I’m not suggesting that you ignore what’s wrong or f’ed-up in the world. I’m the last one to pretend everything is free bubble-up and rainbow stew. What I am saying is that when things seem, or actually get shitty, don’t forget what’s good, true, and lovely.
So yes, I’m a coach and I am telling you basically to remember to shut up and be more grateful. Just Fucking Do It (JFDI).
Gratitude is the very foundation of happiness. It’s the cure for emotional leeches, and yes you do find them. And it is indeed a skill. Like all skills, it requires practice and effort and habit…habit…habit.
But it’s a skill anyone can learn and anyone can practice. And you can start it today, right now. Yes, right now. What are you grateful for at this very moment? Find something before you start the next paragraph.
Things I’m grateful for:
Do it every morning…and I mean every morning, when you wake up.
First: When you brush your teeth, look in the mirror and think of three things you’re grateful for. Just three. Anyone can find three, particularly if one of them is that you still have toothpaste and teeth to brush!
Second: Pick someone and tell them this week that you’re grateful for them or for something they did. Yes, you can find someone. If you think you can’t just call me and we can talk about it. Chances are your call will make you feel better than them. That’s ok. Chances are you’ll feel far more comfortable around them and your relationships will begin to improve. That’s even better, right?
(Spoiler Alert for the bone-heads: When you show appreciation for someone or something in your life, it must be genuine and not intended to trick them into liking you. This should be obvious to any self-actualized adult, but I figured I’d drop it in here because I never know who reads the stuff I write these days.)
Genuine appreciation: It may feel strange or uncomfortable sometimes. Hell, even writing this post is making me feel kind of like an old granny. But I guess I’m good with that. That resistance you and I both feel is a lack of vulnerability that requires working through. So I feel a bit weird, but that means I’m doing something right here. Do you see that opening up to those kinds of feeling builds confidence and healthier relationships at the same time?
Genuine appreciation: It may feel
strange or uncomfortable sometimes.
If it feels really strange to you, or hard in some fussy way, start small and post something on Facebook or your Twitter feed. Give it a try…just once a day for a week. See what happens. I can pretty much guarantee that nothing bad will happen. Nothing.
I’ll start. Even when people write crappy things to me, misunderstand me, or send me ridiculous emails comparing me to things that range from a Spanish Inquisitor to Larry Flint, I’m grateful for this blog and how much it continues to enhance my life. The benefits and joys of running it and my coaching business are more than worth the occasional stinky potatoes or rotten apples that pop in and leave their droppings. I have learned that reminding myself of that makes it all that much better.
So thank you…thank you to all of you who make doing this writing and coaching so worthwhile and fulfilling.
OK, now it’s your turn… Aw…go ahead. It won’t hurt… I promise.
What are YOU grateful for these days?
Schedule some time and we can talk about your gratitude list.