By Candy Clarke
“An attitude of gratitude” sounds like a catchy phrase, but what does it mean? I once heard a motivational speaker challenging his audience to live each day with an “’attitude of gratitude.” I decided to play along. Just what was so intriguing about this attitude of gratitude concept?
Folks, I must say the decision to play along was one of the best decisions I have made. Until that time, I had always thought of myself as being grateful. So, for me to adopt this new “attitude of gratitude” wasn’t going to be a big deal. I felt confident I had things under control in the gratitude department. Little did I know!
While I had always been grateful for family, friends, jobs, etc.; I had also been rather complacent about everything. My life fit more into the accepted and expected categories than the attitude of gratitude category. I never stopped to consider the “what ifs” of life. I simply accepted and was grateful for my lot in life. All of that was about to change because on one little catchy phrase.
Thinking about being grateful brings the entire process to a totally different level. Once the thought processes begin, you can’t go back and undo. For weeks, the phrase struck in my brain like the needle on an old vinyl 45 on a record player. An attitude of gratitude - it was driving me nuts; I couldn’t escape it.
Out of desperation, I decided to list what it was about my life that I felt I really appreciated. The list started with the usual things: children, family, friends, pets, house, etc. The next day I made another list. For a week, I made lists. With very minor exceptions, each list contained the same information, though prioritized differently.
The lists revealed a pattern of accepted gratitude, but not a pattern of an attitude of gratitude. In an effort to better understand, I began asking myself the “what if” questions: what if I didn’t have a job, what if I didn’t have healthy children, what If I didn’t have a house? It didn’t take long for me to become terribly depressed with these questions. Time for me to try another strategy.
It began simple enough; rather than being saddened by “what ifs,” I would focus on the positive. Every day, I would consciously think of things for which I was grateful. I was determined to understand this “attitude of gratitude” thing! Next, I challenged myself to think of different things every day before I got out of bed. The catch, however, was they couldn’t be the same things day after day. They had to be different.
This wasn’t and isn’t always an easy task. By the end of a couple of weeks of doing this, I had gone through all the easy stuff and was forced to actually think! After two months of doing this, I was being thankful for the flowers, the bees, new blades of grass, running water, etc. each morning before my feet hit the floor.
I was beginning to understand “attitude of gratitude.” Throughout the day, I found myself looking for reasons and things for which I was grateful. I even started forming a mental list for the next day. I began to view my world in a different manner. Gone was the accepted and expected form of gratitude; it was replaced with an attitude of gratitude.
Out of the desire to understand a phrase came a habit. The habit became a pattern, and the pattern became a lifestyle. Twenty years later, I still start each day with an attitude of gratitude and wonderment.
The good news is I am never short of things for which to be grateful on any given day. For me, it certainly makes life a lot more fun.