This time of year is the perfect time to practice gratitude and recognize just how much good we have in our daily lives, no matter what may be going on that causes stress. This article was written by Jim Bird, Publisher of Work Life Balance Newsletter and I consider it so on-target that I wanted to share it with you here.
Your Thankfulness Quotient
by Jim Bird
No personal quality can deliver more meaning and joy then gratefulness – a deep recognition and appreciation for the wonders and blessings that life offers up. However, a rich sense of thankfulness is not automatically inherent in our nature. It is a trait that must be developed – and the more keenly we develop it, the happier and more balanced we become.
Thankfulness is the quality or state of being grateful. It is a positive character trait like courage, honesty or ambition. It is absolutely necessary to your enjoyment of life. Without it, you can not be happy and balanced. With it, life is good, much more meaningful and rewarding.
However, it takes effort to develop, because our more natural tendency is to bemoan what we don’t have and why we don’t have it. The more we give in to a routine of such lamenting the more we become whiners. A whining lack of appreciation is truly bad for us and those around us.
All of us have the capacity to improve ourselves and our lives by instilling a more routine sense of gratitude into our being; by making it even more of who we are. That begins with an awareness and focus on the huge immediate benefits of developing our “thankfulness” trait.
Doing so can turn a fast food lunch into a feast, a sunny day into a vacation, a stranger into a friend and a house into a home. It molds bitterness into joy and what we have into more than enough.
Last week “Slick” Surratt a former outfielder for the Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro Baseball Leagues died after struggling in his later years with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Fay Vincent, the former commissioner of Major League Baseball, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Slick, his dear friend. In it he explained, that Slick “…had helped clear the airfield at Guadalcanal during World War II as an Army Bulldozer operator. He came home from war hoping to play baseball again. But he was the wrong color, and so he spent some 50 years on the line as welder at the Ford Motor Co. plant in Kansas City.”
Slick was one of the men of the Negro Leagues that kept baseball alive in the black community and taught the next generation, making possible the careers of such superstars as Hank Aaron, Willie Mayes, Bob Gibson and so many more. Slick was in good physical shape even many years after his playing was over, “But it was his smile you had to notice. He was always smiling, full of joy,” Fay notes. He had fun and was fun to be with.
What Mr. Vincent recalled the most about this friend he truly loved was his total lack of bitterness. The hardships of being raised in the severe segregation of his native Arkansas were dismissed, as was being denied any chance even to try out for a big league team.
“I see no point in being bitter. It won’t do no good for no one,” Slick told the commissioner. Faye recounts even when he was dealing with his illnesses, Slick always sounded upbeat.
Commissioner Vincent reflects, “I will not forget the lessons I learned from this good and noble man. I will miss him, but I will never forget the joy of being in his company.”
Slick Surratt reflected the inner joy that comes from a deep gratitude for the positive opportunities life had offered up to him, not a bemoaning of the negative roadblocks that may have made another man bitter. Slick made the choice to be grateful.
So too, for each of us being thankful is a choice that we can develop into a habit or way of being. Choosing thankfulness every day develops it into one of your positive personal character traits. That nobility within you then reflects itself both inwardly and outwardly as the joy and warm friendly feelings of gratitude.
So what is your more dominant state? Do you tend to fret more about what you don’t have…on how someone else has more…or has slighted you…or let you down…or made your day more difficult? Or are you thankful to have a store to shop in. Some money to shop with. A roof over your head tonight. Warmth from the cold. A TV filled with entertainment and education. And oh, if you have someone in your life, family – friend to love or who loves you – are you grateful? Every day?
Whatever your answer, consciously focusing on upgrading your thankfulness character trait will improve you life. Recent psychological research for example, shows that participants who wrote down things they were grateful for at the end of the week were 25% happier, more satisfied with their lives overall, more optimistic about the upcoming week, exercising more and sleeping better.
Here are two simple and effective ways to reap the benefits of developing your thankfulness quotient.
Write Yourself Visual Reminders
The primary reason we are not more routinely thankful is we simply forget to be mindful of it. It is not fully engrained yet as a habit. So create these visual commitments and prompts:
Express Your Gratefulness Verbally
Maximize the impact of your gratitude, not by just thinking it and feeling it but also by expressing it.
Last week I had lunch at a favorite spot of mine that has been a long time star of the Atlanta restaurant scene. As I sat down a bustling waiter I knew passed and I asked how he’d been doing. He paused, smiled and replied, “Great! I’m alive, and I’m working and I’m grateful.” And he truly was, and happily expressing it. His doing so not only was reinforcing for him but made me even more thankful and joyful to be back dining with him.
So express your thankfulness to and for others often. Creating this habit multiplies the positive impact for you as well as all those around you.