We've all heard that before. The trick, however, is figuring out how to live gratefully.
As I'm sure many would attest, it's far too easy to over-invest in our frustrations, angst, worries, and so on. Responsibility weighs heavily, fear of consequence rules our minds. What space is left for gratitude?
This was the topic that Brother David Steindl-Rast addressed in a TEDEd Talk back in 2013. I just discovered it (better later than never, right?), and while the message is profoundly simple, there's a key directive that caught my attention.
If you want to practice true gratitude, he instructed...
"[Do] what you were taught when you were [a child] when you learned to cross the street.
Stop. Look. Go."
The first of these is the hardest. We're always on to the next thing, aren't we? Rush, rinse, repeat. But if we stop, we have the opportunity to actually experience what exists in our lives in the moment. This gives us the change to recognize what real impacts our wellbeing.
How do we learn to stop? Create stop signs. Write sticky notes that remind you to pause and put them on your bathroom mirror, on your computer monitor, on your bedside table. Encourage yourself to pause, breathe, and take in the world around you.
Which leads to the second directive: Look. Not only does this help you acknowledge the good in your own life, but reveals the lack in others'. And as Simon Sinek shared in countless talks and in his book, "Leader Eat Last," we all have the ability to pay it forward, which amplifies gratitude and cements happiness. But you can only do that if you stop to recognize what you have and what others do not.
Lastly, Go. This is where I would add to Steindl-Rast's message slightly. Go is not simply about returning to the status quo. It's about starting with enjoyment, moving forward with a sense of gratitude, and shaping the world around you in a way that allows others to experience gratitude easily and frequently.
As leaders, friends, family, colleagues, consider your decisions in this light. Do they make gratitude easier or harder? Do they stir up frenzy and aggravation that make it harder for people to stop and be grateful? Do they undermine the gratitude of others in favor of only yourself?
Some would say this is the greatest responsibility of leaders. I would say it's the biggest opportunity. How will you not only practice gratitude, and be genuinely happy as a result, but pay it forward and open the door to gratitude in your work, your home, and your community?