This is a regular series of blogs focusing on creating balance through mindful activities.
Please read my first blog: Bringing Depression to the table, to provide more context.
Gratitude is one of the cornerstones of this series. If you only take one ‘table leg’ away with you after reading these blogs, then Gratitude alone could dramatically improve your life.
As mentioned in my previous blog, most (if not all) of the mentors I have found in my life have put a strong focus on Gratitude. If I’m ever looking to delve deeper into anything, I’ve found it’s all about asking the right questions. Ask yourself, what do you focus on more: the things you don’t have, or the things you do have? If you are focusing on the things you don’t have, this can really drive you to excel, it can give you the push needed to beat the competition and get that job, win that race, or make that money. But what happens then?
“I’ll be happy when…” is one of the most damaging mindsets, as it sets an arbitrary deadline for your happiness and fulfilment. Then, when you get there, you’re going to be stuck in the mindset that helped you achieve your goals. Of course you are, that’s your comfort blanket. And so, by definition, the goal posts move, and you set the next set of goals.
“I’ll be happy when I get the job!”
One week later…
“I heard you got the job, you must be buzzing, mate?”
“Yeah, I got it, now I’ve got to keep it. I’ll be all good when I get through probation.”
Half a year later…
“It’s been six months; you must be through probation now? That’s awesome.”
“Yep, but I’m not getting a proper pay rise until next year. It’ll be all good then.”
“Right… but, I mean… it’s better than the job you had before. You’re earning way more, right?”
“Yeah, but it’s harder and it’s longer hours, and my manager’s a bit of a dick.”
“Okay, so, you’re not enjoying it then?”
“Yeah, it’s good, but it could be better. It’ll be all good when I’ve been promoted and don’t have to work with him anymore.”
Just typing this is sucking the life out of me, but you get the point.
This example can be applied to all aspects of your life. Everything fluctuates. One year you’re smashing it at work, and you’ve got a smoking hot partner you’re totally in love with, but you’re suffering from a few injuries and you’re dealing with some family issues. Next year, you’re back to full fitness, you’re getting married and it’s brought your family together, but you’re being made redundant and you’ve had to pull out of the housing market.
It’s like when you take the dirty washing out of the linen basket and run down stairs with it, only to look back and realise you’ve dropped a sock. But when you pick it up, another one seems to fall out behind you. Eventually, you get it in the machine and press start, but when you get back to your room there are two more socks still on the floor. You picture them with their eyebrows raised saying “You’re shit at this, aren’t you, mate?”
Sometimes it feels like we’re constantly trying to hold everything together, and the more we concentrate on one thing, the more other things start to fall apart. There are always going to be things out of balance, as you focus on different aspects of your life. There are always going to be moments that come out of left field that you never expected.
What matters is that there are always things to be grateful for right now, right this second, and they shouldn’t be dampened by other aspects of your life. If you’re crushing it at work, why shouldn’t you be grateful for that, just because your friend hasn’t been well?
“Well, health’s more important than work, Stuart!”
“Then isn’t this the perfect opportunity to be grateful for your health?”
Here’s a really simple exercise that you can filter into your morning routine: every morning, try and think of five things you are grateful for. You can do this in bed, in front of the mirror, in the shower, or even journaling at the end of the day. Feel free to set the bar low during times of struggle.
I’m grateful I’m breathing
I’m grateful it’s not my turn to take the bins out
I’m grateful I have a job
I’m grateful I’m reading such a great blog
The key to this exercise is to focus on the things you have (empowering mentality), not on the things you don’t have (victim mentality). If you can really tune in to that feeling (really mean it), even for just five minutes a day, and you’re consistent with it, it’s incredible how empowering it can be. It starts with looking for things to be grateful for, until eventually, the world / the universe / whatever you call it, just keeps throwing you things relentlessly. So much so, gratitude becomes a habit.
“There are two ways to become wealthy: to have everything you want, or to want everything you have.” – the Daily Stoic.
In a later blog I go into resetting your True North, and this is a major part of making that theory a reality. I’ll also go into the art of reframing and that’s where the power to gratitude really starts to work its magic. Until then let’s picture ourselves, many years from now, with all our loved ones close by, ready to say goodbye to this mortal life. How amazing would it be to truly believe it when you say to the world, “goodbye and thanks for everything.”