There are times when people make a career change, even when they have no other choice. Businesses close, go bankrupt, downsize, or move overseas. All of a sudden, a job is lost, and a skill set is outdated. One individual will react with despondency, blames others, and ultimately takes a job with lower pay that is beneath his potential. Another will seize the day, sit back, and think about all of the opportunities that may lie ahead.
The difference between these two responses has a great deal to do with what is known as an “attitude of gratitude.” The first can find nothing positive in the situation and is grateful for neither the good years he had nor for the fact that he has the potential to move forward.
The second can find gratitude in the situation. He is grateful that he can take positive action and acts upon that gratitude. The first focuses on what is missing; the second focuses on what he has, as well as the power to be proactive.
It’s a Habit
Here’s an interesting little test. For an entire day, keep track of all of the things you complain about – slow traffic, coffee that got cold, the co-worker who interrupted your train of thought, the kids not picking up after themselves, and so forth. At the end of your day, as you remember all of the things you complained about, ask yourself how many of those situations will really matter five years from now. Chances are, most of them will be none.
You have developed the habit of complaining. And when that becomes your habit, you don’t really have time to think about the things for which you should be grateful.
It’s time to replace that bad habit with the good one – gratitude.
Learning to Be Grateful
Replacing a habit is not easy. It takes daily practice, sometimes for months, until it becomes second nature. But you can do it, and here are some concrete steps to take today.
We put things on our refrigerators as reminders – that dental appointment, the date and time of Aunt Martha’s arrival, etc. We also need reminders about gratitude. Make a few signs with just the word “Gratitude” on them; print them out and place them strategically around your home with what you’re grateful for.
A lower corner of your bathroom mirror is a good place, and so is your closet door. These placements will remind you first thing every morning that you must start out your day with at least one statement of gratitude. The dashboard of your car is another great place. Instead of complaining about traffic, think about people who are walking to work today, even in the rain.
2. Put a Trinket in Your Pocket
Lots of people carry “worry stones.” These are smooth, indented stones that one can hold and rub a thumb on when they are worried. Why not have a gratitude stone? You can reach in your pocket several times a day, and there it is, reminding you to make a statement of gratitude.
3. Pay it Forward
As you remind yourself of the things for which you are grateful, ask yourself if there is something you can do for someone else as an outward expression of the good you have in your life. It doesn’t matter if it is something as small as getting the newspaper up from the driveway for that elderly neighbor or letting someone cut in front of you in a line of traffic.
Those small things have a way of multiplying until soon you are taking time to volunteer your talents/skills for those less fortunate. This becomes your larger method of letting gratitude for what you have spill out into your community.
4. Express Gratitude to Others
Each day, think of someone to whom you can and should say thank you. It may be a random call to your mother or to your teenager who is turning into a pretty good kid, even though he doesn’t always clean his room as you’d like. Tell people that you appreciate them – you will have made their day.
5. Keep a Journal
Download the Evernote app to your phone. Throughout your day, as you think of things you are grateful for, jot them down. At the end of your day, read through that list.
You will be amazed at how many items you have. Then, delete them all and begin the next day again. It doesn’t matter if the same things pop up – you can be grateful for the same thing every day of your life.
6. See Opportunity Instead of Failure
This is perhaps the most difficult of all gratitude practices. It is tough when life throws you a curve ball, as the two men who lost their jobs at the beginning of this article. When you are hit with that proverbial ball, take a deep breath. Think about the skills and resources you have to attack the challenge or failure.
Develop a plan. And be grateful that you have the ability to do this.
7. Become a Lifelong Learner
Whether you read books, look up topics of interest on the web, or take a course, get into the habit of learning new things on a regular basis. What does this have to do with gratitude? Plenty. As you continue to learn, be grateful that your mind still absorbs and analyzes and that there is so much new out there for you to learn for the rest of your life.
How many others in this world do not have access to learning? How many do others not have the mind or the problem-solving skills that you do?
The Larger Effect
All but one of these seven strategies are relatively easy to implement and require very simple actions on your part. And the tougher one, turning failure into opportunity, can become much easier if all of the other six are in place. Take just one strategy and work on it for a week. Then, add the next. You will soon find yourself happier, healthier (both mentally and physically), and far more content with your life.
How Can You Practice Gratitude?
If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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