Be Genuinely Grateful

Banner for SSRC…For what you already have in life and tearing up the list of what you do not have will be gratifying.

“It’s the thought that counts,” my mom would say as I opened a Barbie Doll when I really wanted a G-I Joe. Growing up I often heard this sentiment. But as a child I did not understand the concept of gratitude, for simply being thought of fondly in someone’s heart through a gift or for all that I did have, compared to what others did not have.

There was a time when my focus was negative. The grass always seemed greener on other people’s lawns. A co-worker’s relationship seemed better than mine. The job I really wanted went to someone else. My life view was that my glass was empty. I was wallowing in an attitude of lack. But an ungrateful attitude did not once result in my grass turning green, or my relationships improving, or the dream job to magically appear. Yet, my lack of a grateful attitude persisted until I was taught a very hard lesson by being downsized from an executive position right before 9-11.

Without any prospect of a job in the city where I’d lived for twenty years I had to move away. I was forced to sell the new home I’d moved into only two years earlier. I had to leave the beautiful English cottage garden I’d built stone by stone and plant by plant. I lost my relationship. It seemed overnight I was involuntarily removed from the familiar, from friends, from the life I knew. With a master’s degree I thought finding a job would be a piece of cake. The reality was far from that. In fact, for almost 18 months the only work I could find was picking up trash and cigarette butts for a lawn mowing crew.

In the end, I lost almost everything. In the process, I learned one of the most important lessons in life – the energy I put out returns to me. Being ungrateful for all I thought I did not have caused me not to appreciate all that I did have. I took everything for granted, always focused on getting something better or bigger. I was so focused on how what I had was not enough, I could not see the warning signs that it was all about to be taken from me. So the lesson I needed most, at that time, came in the form of overwhelming loss.

You can bet I was grateful for the executive positive – once it was gone. For the house, when it was gone. For the garden, once it was gone.

Today I am grateful for having gone through that painful lesson. It was through great loss that I learned how much we truly gain from being grateful for what we already have. This makes the list of what we don’t have seem so less important.

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