Monday, January 18, 2016

The Gratitude Journal



It is a bright, beautiful, sunny day today here in Los Angeles, California. I am sitting peacefully, grateful to have the sun warm my face and the breeze gently brush my hair back. A few days before, as it was blistery cold and raining heavily, I took a moment to stop, look up into the sky, and thank the rain for all of the good it was doing the Earth. I am always just as grateful for the sun as I am for the rain because it is my understanding that they both serve a beautiful purpose in the cycle of life.

I noticed that in 2015 I was seeing more “grateful”, “gratitude” posts and inspirations from people on social media and I thought to myself “Teaching gratitude is a good thing.” In my experience, I have seen and heard so many complaints about what we don’t have, or our failures and disappointments we go through. In contrast, the successes mentioned are done so quickly and then moved on from just as quickly. Seeing “gratitude” being taught is exciting for me because I know it means that more people who truly understand it and practice it are going to be changing their lives. It is also my understanding that when you change your life for the better, you have a key to changing the world.

Reaching true “gratitude” is an enlightened space at the end of a journey that too few embark on. So if you want it, give me a few moments of your time and I will provide the compass you need to successfully maneuver with.

It begins with a story about a client I had a few years ago. Mitch is a wonderful, talented person who has a strong set of ethics and a beautiful love and loyalty for his friends and family.

Like all of us, Mitch had some ups and downs in his life but always recovered gracefully and continued moving forward on his life path. Then suddenly Mitch welcomed Andy into his life with open arms as was his nature. Andy was very charismatic and spoke in such a charming tone that anyone he interacted with was instantly caught in his enchanting spell. Andy made promises that Mitch took to heart. Mitch trusted him and yet without warning, tragedy struck and Andy stole from Mitch. Mitch was devastated – never in his life had any of his friends or family betrayed him in such a manner. Not only was he betrayed, the theft set Mitch behind in his work and finances.

Of course Mitch had been disappointed by friends before as life happens and issues arise that keep us from completing tasks on time, but never had he experienced such a deliberate betrayal. Mitch and I spoke about this incident in several of our sessions and no matter how much he understood that Andy was being who he was and that deception was a part of his identity, Mitch was unable to move forward with any gratitude toward any other aspect of his life. He became sad and unmotivated. No matter how many great things happened for him, he had a “ho hum” attitude toward them all.

In one session I explained to him how amazing his life really was beyond that one incident.  Alas, because he couldn’t see it, I advised him to begin a “Gratitude Journal” in order for him to regain a clear view on his life. He did as I instructed but continued his “ho hum” attitude. In our next session, he read an entry in his journal and we discussed it in length as I was excited for him of the successes he was having. He replied to me “Yes, that’s all great but…I don’t have…” I looked at him and explained that he was not being Grateful. He replied “I am, I did the work and it’s all great…but…” I took a breath and dug deeper into my explanation like so: “The reason the Gratitude Journal is not working is because while you look at your accomplishment with understanding, you are not completely happy or satisfied with it because you are focused on what you don’t have.”

Irritated with me, he replied back “Well of course, because while I am happy I have ‘A’, I still have yet to acquire ‘B’ and ‘B’ is very important to me.” I smiled and once again approached it from another angle and said, “I understand that you want ‘B’, and ‘B’ is very important to you.  The issue is that you are hanging all of your happiness on ‘B’ and making ‘A’ not important and not good enough for you. While you can look at ‘A’ and say ‘Okay, I have it’, your focus is on your lack of having ‘B’ so there is no real happiness or satisfaction.

When you can look at “A” and say “awesome, I accomplished that” and give yourself a pat on the back with complete understanding and happiness of that accomplishment, gratitude will happen. You will be able to look at “B” with clear eyes and understanding that it comes next within your goals but “A” is also important. I put this in terms of Andy betraying him and said “You have never experienced anything like that because you love your friends and they love you. Andy stole from you and you suffered a loss, but even though it took you time, you rebuilt everything that was taken. So while you don’t have any of the original items you acquired that were important to you, you have replaced them and are still moving forward.”

He looked at me for a few seconds before he replied “That is what I have been missing, it’s been my focus on the lack that keeps me from feeling accomplished because B is the ultimate goal and I feel like I can’t truly accomplish what I want without what I had.”

I smiled and gave him a pat on the back. I continued with “Be happy for all of the things you have and all of the things you accomplish, and of course continue to strive to reach your ultimate goals but never take away what you are accomplishing along the way.” True gratitude is never taking for granted anything we have in our life. It is when little things aren’t so little and big things aren’t the end all be all. The big things you want to accomplish in your life aren’t going to make you happy if you forget to practice Gratitude along the way, because the big things ultimately will not be enough.

Mitch left my office that day with deep understanding and a spring in his step again. He is still writing in his Gratitude Journal and being very grateful.

I have always been grateful for both the sunny days as well as the dark rainy days. The reason for my gratitude is the understanding of the good and bad qualities in each, the purpose of each and the true appreciation that they bring me and the world.

Start your own Gratitude Journal and discover for yourself how being grateful can change your life.

Peace and Love to the Universe!

You can find a guide on how to start your own Gratitude Journal at:www.exceptionallifeinstitute.com/blog/how-to-start-your-gratitude-journal/

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