How to Want What You Have and Adopt the Attitude of Gratitude
You got what you wished for
Seriously, you did.
Think about it. There was once a time in your life when many of the things you now have were all but a dream or a vague hope, a bit of wishful thinking on your behalf. It could be that amazing outfit you bought for your best friend’s wedding which is now at the back of the wardrobe, or that exam you passed with flying colors after months of hard study, your present job, or your current living arrangements.
Whatever it may be, the chances are that what you have in your life now you somehow wished into being. And although this may be difficult to accept, you also manifested some of the bad stuff too.
This is because worrying can be can be like wishing for something you don’t want to happen.
When you worry you are focusing on what you don’t want in your life, and this can sometimes make it manifest.
The law of attraction works both ways. Your subconscious does not distinguish between what you do or do not want; it just takes into account what you are focusing on.
And as the old saying goes; be careful what you wish for.
But what was your life like before you got all the stuff that you wanted? I know what mine was like.
How to Want What You Have and Adopt the Attitude of Gratitude
Adapt but never forget
When I was on crutches recovering from a leg injury a few years ago, I was envious of anyone who could walk unaided, yet being able to walk is the most natural thing in the world to most of us, we don’t even consider not being able to walk.
Yet there are plenty of people out there who are wheelchair bound, or immobile due to age, injury or disability. You may be one of them.
In order to cope we humans adapt to our circumstances, and we are very good at it.
Hence one of the reasons why as a species we have been so successful, however this ability to quickly adapt can also have some drawbacks.
In some situations we can be quick to forget the joy of a new experience; or why we wanted something in our life in the first place. We adapt to our present circumstances and in some cases sooner or later we can become bored or complacent with what we have.
When we are trying to fill a void in our life, the power is often in the wanting or desiring of the object; the thrill of the chase if you like. Sometimes once we obtain the object of our desires, we can run out of steam. Suddenly that new laptop is old, the new phone isn’t as attractive or desirable as the latest model, and our relationship has lost is sparkle and is flat.
Or maybe it is our thinking which is flat.
Life has a way of making us grateful for what we had if we are not grateful for what we already have.
I am reminded of this when I walk.
Change your perspective
When adopting an attitude of gratitude it is important that we change our perspective on things.
At the end of the day, our perception of our life is what it is all about. It can mean the difference between being miserable and being happy.
We can all take a leaf out of Victor Frankl’s book; Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he chronicles his experiences of being incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.
Despite the horrors around him; he chose to view life from a different perspective; he never let his captors take away his freedom to choose how to respond to the situation he found himself in.
His experiences led him to conclude that all life has meaning and bliss can be experienced even in terrible circumstances.
A quote from his book is as follows:
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you”.
There is always something to be grateful for
There is always something to be grateful for even if you are in the direst of circumstances. A lot of people don’t want to hear this as it can end their pity party in one fell swoop.
In some villages in India, the first thing monks do when they wake up in the morning is give thanks for being alive. They realize that although they may not have anything of material value, they do have the stars the moon and the sun, and the best gift of all; life.
You can relate this to your own life.
When you are ill you want nothing more than to be well again, and soon, after your health returns you forget what it was like to be ill. The runny nose seems a thing of the past. The eye infection which made your face puffy and rendered you half blind no longer exists. But how would you feel if you had to be in that situation again? Pretty miserable I suspect. But today you can see, you have your eyesight, so it doesn’t occur to you to be grateful for it.
Our greatest lessons in life are usually the most painful ones. It is our job to look for the gift in the pain, it may not be immediately obvious, but it will be there. We need to learn to be grateful for our suffering as well as our joy. They all teach us something.
To someone somewhere you are living the perfect life.
Appreciate the now
We are always hearing that to be happy we need to ‘be in the now’ and live in the present. It’s the new buzzword for today’s spiritually aware generation.
But what does it really mean?
Meditative practice will allow you to further develop this concept, but being in the now includes the ability to accept things and let them go at the same time.
The ability to appreciate one’s life and all that is in it at this very moment in time is one of the greatest gifts we have.
If you are having difficulty in appreciating the moment because you can’t think of anything particularly special about it, or you are just having difficulty with the whole gratitude approach, then you can look at it another way.
It wasn’t that long ago that there was no such thing as the internet; it was not accessible to everyone like it is today. Likewise, there were no ATM machines, you had visit the local bank and stand in line. There have not always been mod cons like washing machines and televisions, yet people coped. The majority of people probably didn’t wish for anything better as there was nothing better available, so they made do with what they had.
They were no less happy for it.
That doesn’t mean that we should get nostalgic about the past, thinking it was a wonderful time because there was less complexity. The world is always in a state of flux, and so are our lives, nothing stays the same.
Things come and things go.
This is one of the reasons why developing an attitude of gratitude ‘in the now’ is so important.
Be grateful for what you have NOW because nothing lasts forever and nothing is for certain.
Know that gratitude is easy
Adopting an attitude of gratitude is not difficult, it’s easy.
You don’t have to take yourself off to a retreat and meditate for a month, you don’t have to enroll in a college course, or take an exam; you just have to stop what you are doing right now, right at this minute and look around you.
I mean, really look around you. Look at all you already have.
Do you have a roof over your head or shelter? Do you have shoes on your feet? Do you have food to eat and water to drink? Do you have people around you who care about you?
Realize what you already have and be actively grateful.
Once you start thinking like this a crazy thing happens, the more grateful you are the more reasons you will have to be grateful.
Start a gratitude diary
To adopt an attitude of gratitude you need to experience the feeling of gratitude on a daily basis.
You will be amazed how writing down all the things you are grateful for will change your life. A great way to do this is to start a gratitude diary. Each day just write down a simple list of all the things you were grateful for today.
You will soon be surprised at how much you can find to put on this list.
If we can capture this feeling of gratitude and really live it every single moment of our lives, we can begin to experience our lives as one big magical journey.
Exercises to help you adopt an attitude of gratitude
To get the most from these exercises take your time when completing the lists.
Make a list of all the things you have now which were not always a part of your life. This is the first step to making a gratitude list. This list can be compiled of anything from the big stuff to the more trivial things in life; the key is that if your life was enhanced in some way, then it goes on the list.
This can be anything from the fact that you have an internet connection, or you can list your current job, or that pair of boots which saw you through all last winter, right through to your current partner.
Include anything that you once desired or wanted and believed would make your life better.
Make a separate list of all the times you can remember when you have been down or angry or ill. Can you remember how you felt? Can you recall what changed that made you feel better?
Can you recall the moment when things were okay again? It could be a memorable event such as making up with a friend, to something more gradual when you finally let go of the old toxic stuff you were holding onto, when you dropped the hot coal of your anger.
Or it could be that you were no longer suffering from the flu.
List all the unpleasant stuff, and if possible how they were resolved.
You may begin to see a pattern here. When your circumstances changed or as the event unfolded you also experienced a shift in your mindset.
What did you learn from your bad experiences? Write this down too.
Now make a third and final list, this time taking into account what you have already learned from lists 1 and 2; write down all the things you are truly grateful for in your life.
This may take some time and will require you to examine your life in more detail.
You may find that the final list is quite different from the original, that you do indeed have a lot to be grateful for in this very moment.
After Step 3 you should already be starting to see your life in a new light.
That’s the power of gratitude at work.