A Way of Life
Thankfulness, gratitude, and gratefulness: three words to describe a characteristic, a personality trait, and a way of living.
People who live with an attitude of gratitude are known to live longer, sleep better, and have increased productivity and happier lives.
For much of my life, I would have told you that people are thankful when they are happy, things are going well, and life is good.
But then I met people who seemingly unraveled a mystery:
- The elderly woman in a nursing home who was in a great deal of pain. But you wouldn’t know it. She couldn’t stop smiling and thanking me for the visit.
- The middle-aged man who recently lost his job, his home and his family. Instead of bitterness, he was focused on thanking the people who offered him food and a place to stay.
- The up-and-coming leader I hired who thanked me again and again for the job. Instead of an egotistical response, knowing his qualifications, he must have thanked me a dozen times for the opportunity.
As we think about gratitude, I think of the spirit inside these people. I realized that I could not predict someone’s attitude based on circumstances. I would meet someone who was wealthy beyond belief, but that person was miserable. Someone else would win a major award and shrug off compliments, grumbling that it was not good enough.
Did thankfulness allow the woman to live longer?
Did the middle-aged man end up more successful based on his attitude?
Did the up-and-coming leader create success in his life because of his thankfulness?
Does gratitude help fuel success? My opinion is that it does. It seems to play a major role in happiness, health, and prosperity. The order is more often gratitude first, then success and not success first, then gratitude.
Here are a few tips I have learned from those who are truly grateful. These people are thankful:
That means in the morning and during bad weather. It seems that losing our health makes us more grateful if we get it back. Losing money makes us thankful for a small savings account. The death of a family member causes us to savor the sweetness of the surviving members.
With small things.
It’s not the major accomplishments; it’s the smallest, almost unnoticeable daily events. It’s being thankful for the smell of a flower or when your football team wins a point.
And express it.
They aren’t quiet about it. These people seem to radiate a spirit of thankfulness, sharing it with others. With a generous spirit, they seem to draw out the best in others. We want to give more to those who are grateful.
On more than one occasion, I have heard, “I choose to be thankful,” or “I was raised to be grateful.” Gratitude is a choice.
And have often experienced life’s most difficult challenges.
The truly thankful often have experiences that shape this attitude.
“Living through the Great Depression makes me appreciate such a wonderful meal!”
“I’m so glad that I am able to walk at all. It’s OK that I limp and use a cane!”
“Having a family that loves me so much is a miracle when you’ve lived in the dysfunction that I have!”
These are comments I have heard, making me realizing that we are most grateful for life’s mountaintops when we have experienced life’s valleys.
Cultivating a spirit of thankfulness may not come naturally to all of us, but it is certainly a factor for a happier, more satisfying life.