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Positive Thinker's Club Presentation
Gratitude – Appreciating Life's Abundance Blessings
Speech – October 29, 2005
Good morning, Positive Thinkers.
There is an old Native American proverb that says that the soul would have no rainbows if the eyes had no tears
placing tissues on podium
So if anyone needs one of these, the penalty is that you must perform one random act of kindness at some point this weekend. I believe that to grow as people, we need to stretch our minds and so this morning, it is my intention to stretch your mind.
When Terri Myers approached me some time ago and asked me to present to the Positive Thinker's Club, I wasn't quite sure what topic I would speak about. One day Rowan, my better half, and I were driving along and I happened to mention how I was really grateful for something or other. She turned to me and said "Darlin', let's face facts – you are grateful for every breath you take". I asked her if I was really that bad and she gave me that look that all men dread – that look of you dare to question truth, how could you doubt what I say and all sorts of other things all wrapped up in a look that takes only a nanosecond to deliver yet has such force and meaning.
With that reminder of what seems to preoccupy much of my mind, I contacted Terry and gave her my topic "Living a Life of Gratitude – Appreciating Life's Abundant Blessings.
The word gratitude is derived from two Latin words – gratus which means pleasing or thankful and tudo which means "more at grace". We know gratitude to indicate a means of being thankful or expressing thanks.
From a young age, we are taught to say please, thank you and you’re welcome whenever we are provided the opportunity. We are told to say this because it is considered the polite thing to do. However, as our lives develop and we become immersed in the fast pace of society, these words become mechanical, as do our actions of gratitude. When our actions of gratitude become infrequent or forced, we lose sight of the blessings that we are surrounded with and in turn, miss many opportunities around us to help ourselves and to help others be the best that they can be.
Some people seem to be ungrateful for things and they believe that it is their nature to be the way they are. To those people, I share the following koan. A koan is in essence a Japanese story meant to provoke thought – many koans ask questions that have no answer. People reflect on these koans in the hope of finding an answer and if an answer is found, then they have found enlightenment.
This koan is about a young man who approached a wise elder about a temper problem that he had. He expressed a concern that this temper would do him in if he could not control it. The elder asked him to demonstrate this bad temper, to which the young man replied that he could not produce this temper spontaneously. The elder indicated that if he could not produce this bad temper at will, then it was not a natural tendency for him and therefore was something that was entirely in his power to control. I think that people who are down on life and appear to be ungrateful for Life's abundant blessings are in the same situation. The natural tendency for Life is to be abundant and the natural tendency of humans is to be grateful but because of life experiences and things that taint our perception of Life (and our perception of ourselves), we lose sight of the need or ability to be grateful for this abundance.
Too many of us accumulate regrets without knowing it. Many people examine their lives and see an accumulation of "what ifs" and "if onlys" and yet if we filled our lives with worthwhile endeavors, in examining our lives, we could at least say "I did the best I could with the time I had". I believe that by living a life of conscious awareness of being grateful for Life's abundant blessings, we fill our life with rich, powerful, positive memories and empower ourselves to reach our greatest potential.
When people get really upset about something and express the need to vent, I wonder sometimes if this also reflects a momentary lack of gratitude for the wonder of life. If we are truly grateful for every opportunity, good and bad, then we would not allow the bad opportunities to take root in our psyche and grow, causing us to develop the need to vent as often as we do.
So it is within this context of opening our eyes to the abundance and beauty of life that I share some thoughts with you today about living a life of gratitude and to appreciate life's abundant blessings. My original speech notes created a speech of at least four hours but with considerable effort, I have it down to what I will be speaking to you about today.
In the industry that I work in, our vocabulary is filled with acronyms to help make them easier to remember. I thought that the word gratitude as an acronym would serve as the perfect model to illustrate what I believe living a life of gratitude is all about in regards to appreciating life's abundant blessings.
The G in gratitude stands for giving before getting. Many of us in our busy lives make promises to others and ourselves that once we have attained a certain level of achievement in our life, then we will give our time and our money to others.
The unfortunate reality with this situation is that many of us become entangled in a trap of chasing the elusive "once I get there", and then once we get there, we raise the bar a little more. As we continue to fall deeper and deeper into chasing these elusive goals, we miss so many opportunities to either help others or help ourselves. Many people are afraid to give first, because they assume that this will have to come as an unrecoverable sacrifice of themselves.
However, to give unselfishly of ourselves always results in rewards that come in multiples of the efforts that we invest in others. Sometimes the rewards are immediate – the sense of gratification that we feel when we help others. Science tells us that when we do good things for others, it increases the amount of serotonin in the body, an organic neurotransmitter that influences our health, our immune system, our mood, our ability to sleep and our memory. The recipient also experiences an increase in serotonin and what's even more amazing is that an observer of an act of kindness also experiences the same increase.
Given that the giver, the recipient and the observer all obtain an immediate health benefit from giving to others, why deprive ourselves of feeling good and helping others at the same time.
Plus, when we live life where we look for opportunities to give before getting, we find ourselves living a more positive life, as we fill it with the good energy that we derive from helping others. When we fill our lives with this energy, rewards come to us in many forms, many of which we could not have anticipated.
Giving comes in many forms, the least of which is money. We can give our time, we can share our wisdom, we can give the gift of life in the form of blood donations, we can serve on the boards of charity organizations, we can share our life experiences with kids in school, we can serve in various levels of government, we can contribute time to a senior citizens home, work with groups like Habitat for Humanity. There is no end to the choices before us where we can choose to give unselfishly. When it comes to blood donations, only 4% of eligible blood donors actually donate blood yet if we live to 75, there is almost a 100% chance that each of us will use a blood product.
One thing that I love to do and which I encourage others to try are random acts of kindness. When you see an act of kindness, reward it and if you have an opportunity, perform a random, anonymous act. Sometimes it is a good word. Sometimes it is paying for the person behind you in a line. Maybe you are standing in a checkout line and the cashier is abusing each customer. Instead of anticipating your turn to be abused, put yourself in their shoes and when you have the opportunity, say a kind word. It changes everything. Compliment people when you don't need to. Write more letters complimenting staff for good service.
When I still lived in the US, I was traveling to Newfoundland to attend my sister's wedding. In Antigonish, Nova Scotia, we broke down on a Saturday afternoon and it was critical that we caught the ferry that day. I contacted the local Ford dealer and they told me to call their roadside assistance number. I told them that the purpose of that number was to locate the closest Ford dealer and being less than a kilometer away, they were it. A service consultant told me that he would stop over to have a look. He stopped by, looked at the component that had failed and told me to stay where I was (like I was going anywhere). He left and was gone for quite a while. It was past closing time at the dealership and I could not reach him there. As I sat there wondering what to do next, he pulled up in the parking lot with a mechanic. The parts that were needed would take 3 days to order so they cannibalized the only vehicle they had on the lot on their own time to get the parts that I needed. They repaired my truck and then refused payment. They would not accept payment on behalf of Ford nor would they accept any form of personal payment. When I strongly resisted this act of generosity, the salesman shook my hand and said, "Enjoy the wedding and your vacation". When I later wrote a letter complimenting this exemplary service, Ford Canada was so taken aback that at first they couldn't even classify the letter because as one person at Ford Canada told me "We can only categorize customer letters by the nature of the complaint".
When our life journey has come to an end, we can look back and realize that our life was so much more enriched by taking the initiative to give before getting, rather than wait for the right moment. The number of people who benefited from our unselfish giving will be far more than had we waited for that perfect moment.
The R in gratitude represents responsibility to ourselves, those around us and to our environment. People routinely tell their children that if they do not take care of a toy, then they are showing that they are not grateful for it and possibly don't deserve it.
By the same token, we have a moral and ethical obligation to help others be the best that they can be, provided they actually want or need the help. If they do not want or need the help, we have an equal responsibility to give them the space that they need to explore their own world in their own way.
Just as we have a responsibility to others, we also show gratitude by being responsible towards ourselves. Our minds and our bodies are living miracles and to not take care of and nurture those miracles is to not be grateful for the wonderful gifts that we have each been given. We are blessed with the opportunity and pleasure to explore and savor life and to not take care of the physical body that provides us with that opportunity is to not be grateful for those opportunities.
Responsibility as a means of showing gratitude is also reflected in our responsibility towards our environment. If we are truly grateful for the beautiful world that we live in, why do we continue to abuse it and pollute it? If we are truly deserving of the earth and wish to show that we are grateful for the paradise that it is, then we have a responsibility to take care of it.'
Responsibility towards others comes in many forms. We often don't show the necessary responsibility towards others because we think we are butting in or intruding upon someone's life or in some situations, to do so might make us look silly or stupid. Sometimes we need to take action when we know it is the right thing to do, even if we don't know why at the moment.
As some of you know, I am embroiled in a large international fraud trial in New York Supreme Court. As key witness for the prosecution, I alternate between being perceived as everyone's best friend and everyone's worst enemy. I have had death threats against myself and my family and I have been offered the most incredible bribes. On Wednesday, August 10th, I was driving up through Topsail when I received a call on my cell phone from one of the parties in the case. I wanted to concentrate on the call, so I pulled over on Topsail Beach to take it.
For the hour that I was on the call, I could not believe how Life was so complicated and how I had allowed myself to get caught up in such a mess. During that hour, I kept noticing a lady in a red car to my left who was crying profusely, with her head in her hands.
When I was finished with the call and wondering what could make my day darker, I started my truck and drove away. When I drove about 150 feet or so, I had a feeling that something wasn't right, so I turned around and went back to the red car.
I walked over to the driver's side and tapped on the glass. Now you can imagine someone 6 foot three with dark glasses on, approaching you in a remote area. The lady opened the window about an inch and I asked her if she was ok. She indicated that she was fine. I told her that from where I stood, she did not appear to be fine at all. I also told her that however dark Life appeared to her at that moment, it was in fact filled with love for her and that if she could see that, she would find the way out of the darkness that she saw. She thanked me and I walked away. As I got back to my truck, I thought "Nope, that's still not good enough". I turned around, went back and gave her my name and phone number on a piece of paper. I told her to call anytime and that there were lots of people out there who could help her find the light that she needed. She thanked me again and I left.
A week later, almost to the hour, I was driving past the same spot and realized that my cell phone wasn't on. I turned it on and it promptly told me that I had a message. I pulled over and listened to the message, a message so profound that I couldn't speak so I silently passed the phone to Rowan so she could listen to it.
It was a message left at 1:20 that morning. It was clear by the message from the mysterious lady I had met a week earlier, that while I had been wondering why my Life was so complicated, Lynn, as the caller identified herself, was contemplating why Life was worth living. It appeared that my spontaneous act had interrupted plans that would probably have had a much darker result had I not spoken to her.
She indicated in her message that my act of compassion and kindness would stay with her forever and I suspect that she will pass this compassion and kindness on to others. When my day is difficult I replay her message to help put my day back into perspective. My act of going over to speak to her had caused her to rethink her actions, to change her perception of the world and to see the beauty in Life. In return, her act of calling me to thank me caused me to change my perception of my world, putting my court case in much clearer perspective. When you change how you look at things, the things you look at change.
When you have a chance to exercise your obligation of responsibility to yourself and others, take it. You may not know until days, months or years down the road what a positive impact you had.
That story takes me to the A in gratitude, representing our attitude towards everything, the fact that our world is very much what we perceive it to be. If we assume that our world is filled with problems, evils, hate and impossible challenges, then we are right. Conversely, if we believe that our world is filled with beauty, opportunity and infinite love, then we are also right.
How is it that people with the same opportunities, in the same country, sometimes from the same family and the same environment, live life with completely different results? If we examine their perceptions of their world, we find that in most situations, they have created the world that they expected. Many people get angry if they are told this, because it is easier to always blame someone else, or an external factor of some kind. It is far easier to be a victim and to be swept away by the tide of bad luck and misfortune. Being a victim takes no effort at all. Unfortunately, being a victim drains the energy out of many people, not only the victim themselves.
If we look at the lives of successful or happy people, we discover that many of them overcame very serious challenges in their lives in order to get where they are. Some of the most brilliant minds in business never graduated or even attended college. Many came from financially challenged backgrounds. People who excel in a number of areas, including sports and the arts, overcame physical and mental challenges to reach a potential that many of us believe is unattainable for ourselves. It all comes down to attitude.
In November of 2004, I founded a group in Newfoundland called Freecycle that encourages community gifting while keeping things out of landfill. There is a member of that group who could be what we would term a product of the system. He was a resident of Mount Cashel and Emmanuel House. He lived on the streets in Toronto and Vancouver. He endured mental, physical and emotional hardship beyond levels most of us would be able to deal with. His wife is also physically disabled.
For many of us, this sounds like the perfect recipe to be a victim, another person who yells out to the system "Take care of me – I am unable to take care of myself because of everything done to me". I would even suggest that people who want to be a victim in this way are not grateful for or don't see the opportunities that are around them. But he doesn't want to do this. As a matter of fact, he is using his history as an impetus to make a positive difference to those around him. He is setting up a not-for-profit company to collect used computer parts and software so that he can refurbish them and provide them free of charge to needy families.
So his perception of the world, despite everything that he has experienced, is that the world is filled with opportunities to do good things and so that is how he is living his life. When I asked him about his motivational reasons, he shared a number of observations. Allow me to quote him " I feel blessed with the wealth of a good heart and soul. I believe that all good things that are worthwhile come on the heels of struggle and the strong will to persevere, to take hardship and turn it into opportunity not just for ones self but for others who are in the same situation or who have been in that situation. I want to give something to this world even if its a safer and cleaner environment, to bring resources and knowledge to people who may not have the means to do so; to show those who struggle everyday including myself and my family that someone else has taken inspiration from that struggle to make the world just a little bit better of a place in which to live."
THAT, is a positive attitude about perceiving the world in the best way possible despite the circumstances.
There is another Japanese koan that I always liked about perception. There was a traveling monk who approached a monastery one day looking for shelter. As was the custom in those days, if the visitor could defeat the host in a wordless debate, the visitor could have food and shelter for the night.
Two brothers, an educated one who was the older of the two and the other who had no education and with only one eye ran this particular monastery. The educated of the two said he was too tired and so he told his brother to engage with the visitor.
Some time later, the visitor ran into the room where the older brother sat and said quickly that he couldn't stay because his brother was so brilliant that the visitor was not worthy of them. Intrigued by this, the educated brother asked him to explain.
The visitor said "We sat and stared at each other for a while. I held up one finger to indicate there was only the Buddha. Your brother held up two fingers, signifying the Buddha and his teachings. I held up three fingers, meaning that there is the Buddha, his teachings and his followers. Your brother held up his fist, showing that it is only through the combination of all can we find true enlightenment. When I realized his brilliance, I left him and came to tell you that I could not stay". With that, the visitor stood up, bowed and left the room.
A couple of minutes later, the younger brother ran into the room, demanding to know where the visitor was. "He left", his brother said, "why are you so angry?"
"Well, when we sat down, he held up one finger, poking fun at the fact that I had one eye. I held up two fingers, indicating that he should be thankful that he has two eyes. He held up three fingers, indicating that between us, we have three eyes. I made a fist to strike him and the infidel fled the room."
So as you can see, the slightest perception change on our part changes the meaning of our very existence and indeed, the results that we produce.
The first T in gratitude represents time and how we choose to invest it and spend it. Time, in my opinion, is one of the most valuable things that we have, right behind Life itself and unconditional love. The reason I believe this is because we are all born with a finite amount of time allotted to us, we don't know how much we have left and once spent, time can never be recovered.
Given that time is so valuable, one of the means by which we express gratitude towards Life is to spend our time wisely. To spend it wisely is to invest it in ourselves and those around us.
We often spend time frivolously on things that do not contribute anything in a positive way. It is always nice to spend a little downtime once in a while, but when it becomes a habit to waste such an incredible gift, we are not being grateful for the precious gift that we have been given.
One of the things I noticed when I lived and worked in the New York City area was how fast time moves. Life down there is a fast-paced, grab at it and hold on for dear life ride. It is a life dedicated to winning the rat race, making the most money, and climbing the career or social ladder the fastest. Given how important climbing the career ladder seems to be, you never hear someone on their deathbed lamenting that they didn't spend enough time in the office. We need to be more appreciative of time with our children, with our families, with our friends and with nature. We need to make sure that we savor those moments, to be in the now of a moment and not be existing in one moment while being consumed by worry or thoughts about a future or past moment. When we are in the now, we are expressing our gratitude for the moment that is now. In fact, I would suggest that we are not worthy of the moment if we don't appreciate it. How many times do we look back at our past and regret not appreciating some moment or having taken advantage of an opportunity to do something, to be with someone or to have done the right thing? At least if we do our best to appreciate what is in the now, then we have a much better chance of minimizing regrets of looking at the past and seeing opportunities missed. If you're lucky and you make the most out of every moment, you can look back on your life and marvel at how busy and treasure-filled your life experiences were.
Sometimes we need reminders of how much time we have left and that reminds us of its value. In March of 1996, I was told that I had non Hodgkin's lymphoma and that I had 3 months to live. It's rough news when you are 31 and you realize that the important things that many of us take for granted were to be denied me, kids going to college, kids getting married, having kids of their own and many other wonders. I always knew how important time was, but when you know you have 3 months left, you sure figure out how to prioritize. I've never forgotten the need to revisit my life priorities every day. I hope everyone here cherishes their time without the need for such reminders.
The I in gratitude represents involvement in our community. We often lament about how we don't like how our world is evolving. We complain that there are not enough things for kids to do, our politicians don't understand our needs, our town has too much garbage blowing around, our province never gets the recognition it deserves, our country never gets the respect it should and our world is being destroyed by pollution.
Yet for all that we complain about, we don't do anything about it. It is easy to be an armchair quarterback, citing all the reasons why other people are letting us down. However, if we choose to do nothing to improve the conditions that we are complaining about, then in some ways, we are almost as guilty as those that we blame for the issues in the first place.
Involvement in our community shows that we are grateful for what we have and we are grateful for the opportunity to make it even better. I salute people who perform public service in elected office (and there are people here today who have served or are serving in publicly elected office). I salute people who serve tirelessly on boards of charitable organizations or church boards – there are many people here today who do this also. Many parents contribute by getting involved with their children's schools or by participating in youth groups such as Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, cadets and children's sports.
People who serve the community in groups such as Kinsmen, Rotary, the Lions Club, the Shriners and other groups like these also recognize a higher calling to serve their community. As I mentioned earlier, there are an infinite number of choices, one guaranteed to fit our interests, our available time and our ability.
When we serve in groups such as these, we must also recognize the higher calling to encourage more people to get involved. Our society is desperate for more people to get involved to make a difference – the minority of people are carrying the load in terms of contributing to our society in this way.
We often say we are too busy to get involved yet we find time to do things of no value to others or ourselves. We possibly assume that there are enough people already involved – there aren't.
The second T in gratitude represents thankfulness for everything. Everything before us is a gift, something to be cherished. We live in a part of the world blessed with abundance on every level – food, water, shelter, life's frills, employment opportunities, nature's beauty. Who could deny that we aren't incredibly blessed? Who hasn't walked into a supermarket at some point and looked around in wonder and gratitude for the incredible blessings of abundance all around us. We not only have our choice of what we want but in many variations and in infinite quantity. We have what 85% of the world cannot even dream of.
There are people out there who complain about this, that or the other thing. It is my experience that the people who complain the most haven't experienced the rest of the world that they perceive is so much better, the classic "the grass is always greener on the other side". Perhaps if they saw more of the world, then they would appreciate what they have here.
Newfoundland is a perfect example. If you listen to the call in radio programs, you would swear that this place that we love is a terrible place filled with corruption, incompetence, oppression, lost opportunity, lack of business, unacceptable healthcare and a hopeless education system. You name it and we suffer from it. Yet, if we could somehow send those people away to another part of the world, I don't think it would take long before they came to appreciate this beautiful place that we call home. That's not to say everything is perfect – but we have a pretty good head start.
I once worked with a team member in New York City who represented everything positive when it came to thankfulness. Narender had immigrated to the United States to follow his dreams. He married a beautiful woman and had a wonderful home in New Jersey. When he and I worked together, he never had a bad word to say about anyone, although he did teach me how to swear in Hindi. He looked at life with wonder and it was clear from his actions that he was in awe and in a perpetual state of gratitude for everything he had.
To give you an idea of how pure he was, for fun one time, we put a small porno movie in the upper corner of the software application we were building and we asked him to review our software to find a "problem" that we had discovered.
As he stared at all the screens, we stood behind him almost shaking with laughter, waiting for him to find it. All of a sudden he turned around with pride and said, pointing to the screen, "this word is not spelled correctly". He was right. He never even noticed the porn movie until we pointed it out and then we all had a good laugh.
We organized a corporate chess tournament and he signed up with many others. It wasn't until the tournament started that I discovered that he didn't even know how to play chess. So we patiently taught him and despite our best efforts, he was soundly trounced in every game.
I noticed that the more soundly he was beaten, the more he laughed. At one point, I took him aside and congratulated him for such a healthy outlook and I asked him how he was able to be so happy as he was beaten over and over.
His response summed up thankfulness perfectly. He told me that he didn't care about winning or losing. Spending time in the chess tournament was his way of learning something new and spending quality time with people he enjoyed being with and he respected. He also enjoyed taking his chess stories home and sharing them with his wife. This he said was the secret of life – making the most out of every moment and appreciating every opportunity.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Narender was on the impact floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center and a person who lived such a pure, positive life was physically taken from us.
For about a week afterward, we struggled with trying to understand the meaning of this, how something like this could happen to someone we considered a perfect human being. I then realized that I wasn't going to remember Narender in the way he died – it was how he lived that was important for his memory.
So we organized an annual charity chess tournament and named it in his honor. To play in this tournament, each player pays an entry fee and names a children's charity that he or she is playing for. We have had players from around the world. The top 4 players in the tournament divide 100% of the prize pool between their charities, with all the proceeds going to the charities that they were playing for. Since then, our tournament has donated thousands of dollars to children's charities. Narender's spirit of eternal thankfulness continues to make a difference every year in the lives of sick and needy children.
Narender's attitude was that we should accept that life is filled with good and bad. It's how thankful we are for everything that we are given and what we do with what we are given is what determines the quality of our life and the lives of those around us. He was right.
Understanding is what the U in gratitude represents. Understanding ourselves, understanding others and understanding our role here on earth. As far as understanding ourselves is concerned, many of us need to work harder at accepting ourselves for the beautiful people that we are. It is important to realize that understanding and knowing are not the same thing at all. It is understanding and not knowing that leads to action.
We need to spend more time developing our individual gifts and less time worrying about what others think of us. I told someone this once and they asked me what would happen to the world if everyone did whatever they wanted to do and my reply was that we would have a lot more bad poets.
We need to love ourselves more and in doing so, we open ourselves to loving others and being loved. When we fail to understand ourselves for being the miracles that each one of us is, then we lose sight of our own incredible potential. We also tend to look at others with less understanding, tolerance and appreciation than we should because we are in fact projecting our lack of understanding of ourselves onto others.
When we put more effort into understanding the reason why others act as they do, then we open ourselves up to being more positive, grateful human beings. If we remove the ego component and not react instantly to negative actions of someone else but instead, choose to understand the actions first, we save ourselves a lot of extra negative energy that can result if we are too hasty. We get upset when someone else judges us without understanding our situation yet we do the same thing.
Once we accept that our role here on earth is to help each other reach our fullest potential, we start looking for ways to help others reach that potential, just as others try to help us reach our fullest potential. When everyone is in synch bringing everyone and everything around them to new heights of success and achievement, then the world becomes a better place.
However, when we lose sight of our understanding of our role here on earth and we allow ego to intrude, we tend to strive towards personal achievement or victory at any expense. Many times the cost is great and can never be undone, including poor personal health, destroyed families, ruined friendships and relationships and an ecology left in tatters.
Diligence is the D in gratitude. In the fast paced world that we live in, it is not easy to live a life of gratitude without effort. Every one of us, no matter how enlightened we are and how grateful we are for everything, experience moments when our belief system is challenged and we question why we should be grateful for something that we are not particularly happy about.
What is necessary in moments like this is the diligence to push through the challenge and to look for the positive in a given situation. Sometimes we have to exercise diligence on someone else's behalf to help them see the positive in a situation.
If we do not demonstrate diligence to try to reap a positive message out of a negative situation, then we are telling Life that we are not grateful for the opportunity to learn something new or to stretch ourselves in some way. If we do this enough times, we start to change our perception of Life and to start questioning why Life is always stepping on us. If we continue to work on understanding Life's lessons and working hard to improve ourselves based on the challenge at hand, especially when times are difficult, then we accumulate more coping skills for the next challenge and find that Life rewards us as a result of the learning experience, something that we are in turn grateful for.
The E in gratitude represents enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for everything in life. Enthusiasm for every experience, every opportunity to share and every opportunity to learn.
If you observe successful people, one of the things you will notice is their infectious enthusiasm for everything. Every problem is a challenge to be solved with a reward to be reaped. They constantly see opportunities to share ideas and opportunities with others. Nothing stops them. They follow the old adage that failure only occurs when you refuse to get up after having been knocked down.
When you are enthusiastic about life, opportunities open as if by magic. The more you appreciate Life, the more Life rewards you. The more you appreciate and are grateful for what you have, the more Life offers you. If you want a great example of this, follow the model of the globetrotting grannies.
An exercise that I like to do that I find makes gratitude for everything around me really come alive is a nightly review of what I am grateful for. Every night before I go to bed, I think about the things that happened that day that I was really grateful for, memories that came to mind that I am grateful for or lessons learned. I write these down on an index card that has the date of the week on it. At the end of the week, I file that card and start a fresh one. As you start to accumulate these cards, you are reminded of how many things that exist that you are truly grateful for. It has a snowball effect in that the more you become aware of in terms of things to be grateful for, the more grateful you become. People who lose sight of what they have to be grateful for tend to overlook opportunities for gratitude all around them.
Rowan and I also perform a similar exercise every autumn. We buy some of those fabric, yellow or red leaves, and we write on each one, something we are thankful for. Every year, we joke that there won't be enough room to contain everything we appreciate. We arrange these leaves on a wreath and hang it in a place of prominence in the house and leave it there for about a month. It always draws people into interesting conversations when they see it. When we take the wreath down, we put the leaves in a dated envelope and keep them. It will be interesting to review those leaves in the future or to leave them to our kids and for them to reflect on what appeared to be important to us at the time.
I printed a small card that I would like to offer each of you today that you can use as a bookmark, you can carry it in your wallet, you can scrape frost off your side view mirrors or whatever else you would like to do with it.
On one side, I have listed the terms that I associate with gratitude. On the other side, I outlined 5 ways of staying happy. For those, I would like to thank Shirley Hong, a person who lives a very positive life and who provided these to me.
On one side, the backdrop is a butterfly. The reason I chose a butterfly was to remind us of the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect states that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in the eastern hemisphere is amplified through various natural events to eventually become a hurricane in the western hemisphere. Just as this is the case, I would suggest that a positive act or an act reflecting your gratitude for life is amplified as it is passed from one person to another. So when you perform a good act for someone else, they in turn, empowered by the positive energy, will perform one or more positive acts for others, who in turn will do the same. So the butterfly reminds us about the power of a single act of gratitude.
On the other side of the card, I used the image of a water droplet hitting the surface of the water and spreading in all directions. In a similar vein to the butterfly effect, every positive action that we perform, every positive thought that we have, every act of gratitude that we show, spreads good, positive energy equally in all directions. Others who experience this will in turn perform their own acts that will cause positive energy to radiate from them. There is no limit to how far this positive energy will expand.
I mentioned earlier that it is my belief that time is one of the most valuable gifts that someone can give someone else. You have just given me an hour of your time and for that, I am extremely grateful. I would like to close with some beautiful words from a wise but anonymous person.
Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don't know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary
Because it means you've made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who arealso thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
Here are images of the gratitude card that I created and distributed for the presentation.
Originally posted on my blog on June 22nd, 2007.
Yours in service, servanthood and gratitude.
For my “Musings-in-a-Minute” version of this blog entry, please click here.