The Importance of Choosing to be Grateful

Hello, friends!

As I’m sure you’re all aware it is Thanksgiving tomorrow.  I have to work the morning shift from 7 am to 3 pm which is actually quite nice because everyone brings in food, people tend to call 911 less (knock on wood) on the major holidays, we are all feeling sentimental and, I don’t know, it’s just nice in the call center on Thanksgiving.  The fiancé will be home preparing the Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing so all I have to do when I get home is make mac and cheese and sweet potatoes.

It’s going to be a good day.

Like pretty much every blogger is doing this season, I want to talk to you all about gratitude.

Simply put, gratitude is the act of being thankful.

There are a lot of people out there who complain about everything.  I’m sure you have them at your job or in your social circle.  Nothing is ever good enough for them.  These people frustrate me because they also tend to be the laziest, most aggravating people to be around.  They never try very hard and they only see the bad side of everything.  Part of me wants to just strangle them and ask them why don’t you just find a new job where everything meets your expectations?!?!  But they won’t and they can’t because a) they’re too lazy to try and b) no job will ever meet all of your expectations.

I don’t have to try very hard to explain to you why people who complain are unhappy.  You probably know a few of them (or you are a complainer yourself).  Let’s think here – why would someone who complains all of the time be unhappy?

Because they’re focussing on the bad, that’s why!

It is very, very easy to focus on the bad things in life because there are a lot of bad things in life.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that 100%.  You know what, maybe I would like to get paid more when I get drafted to work overtime six days in a row.  Maybe I would like my HOA to charge me less money for the pitiful amount of work I see them doing.  Maybe I would like for my fiancé to take the dog outside more often so that I don’t have to.  Maybe I would feel better if my elected officials would lower taxes.  Obviously all of these things are true!

But if I focus on them, I’m going to be full of negative emotions and those negative emotions are going to spill out into my daily conversation, my personality and my relationships.  They are going to make me a negative person to be around and, even when you take other people out of the equation, being a negative person is bad for your health, literally.

I’ve written about this in the past when we talked about journaling for success.  When you are writing in your journal (or however you do it), you should not focus on the bad things that happened.  Sure, you can mention them, sometimes you should.  When my friend committed suicide I spent hours writing about it because that’s how I coped with the whole ordeal.  Plus, when we write about the bad things, we sometimes figure out why they happened or at least we can learn from them so that they don’t happen again.

But acknowledging that bad things happen is different than dwelling on little complaints that pop up in your daily life.

I’ll give you an example.

Some of you know that I am a police dispatcher.  When people hear that for the first time they always inevitably go, “Oh man, that must be a stressful job.”  Yes.  It is and it isn’t.  The truth of the matter is that I’m sitting behind a desk and typing things.  According to our union we are actually considered a form of glorified secretary.  So there you have it.

At my job there are two types of people:

  1. The people who complain about every little thing that they can possibly find to whine about.  The desk won’t go up because it’s broken.  It’s very early in the morning.  It’s very late in the evening.  I couldn’t find a good parking spot.  We don’t get paid very much (does anyone ever get paid as much as they want?).  I have to work on such and such holiday.  I have to work a lot of overtime.  The person next to me smells funny.  The other employees are super slow.  The other employees are super dumb.  That one employee was mean to me.  You get the idea.
  2. The people who come in, do their job, and go home.  They are friendly to everyone, they understand that things are difficult but they also understand that such is life.  They plan fun things for the shift to do (we have sooooo many dinners, guys).  They don’t form cliques.  They are super easy to work with and don’t get fussy when things get stressful (and things get stressful sometimes).

Guess who I like working with more?

Guys, let me make this next statement for you super big:

NOTHING IS EVER GOING TO BE PERFECT AND YOU WILL NEVER BE 100% HAPPY.

Fortunately, I learned this lesson when I was super young.  My dad is a pastor and worked in a church out west for about ten years.  At that church we would have repeated run-ins with other members of the church.  I don’t know why that is, you’d think that Christians would like, love each other or something, right?

Nah.

They don’t.

It got so bad at one point that my dad left that church and we moved to a different church on the East Coast.  My mom was all sure that everything would be great because it’s a new place and new people and things would be different here, right?

But my dad pointed out to her that we would have the same problems with people, it would just be in a new place.  My dad understands people pretty well.

At first things were great because it was a new place and everything is usually good at the beginning but about three years or so into it, guess what started happening again?

Yep.  Different people, same problems.

So they moved again to a third church and guess what?

If you guessed “different people, same problems” you’re right.

It’s just how it is!

There will always, always, always be something wrong no matter where you go.  Sometimes it will be very, very wrong and in those cases, yeah, you should probably leave.  But you can just expect for any workplace or restaurant or what have you to have some issues!  You’re dealing with people and people are imperfect!

So now that you know this, you have a choice:

  1. Complain and whine about all of the bad things that are around you (because there will always be bad things) or
  2. Look for the good in the situation you are in.  Surround yourself with good people and quality things and don’t focus on the bad.

For me the choice is easy.

And yes!  It 100% is absolutely a choice!

See, for some reason, complaining and being negative is socially acceptable.  I’m pretty sure it always has been.  You know what?  Fine, whatever.  But you know what else is socially acceptable?  Being grateful and optimistic.  I mean, don’t go crazy on me but no one is going to ostracize you because you’re happy.  (Unless they can’t abide having someone who cancels out their negativity and therefore don’t like you, in that case you don’t need them in your life anyways.)

So yeah, you as a person need to choose whether or not you are going to be grateful.  Much like most other things in life, you can’t wait for some outside force to turn you into a grateful person.  You must choose to be grateful on your own.

Here’s the best part!  Being grateful has so many benefits and it is super easy to practice!

Stop whatever you’re doing right now.  Yes, stop even reading this post.  Find your journal (or a piece of paper if you don’t have one) and write out ten (10) things you are grateful for.  I don’t care if it isn’t Thanksgiving when you’re reading this, find something and write down ten things you are grateful for.  And don’t be trite.  Write down 10 legitimate things you are grateful for.

For those of you having a hard time for whatever reason, here’s some help:

Do you have two working hands/eyes/legs/ears? Be grateful for that.  Some people don’t.

Do you have enough food to eat today? Be grateful for that.  Some people don’t.

Are you warm/cool enough right now? Be grateful for that.  Some people aren’t.

Do you have a roof over your head even if it isn’t yours? Be grateful for that.  Some people don’t.

Do you have a job that pays you money even if you don’t think it’s enough? Be grateful for that.  Some people don’t.

Were you able to get out of bed this morning? Be grateful for that.  Some people weren’t.

Do you have a significant other/family that loves you? Be grateful for that.  Some people don’t.

Are you healthy? Be grateful for that.  Some people aren’t.

Are you able to live your life without being persecuted? Be grateful for that.  Some people aren’t.

Are you alive today? Be grateful for that.  Some people aren’t.

There.  Ten things.  And when you go through that list it puts things into perspective doesn’t it?

I deal with situations like this all day long at my job.  Someone calls in because they’re upset that a faster driver passed them on the highway.  Well y’know what, Karen?  Why don’t you go complain to Susan over there, oh wait, you can’t because the car she was driving was hit by a drunk driver and she’s in the hospital on life support.

It’s all about perspective.

I’m not going to get derailed, don’t worry.

If you will do a simple exercise like this every day, you will start to see things in a new light.  Writing down what you are grateful for makes you actually think about it and helps you to realize what you’ve forgotten you have.  Dwelling on the things you have to be grateful for will help you relax, will improve your outlook, will make you friendlier, will make you more productive and there are just so many other benefits….just Google ‘benefits of being grateful’ and you’ll be as blown away as I was.

I’ll finish with this example of negativity vs. gratefulness.

I could sit here and complain that my fiancé hasn’t bothered to throw his old pizza away.  I could angrily stare at that pizza sitting on the counter every time I pass it.  I could dwell on it and send him an angry text or two.  I could passive aggressively set the pizza on his desk so that he has to move it when he sits down to work.  I could gripe to him when he gets home from work today (which will be quite late because that’s restaurant life) and ruin his day.  I could also ruin my relationship by constantly dwelling on small matters such as leftover pizza.

OR

I could acknowledge that my fiancé needs to throw the pizza away.  It’s true, he does.  It’s his mess, not mine and I’m not his mother.  But I also love him and I’m grateful to have him in my life and I realize that he works long hours to provide for us and I’m grateful to be with a person who has such an amazing work ethic.  (Not only that, but I may have accidentally implied that I would deal with the pizza earlier this morning when I asked what he was going to do with it.)  So instead of being angry that he’s left pizza sitting on the counter all day, I’m going to focus on the bigger picture which is planning a wedding (which we’re doing pretty good at, MOM) and figuring out how to navigate issues like budgeting for a new vehicle, figuring out kids, and spending the rest of our lives together.

It’s all about perspective.

So please, choose to be grateful, not just tomorrow but for the rest of the year as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sources

Emmons, R.A., McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 84(2):377-89.

One comment

  1. Actually reminds me of in Flicka 3 (a movie) where one character says that it is important to focus on what we have and not on what we don’t have or have lost. Your post also reminded of the movie “Pollyanna” with Hayley Mills where she says that it is better to look for the good in people or something like that.
    I really like your post and it’s one of the things I am grateful for!

    Like

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