Lessons in Gratitude

I am very much a ‘forward-facing’ kind of person. I don’t know whether it is because of my coaching training or my teaching background; both of which focus on setting goals and objectives – productivity must be measured. Or perhaps it is just part of who I am, it’s in my DNA. Wherever it comes from. It has always been something that I quite liked about myself, an attribute I’ve found helpful on many occasions in many different ways.

However, this week I had a bit of a realisation about myself, about this particular way of thinking, and it taught me a lesson in gratitude.

I won’t go into the details of what happened; they aren’t necessary for right now, but suffice to say I had 3 different interactions, within a few hours of each other, that all played a part in switching on an internal lightbulb that I hadn’t even realised had gone dark. They all spoke the same thought to me:

“I am someone else’s If Only.”

Much of my day is spent looking at what next. Whether it is for my clients, my family or myself, I spend a lot of time looking at where we are going next and planning how we are going to get there. I am good at planning, I like a fresh challenge and I am dissatisfied with settling. To me, there is always a plan to be made and there is always ‘more.’ Which I know is a good thing, it is one of my strengths and as I already said; I like that about me. However, I realised that it has also become my weakness. I realised that without even knowing it my dislike for (or perhaps it is a fear of) stagnation has somehow, overtime, caused my focus to shift and my mindset to become one of dissatisfaction. Perhaps even ungratefulness. Perhaps this may ring true for you too. Do you ever find yourself looking at other people and thinking things like; if only I had more money like them, or, if only I had smarter clothes like them, if only I was more creative like them, if only my kids were polite like them, if only I had a job like that, if only, if only, if only.

I would not have said that this was true about me, I like to think I am a mindful and positive person, but this week I realised that I actually spend a lot of my time looking at other people and their circumstances. People who seem to be ahead of me, who seem to have it all more together than me, who seem to be better off than me, or kinder than me, or are parenting better than me. It was an uncomfortable truth to see. But as uncomfortable as it was having that mirror held up to my face, the truth that came from it was in was equal a measure both encouraging and freeing. I realised that for all the longing looks I give towards other people’s circumstances, there is most probably someone else who is looking at me and thinking the same of me and my progress and my journey.

So what does this mean? That my life is perfect and aspirational and awesome? No. It definitely does not mean that! What it means is that sometimes we are so busy working so hard to get somewhere or something that we completely miss how far we have come on our journey, how much we have achieved and we forget to enjoy the moment we are in. We take for granted all the hard work that has got us to wherever we are in our journey and we miss out on the joy that comes was supposed to follow the accomplishment.

So my simple encouragement to you, and the simple reminder I give to myself, is to take a moment each and every day to take stock of all that you have around you, all that you have in your hands, and all that you have achieved. When we switch our focus from one of wanting more, to being thankful for what we have, we suddenly don’t feel the same pressure to get things done, because we realise that we have already done so much and we already have so much.