I was looking back over some things I had written a few years ago, and I came across something I wrote that started out with anxiety about turning 61. This year I will turn 68! That puts 70 right around the corner. I was talking to a friend yesterday who is turning 77 and she is feeling anxious about approaching 80.
When I wrote about how I was feeling about turning 61, I saw that I was focusing on things that had not turned out the way I thought they would (or the way I thought they should). I realize that it is part of our nature to dwell on the challenges and see what is hard and not working. I also realize that the more I focus on what is hard and not working, the larger those thoughts get. In order to make a conscious effort to turn this around, I decided that year to begin a Year of Living Gratefully.
I was going to write every day about things I was grateful for, and also notice if focusing on gratitude was helping to turn my perception from challenges to possibilities; from sadness to inner peace.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
WHAT? Does he mean that even things that seem hard or uncomfortable? I should be grateful for them? As I thought about this question and his quote, the answer I came to, is yes. The things that are hard or uncomfortable are learning opportunities if we look at them that way. So of course I would be grateful for the opportunity to learn, even while I was not necessarily enjoying the learning process.
What were some of the gratitude’s that I wrote down? I wrote that I was grateful for music. When I feel down, I have realized that if I turn on the music, it lifts my spirits.
I wrote that I was grateful for good parking spots. In the South Carolina summer, when you can find a shady spot, that is something to be grateful for.
I am grateful for learning opportunities. Back when I first wrote about this, I was grateful for all I was learning about coaching, listening, asking good questions, getting my clients to a place of deeper understanding. Now, as the host of Hey, Boomer, I am grateful for all the technology I have learned this year. I am grateful for listening and learning and being curious with my guests.
I also wrote about confidence and how I was grateful to be growing more confident. This has certainly served me well this year, as I have reached out to potential guests that I did not know, and many of them said YES to being on the show. Is that confidence or bravery, or a bit of both?
I wrote about being grateful for time spent with my children and grandchildren. Those are some of the most precious moments.
I also wrote about simple things, like warm showers and hot coffee. A good book and a glass of wine. And of course, gratitude for good friends.
I didn’t make the full year of writing every day, but I still find this practice valuable and useful. Especially when I feel fearful or sad or uncertain.
In coaching we have a practice where we ask clients to write down three things a day that they are grateful for. Anything, big of small. The practice of gratitude will help you shift your perspective. It is not always easy to find something to be grateful for when we are feeling down. You may just realize that you are grateful for not having to think of more than three things. But I promise you, over time, it will make a difference. Try it today and let me know what you think.
I am grateful for all of you!