I’m going to ask two dumb questions. Do you want to be more joyful? Do you want more success? You might be surprised that the key to unlocking those desires lies in being thankful.
One Christmas day, when I was 10 or 11, I acted so ungrateful for the presents I received that my Mom took all of my presents away from me. She said that if I couldn’t be thankful for what someone (even Santa) gave me, then I didn’t deserve to have the gifts. Needless to say, I wasn’t very joyful and my Christmas day was far from successful (at least for the day).
That experience has stuck with me ever since.
Why being thankful is important
The Bible tells us “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phillipians 4:6) Psychology teaches us to list those things that we are grateful for to boost our mood. The majority of people understand that being thankful is a good thing, but why do so few of us practice it or only teach it as a way to have “good manners” instead of making it a lifestyle?
Thankfulness has a unique power to not only change our lives, but also the lives of the people around us. See if any of these statements sound like something you’ve said or thought:
- I want a better marriage.
- I hate my job.
- Why can’t I get along with my co-workers?
- How can I get my boss off my back?
- I’m tired of feeling lonely.
- I wish I didn’t fight with my kids all the time.
I’m willing to bet you’ve said at least one of those statements. I know that I’ve said all of them.
I realize that each of those situations requires many things to change the circumstance, but being thankful is a keystone attitude that will influence the other changes that need to happen.
How to unlock thankfulness in your life
There are 3 practices that I’ve discovered are cornerstones to living a life of thankfulness and, if repeated often (if not daily), will produce greater joy and success. I am calling them Confess, Express, and Bless.
- Confess to yourself. There’s a saying, “change your narrative, change your life.” You probably, like me, aren’t even aware of the narrative about yourself that you’re believing. The grind of everyday life tends to wear us down and we end up just reacting to life instead of living them.
So, to break out of the auto-pilot mode you’re on (changing your narrative), you will have to intentionally tell yourself the things you are thankful for. This especially includes things that aren’t going well. Start saying, “I am thankful for my spouse” or “I am thankful that I have a job”.
You will be surprised that repetitiously saying these sorts of confessions over time will start to change what you believe about that person or situation, which, in turn, will change how you act towards them.
- Express to others. I often fall into this trap with the people I love and care about. I think, “they know I love them” or “they know how important they are to me.”
Even if the people in your life or the leader at your job knows that you value them or the job, it is never damaging to verbally tell them how thankful you are that they are a part of your life. This applies regardless of how thankful you are. (Don’t try to find loopholes!)
- Bless others. The Bible teaches about the law of sowing and reaping. If you sow complaining and thanklessness, then that it what you will reap in return. The good news is that principle also works in reverse.
Some more good news is that just like verbally expressing your gratitude to someone, there is no downside to blessing someone. This doesn’t have be an extravagant or expensive gift. It can be as simple as buying someone their favorite candy bar or drink from Sonic (happy hour is from 2pm-5pm, FYI).
For example, the woman who processes and cuts my reimbursement check at work really likes white chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, so I will bring her a package of them from time to time when I’m dropping off my expense report. I want her to know that I appreciate what she does.
I certainly am not telling you that you shouldn’t or can’t want more from life or more income. However, I want you to think about this… if you’re not thankful for what you already have, why in the world would anyone give you more?
It is completely possible to be thankful for what you have and still strive for more and better.
When you live like this, you will start to see the world around you change. Mostly because it is you who is changing. Here is how thankfulness would change those statements from earlier:
- I want a better marriage. Thankfulness says, “I’m thankful for who my spouse is and what they bring to this marriage.”
- I hate my job. Thankfulness says, “I’m thankful to have a job that pays my bills.”
- Why can’t I get along with my co-workers? Thankfulness says, “This is an opportunity to get to know someone different from me.”
- How can I get my boss off my back? Thankfulness says, “How can I make their job easier?”
- I’m tired of feeling lonely. Thankfulness says, “I should tell my friends how much I enjoy our friendship.”
- I wish I didn’t fight with my kids all the time. Thankfulness says, “I’m blessed to be able to be a parent and shape another human’s life for the better.”
Being thankful isn’t tricky, complicated, or only for the most fortunate of us. It’s available to all of us and can be given and received by anyone. In a world that has a shaky economy, thankfulness is a unique currency. Because it is universally accepted and never deprecates.
[reminder]What area of your life would change if you were more thankful for it?[/reminder]