It is rare to feel an urgency around gratitude. For most of us, it holds a steady place in the nice to have category, an aspirational quality that we sense would benefit us, but will have to wait until all the more important things are taken care of. In a list of important things, gratitude never truly feels all that important.
Much of our modern life is constructed around the sense that we are steadily progressing towards an idealized future state. We operate under an illusion that if we work hard enough, with enough focus and sacrifice, someday we will arrive at a version of life that is what it can and should be. If only our financial prospects, our career prospects, or our relationship prospects were a little better - then of course we would experience the sense of fullness that we are after.
The problem is, life only happens in the present, and when we constantly seek fulfillment at some distant future point, we never actually arrive. Life happens in real-time, and the only place we can find the joy and peace we are after is here and now. When we constantly seek satisfaction in the future, there is no finish line that tells us things are now okay. This relentless future focus leaves us perpetually in a state of dissatisfaction.
If we are not careful, we can spend the entirety of our lives chasing a life that isn’t real, while denying the goodness and experience of the life that is. We find ourselves moving from present moment to present moment, denying the goodness of each one in hopes that a future moment will be good enough.
We tend to focus so much on the material of our lives, that we forget our sense of joy, peace, and purpose has less to do with the “what” of life as it does our experience of that “what.” Gratitude enables us to really see, to really tap into what is going on in our lives. Like the aperture on a camera, gratitude dictates the amount of light that we receive in life. Without gratitude, we will always sense that there is more for us, and that reality, as it is, is never quite adequate.
Which is why gratitude may be the most urgent investment of all. What we are looking for isn’t to be found in the future. It’s already here, and here will always be the only place you can find it. Each passing day we decide to push it off until tomorrow, is another day that we fail to receive the gift of life before us.
Hard work isn’t the shortest path to finding greater joy in life, gratitude is.
All the best,
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
- Soren Kierkegaard
The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief - PositivePsychology.com
Sometimes to move towards your future its necessary to look to your past. If you’re looking for a reflection that may help you do exactly that, this piece from the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, Robert Emmons, may be a great place to start. LINK
10 Ways to Become More Grateful - GreaterGood.Berkeley.edu
You may associate the word “gratitude” with connotations others may not. Are you correct in your understanding, or are there some details in the definition that the world that may resonate with you but not with others? This entry by Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, deep dives into what they believe gratitude may be caused by, along with how it can integrate with a number of other emotions dealt with on a day to day basis. LINK
How to Be Grateful in Every Moment (But Not for Everything) - OnBeing.org
Just as any talent requires intentional practice to grow your skills, the same can be said about gratitude. If that’s something that interests you, this interview of Br. David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk of over 60 years, may be just what you’re looking for. David discusses growing up as a teenager in a World War II occupied Austria, how he was still able to remain grateful throughout the occupation, and why he defines joy as “the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” LINK
Featured Art: Lost in a Snowstorm -- We Are Friends, Charles Marion Russell (1888)