During one of my rants about what was going wrong, a dear friend of mine stopped me with a remark that still resonates daily. He said, "Tracey, instead of focusing on what is not happening, why don't you direct your energy towards focusing on what is happening." I struggle with this. This truth is a lesson I must learn daily. As we near the beautiful occasion of Thanksgiving, we are reminded that an attitude of gratitude flavors everything we do. The flip side, a rumbling of grumbling sours everything we do, is equally valid.
How often do we interrupt the counting of our blessings with a critical arrow? Our bellies are full, and yet we bellyache. Even when our cups runneth over, we mourn like they are running out. We thank God for our daily bread, yet the next words out of our mouth bemoan tomorrow's anticipated scarcity. Why are we so ungrateful? That's a rhetorical question; human nature does as human nature is.
The real question is, what can we do to stomp this deadly, joy depleting habit out of our life. Several years ago, I made myself create a Contentment Journal to combat my selfless sense of discontent. I took a notebook, wrote the date at the top, and before I went to bed, I listed 25 tremendous things that happened to me over that day. I selected 25 because that made me focus and be alert to see all the good around me. It was always there, but my malcontent mind was blocking me from seeing it. The volume selected also caused me to go out of my way to make tremendous things happen, such as submitting a speaking proposal, calling up an old friend, or making a charitable donation.
You cannot praise and complain at the same time. Indeed, gratitude is nothing more than an absence of complaining. This exercise forced me to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. I went to bed filled with a sense of all that was being done for me by so many. This habit was a welcome reprieve from carrying my worries to my pillow and my subconscious. The Contentment Journal also made me act on things today, which again broke me out of my peevish persona.
My father, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, would refer to whiners as "thumb suckers." In the Life-Changing Classic, The Three Therapies, he says this, “Hang around achievers, you’ll be a better achiever. Hang around thinkers; you’ll be a better thinker. Hang around, givers; you'll be a better giver. Hang around a bunch of thumb-sucking, complaining, griping boneheads, and you’ll be a better thumb-sucking, complaining, griping, bonehead." Upon reflecting on his life, my father also said if he had to do it over again, he'd be Charlie "Thankful" Jones instead of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones.
Gratitude is irrespective of circumstance. Even if we had nothing to be thankful for, we give thanks because of the privilege to possess a heart capable of giving thanks. Are we truly grateful for the gift of being thankful? When we burn this concept in our hearts, those 25 miracles we witness every day will soar to as many moments as there are in a day.