Counting your blessings in 2014
I believe taking stock of your blessings is as important as setting goals at the beginning of the year, and that when it comes to relationships, acknowledging and expressing your gratitude can make all the difference.
I write this month’s article from Disneyland in Orlando, Florida, where I am on a bucket-list holiday with my family.
Time spent with my family is precious and often, especially during our holidays together, I am overwhelmed with the sense of how fortunate I am. My life is truly blessed!
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ― Marcel Proust
This January, instead of making a list of all the things I want to achieve, I decided to focus on all those things for which I am so grateful. My goal for 2014 (it’s really difficult for me to not have any goals at all) is twofold: to acknowledge all the ways in which my life is blessed, and to share my appreciation with the people who contribute to making it all possible.
Josh, my 12 year old son, attended a positive thinking course where each child was given a gratitude diary. Josh and I have started discussing gratitude together regularly and I’ve really enjoyed hearing all about what he values most in his life – especially the part about his mother’s cooking! A diary is an excellent way to record the things you are grateful for. I also recently read about the concept of a gratitude jar. Every time you acknowledge something you are grateful for in your life, or you have an incredible experience or interaction with someone, the idea is to write it on a piece of paper and pop it in your jar. At the end of the year you get to read about all those things that made your life in that year amazing. Isn’t this a great way to end off one year and begin the next?
Retirementor Lynda Smith expressed her gratitude by posting on Facebook, every day for 30 days, her reasons for feeling grateful. I was noticeably more conscious on the days I read her posts, perceiving more easily the things in my life I was, and still am, grateful for. Cultivating gratitude will, in a similar way, bring a growing awareness into your life so that eventually this whole gratitude thing becomes second nature.
Gratitude is invaluable when it comes to our relationships. Let’s face it, after 40 years of marriage you get so used to each other and can very easily begin to take one another for granted. I encountered a couple who were missing each other completely – they weren’t even on the same bookshelf let alone the same page. There wasn’t one thing they could think of that they had in common. And now, approaching retirement, and with the thought of all that time they would be spending together, they were desperate to find some common ground.
Before we could begin to explore retirement we had to get them both into loving spaces again. We started by finding things they loved about each other; certainly not an easy task at first. The exercise we worked through helped them to move away from their default mode of being critical of one another, toward seeing the positive intention behind each other’s actions. Where before the husband would complain about the expense of her trips to the salon, he started to realise and appreciate how well-groomed and beautiful his wife always looked. She too was able to see the good in her husband and expressed her gratitude for how responsible he was for getting Good Fellas to drive him home from bowls games on the weekends.
Everything is a gift – even those things that try us. Take the gratitude challenge this year. Appreciate what you have and the people in your life, change your perspective where necessary and tell those you love and care for, as often as possible, how much they mean to you.