Yesterday, inspired by a moving post I’d read on Alison Smela’s blog, Alison’s Insights (http://tinyurl.com/977qum4 ) entitled “The 4th Floor,” I took the following question with me on my daily 5 mile walk: If I were on my death bed and could only offer my now adult children one final piece of fatherly advice what would it be? What last “words of wisdom” would I share in the hope that it would help them live a happy and fulfilling life? The relative simplicity of the answer I came up with might surprise you – I know it surprised me: Train your mind and discipline your soul to greet and live each day with a grateful heart. Easier said than done, I immediately thought to myself, which, in turn, prompted me to spend the next 2½ miles devising a strategy for putting that advice into practice.
The following is the “action plan” I came up with:
Begin the process in much the same way that a grocery store manager takes inventory at the end of every month. Set aside a few hours (or whatever time is required to do a thorough job) and, with a piece of paper divided into two columns, “walk” up and down every “aisle” of your life – past and present. With an objective eye, jot down in one column each “item” you have to be grateful for and in the other those things for which you are not so grateful – perhaps even angry or bitter about. If you are like most and are fair to yourself and your life experiences in performing this first step, the items on the “shelves” that deserve your gratitude will out number those that do not by at least a factor of 100 to 1.
Now comes the hard part. With that list firmly in hand, make a conscious effort to go “shopping” each morning. CHOOSE at least one of the items for which you are grateful “off the shelf.” Take a moment to verbalize your gratitude in silence to yourself (“Today, I am grateful for______”) and then fully commit to making that person or experience (past or present) the cornerstone of your day. (Note: Just because something or someone may have been part of your life “more than 5 minutes ago” doesn’t render it or them any less entitled to your present gratitude!) If circumstances allow, take a minute to express that gratitude openly to the person for whom you’re grateful (“Dear ____, I’m grateful for you and your ______”).
I readily confess that I have not always been diligent in adhering to my own advice. However, on those occasions when I have, I’ve noticed at least two positive differences that it makes in the quality of my day. First, just looking at “the list” reminds me that, while I, like most, tend to give far more power and energy to what I perceive to be the “negative” aspects of my life, the objective reality is that those aspects pale in comparison to the good. Second, if I train my mind on the good at the start of the day and commit to keeping it focused there, I am far more likely to seek out other objects deserving of my gratitude during the course of the day, which, at day’s end, can readily be used to “replenish” the space created on the shelf by the “purchase” I made when the day began! Why not give it a try?