November is upon us and the unofficial start to the holiday season. The first holiday Thanksgiving, is traditionally a time where people take a day to feast with family and loved ones and take time to reflect on all the things for which they are grateful. This is great, but is it enough?
Why do we as a society only devote one day to expressing gratitude? How do we recognize and express gratitude any other day – especially, days when things don’t always seem so great?
I’ve learned a very important skill from my two-year-old son.
Every morning when I wake him up, I ask him “How are you?”
“I great, Daddy!” he always responds sleepily but enthusiastically.
It’s with that mindset that he soldiers through his day excited for everything and everyone that he will experience before bedtime even when things are out of his control and don’t always go his way.
As a rational adult, I came to the realization that if a two-year-old can do it, despite not having much control over anything in life except for his mood, I should follow his example. No matter the circumstances or situation. I had every intention on waking up early this morning and meditating and doing some reading, writing and watching some lectures for a couple of classes I take. I had planned on getting homework for the week completed or at least make significant progress to that goal. However, as soon as I got out of bed, a funny thing called life began to happen.
My phone began to malfunction in a major way. I spent a huge amount of time talking with a technical support agent. Unfortunately, the solution she suggested only ended up making the original problem worse. The solution she promised to email never arrived so I had to do the research myself.
After doing everything I could to back up all my info and data, I completely reset my phone to the original factory settings and crossed my fingers hoping that I wouldn’t lose anything irreplaceable.
Just as I set my phone down to concentrate on another task, Julian, who is super curious and busy, accidently knocked the new blender off the table and shattered the glass carafe.
I could’ve easily decided then and there that today was going to be a bad day. Up to that point, all evidence was pointing towards that obvious verdict. But one thing made it literally impossible for the day to be declared bad – my refusal to let it. Unless I happened to drop dead at that very moment, I still had the power to create the day that I wanted.
I immediately stopped and thought of all that I have at that very moment to be grateful for.
At the top of that list was my ability to change the direction in which the day was headed and secondly, simply knowing that I had that ability. Almost instantly, the tension and stress I was feeling practically melted away.
Then I looked at all of the opportunities my minor trials had presented me. 1). I learned something new about my phone. 2). I took the time to back-up my data on my phone which was something which was long overdue.
I acknowledged how fortunate I was that Julian didn’t hurt himself when he broke the blender. I acknowledged how fortunate it was that we have a working vacuum cleaner to pick up all the glass pieces off the floor. Julian probably learned an important lesson about being careful around glass objects. And pleasantly, the entire morning was an opportunity for me to purposefully practice being grateful for every experience that life will present me and to write about and share it in a practical way that may help others.
Today is great. I refuse to view it any other way and this is why.
Last night I was scared half to death.
I was making some hot tea before bedtime and had just filled a cup with very hot tap water and set it on the counter. Julian, my uber-curious two-year-old son came in the kitchen and before I had an opportunity to stop him, he had grabbed the cup and accidently spilled it all over his face and torso. Like in a Michael Bay movie, the two seconds it took for him to reach for and tip the cup over and scald himself seemed to unfold in slow motion as I rushed to stop him as soon as I saw him. By the time I was able to react, he was already releasing a blood curdling scream of agony.
I immediately scooped him up and ran him to our bedroom. His mom and I checked him over very carefully and after some minor first-aid, some cold washcloths, a lot of TLC and some warm dry pajamas, The Buddha was good as new – just a bit shocked.
Half an hour later he was lying contently in his bed watching his favorite movie, fighting sleep like any other night.
And when I woke him up this morning and asked him “How are you?” Without missing a beat, he replied just as sleepily and enthusiastically as usual, “I great Daddy!”
In order to build and live a better than average life we must learn to be habitually, powerfully, purposefully grateful. That is the habit of being grateful for every person, circumstance and experience we encounter. The more grateful we are for the things in our lives, the more things come into our lives for us to experience more gratitude.
I challenge you to increase the level of gratitude in your life this month by listing at least 10 things for which you are grateful for every day. You can either do this online in your social media accounts or on traditional pen and paper like a journal. However you choose to participate, I’m certain that you will almost immediately see the benefits of being habitually, powerfully, and purposefully grateful. You will experience Thanksgiving every day.
Editor’s note: Jonathan McMillan is a motivational speaker who lives in Denver. Follow him:
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