Giving Thanks: Thriving Through Gratitude (Thriveology Podcast #4)

givethanksgratitudeIn the United States, we are in the midst of avoiding the crush of commerce for just a few moments of giving thanks.

Perhaps we gloss too quickly over this opportunity on our sprint to the Holidays. We miss the opportunity that gratitude brings in transforming our lives.

I remember the blessing before our Thanksgiving meal, where we were in a circle and said a word about something for which we were thankful.  I often felt put-on-the-spot, saying something quickly to move onto the meal.

Partly, that for which I was most thankful was too private.  Partly, I missed how important gratitude could be.  Now I know.

Gratitude can create powerful shifts in our lives.  In can transform our lives, if we tend to it.

In this podcast, I discuss how you can bring a thankful attitude into your life, tell you about some research that demonstrates why you should do this, and even tell you a story about how someone was transformed in the process of being grateful.

Please listen and let me know what you think!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rule 8: Ask “What’s The BEST That Can Happen?”

In the last rule, I proposed that the question “what’s the worst that could happen?” can be a useful “reality check” when fear grabs and limits you.  This rule goes from the opposite end.

My wife brought this question to my attention, and even if I tease her (when my son said he was nervous about a basketball game, my wife asked this question, “what’s the best that could happen?”, I suggested that my 12 year old son could be spotted by an NBA scout and called up!), she is right.

Too often, we get caught in the fear and dread.  And while asking “what’s the worst that can happen?” helps us stay in reality, it can also keep us on the down side of a situation.

What about the upside, the opportunity?  The question “what’s the best that can happen?” brings the upside into perspective.  It provides an openness to possibility.bungy-jump

For example, you are thinking of that bungee jump.  Your fear grips you, and you find yourself unable to step up to the edge and take a leap.  So, you ask, “what’s the worst that could happen?”  The outfitters have only stellar reviews, the cord is in good shape, the harness is secure.  Given the safety record, it is safe to say the worst would be a little soreness tomorrow from the swing.

Still, you find yourself rooted in place, unable to command your feet to move.  Now ask “what’s the best that could happen?”  And you find you might just prove to yourself that you can tackle your fear of heights.  You can get a huge adrenaline rush.  You get a t-shirt.  You get to jump off a bridge with no injury!  Now, we are into possibilities.

In the previous rule, we talked about speaking in public, given how high this fear ranks.  So, let’s take a look at that one.  You have already established the worst that could happen, and you know you will not die giving the talk.

Now, what is the best that could happen?  Perhaps you could make a difference for the organization?  Maybe someone will see you give the talk, be impressed by your willingness, and give you even more opportunities.  Or at a minimum, the best would be you face your fear, do the talk, and walk away more confident.

So use this question to balance the fear.  It helps us to both test our reality (risk assessment in Rule 7), and think about opportunity.

The Rules: A Starting Point

OK, so let’s set some parameters for these 99 rules of thriving.  You see, these rules are not pulled out of thin air.  They come from my frame for what I understand are the elements of a thriving life.

As I have studied this, four areas of concern emerge in the pursuit of a thriving life.  Each area is important, but it is the presence of all four that really put the whole thriving life into motion.  Here are the four areas:

thriving life graphic

thriving life graphic

So here is a brief overview, and we will begin to enlarge as we move through the rules:

Thoughts and Mind: This broad category basically means that a thriving person understands the role that thoughts play in creating our reality, weaving our paradigm.  In fact, I maintain that the majority of people misuse a major resource in life:  their mind.

I believe that we have come to have very poor mind hygeine.  We let our thoughts rule us, not us ruling our thoughts.  We fail to notice that we are just thinking, and instead believe that our thoughts are reality.

Let’s face it:  our mind was designed to think, to create thoughts.  But it is up to us to decide on whether this will be a productive or destructive process.

Letting Go and Moving On: Our capacity to let go of something that is on our mind, has happened to us, or has not happened to us, is in direct ratio to our capacity to thrive.  I would use the term “forgiveness,” but there is a great deal of extra baggage attached to that term.  So I will say that forgiveness is a subcategory of this.

And in order to thrive, we must be able to take the next step past letting go of something; we must move on.  People who thrive have discovered how to keep moving forward, regardless of the circumstances around them.

Gratitude and Appreciation: A hallmark of thrivers is the ability to experience gratitude.  No, let me change that:  to choose gratitude.  Not only do they live in gratitude, they live in appreciation, the application of seeking out gratitude.

This is a choice in the stories we tell.  Am I upset that I don’t have a big bank account, or am I grateful I have been able to pay what is necessary to keep going, for instance.  This is partly about optimism, but is slightly different.  Optimism is about how things will be in the future.  Gratitude is choosing to be grateful for what already is.

Gratitude and appreciation helps to shift us out of the scarcity “what I don’t have” model to abundance.  This keeps us from feeling desperate, which then leads to creative responses.

Meaning and Purpose: This is the final element of my model.  It is the most important, and yet the most difficult to master.  It is not the question “what is the meaning of life?”  Instead it is the question of “what is meaningful to me?”  Having a sense of meaning keeps us moving ahead, regardless of what is going on around us.  Purpose is the way we live out that meaning.

When we have discovered our sense of meaning and how we find it, our purpose, then life becomes a joy to live.  Too often, we pursue happiness, forgetting that this grows out of a meaningful life, lived with purpose.