Time for a Gratitude Reset? - THINKERS Notebook

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Time for a Gratitude Reset?

I live in Texas.

As you may have heard by now, we're on the back end of an unusually cold and snowy week here in the American southwest.

In part due to the rarity of weather like this, and in part due to short-sighted and negligent preparation by those supposed to be in charge, millions of people have been left without power and/or water. Some have even died.

My family has been extremely fortunate.

My wife, daughter, and I dealt with rolling blackouts for 48 hours, but our power was never off for more than three hours at one time. Our water has been fine. So far (knock on wood) no pipes have frozen, no leaks have sprung.

We'll surely have to deal with some kind of damage to our pool, but that has yet to reveal itself.

In other words, we've experienced some hardships relative to our normal daily life, but those hardships pale in comparison to what others even just a few streets over have dealt with.

And when the scope is broadened to include other recent natural disasters in other locations, our hardships really pale in comparison.

Broaden the scope even further back into history -- say, the Old West -- and it makes complaining about a few hours without power sound utterly ridiculous.

Man, our ancestors were tough

Humans have been dealing with inclement weather for thousands and thousands of years. For the vast majority of that time, there were no insulated houses, no central heating, and no WiFi-connected thermostats able to be controlled from a smart phone.

Yet, here we are. Our species survived.

Had any of our ancestors not been as hardy and resourceful when tough times hit, I might not be here banging words out on a keyboard today and you might not be here reading it.

I've been thinking in these terms a lot this week, and it's provided a useful gratitude reset.

And we all can benefit from the occasional gratitude reset.

The power of a gratitude reset

We're humans, which means that our minds naturally adapt to our daily circumstances and eventually takes them for granted -- unless we're really intentional in opposition. 

I've always had a roof over my head. I've always had heat and air conditioning. I've always had warm water when I need it.

So it's easy to forget how thankful I should be for the presence of these comforts in my life. It's easy to forget how fortunate I was to be born into a situation that allowed me to take these comforts for granted in the first place.

Think about it ...

  • How many harsh winters had to be survived by my ancestors for me to be here? I owe them such a debt of gratitude.
  • How much hard work had to be done by so many of my ancestors so that the family I happened to be born into could afford such comforts?
  • How much ingenuity and perseverance was needed by people I'll never know to invent and develop these comforts in the first place?

The reality is unavoidable: when I add everything up, I realize that my own personal contribution to the position of relative comfort I found myself in this week is almost infinitesimally small. 

Sure, my wife and I have worked hard. We've "earned" some portion of our success and wealth. But to a much greater extend, we are incredibly fortunate. 

And ruminating on this reality has made me feel so grateful for what I have, where I am, who I'm with, and even when I happen to be alive.

Take the opportunity when it comes

While I don't wish hardships or unexpected life interruptions on anyone, it's inevitable that they'll eventually come for us all. When they do, it's important to be present in the moment and get through it as best you can.

But it's also important to take the opportunity for a gratitude reset -- a time to count blessings and feel gratitude for everything you have that you might have started to take for granted along the way.

Even better, incorporate a regular gratitude practice into your normal routine. Do this and a gratitude reset may be refreshing but less urgent.

We know that experiencing gratitude makes us happier. It increases our empathy and willingness to help. It helps us think more clearly.

And it will undoubtedly help us all feel an important desire to pay it forward to our progeny, just like your ancestors did for each and every one of us.

In this week's THINKERS Roundup, you'll find three links that help you reboot your gratitude.

Wherever you are reading this, I hope you are warm and safe.

This 3-minute meditation can help you reset your gratitude

Now one reflection I find myself doing when I’m in some ordinary contracted state of mind—let’s say I’m stressed-out by something not going well, I’m reacting to some hassle. I could be caught in traffic and late for an appointment—I sometimes think of bad things that haven’t happened to me.

I might think that I haven’t been diagnosed with a fatal illness. I’m not caught in a war zone. And I think of all the people on earth in that moment who are suffering those sorts of dislocations in their lives.

And then I reflect that if I were in their shoes, I would be desperate to get back to precisely the situation I’m now in: just stuck in traffic and late for an appointment, but without any care in the world.

Read: How to Reboot Your Mind: Sam Harris’ 3-Minute Gratitude Talk (Mindful Ambition)

Perspective is everything

Most of the experiences that have brought you to this place are long forgotten, but the people that provided them remain close to your heart.

Gratitude is taking stock of these very people that have built the terrain you stand on now, and being thankful that they’ve lifted you to this beautiful place. And if you’re fortunate enough to have access to them today, you can bring them with you to appreciate the view.

This type of gratitude is great, but sadly, it is all too easily forgotten.

Read: How to Be Thankful for Your Life with One Simple Reset (More To That)

Don't wait to be grateful; make it a day-to-day habit

In our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama of the news, the challenges facing us and our families, dealing with anxiety and concerns about our own aging bodies. Gratitude can seem too far away.

And yet gratitude is a safety zone and a respite from our hectic world. It’s a way to take a deep breath and just be for the sake of being.

Read: Why Cultivating Gratitude Is a Rest Button for Positivity After 60 (Sixty + Me)

Quote of the week

"When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree."

-- Vietnamese proverb