Long ago, I used to be ungrateful for what I had. I never actually realized the importance of gratitude until one day everything was taken from me and I found myself penniless, friendless, and utterly hopeless. I learned a lot about the importance of having gratitude during that period in my life.
However, it’s easy to be ungrateful these days, isn’t it? It’s easy to want things that we don’t have. In fact, I’d even go so far as saying that it’s stitched into the very fabric of our society. Consumerism is baked right in. Everywhere we turn, we’re reminded of the fact of how little we do have rather than how much we have to be grateful for.
In a society that’s governed by the haves versus the have-nots, where money is all-powerful and helps epitomize the alluring facets of life like freedom, security, and power, it’s easy to be ungrateful. When you’re working tirelessly to no avail, unable to get ahead in life, especially after enduring the heartache of failure or financial turmoil, it’s simple to get disillusioned and it’s easy to not be grateful.
If you find yourself in that situation right now, fear not, we’ve all been there. Yet, there are ways we can become grateful for the things we have in our lives. In fact, gratitude is quite possibly the most direct pathway to success. The problem? Most people hinge their happiness and gratitude on achievement rather than making it a platform for such.
Recently I asked myself the question: “Why is it so so important to have gratitude in life?” Quite literally, what I realized over time, was that gratitude transformed my life. But I wasn’t able to see all the things that I had to be grateful for until I experienced what I would call, monumental failures in life. The lessons gleaned from those failures were paramount for me.
Failure helped to instill the importance of gratitude for me. It allowed me to look at things differently, to see everything in a new light, with a new perspective. If you’ve failed at something, or you’re living a life less than you feel you deserve, keep the faith. Keep up the hope because there’s light at the other end of the tunnel.
What I’ve come to realize is that no matter the state or quality of our lives, whatever outcomes we’ve produced, goals we’ve reached (or failed to reach), what decisions we’ve made, and where we’ve ended up, has almost everything to do with focus. While some things might be out of our control, much of what happens based on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, are largely a conditional response to our focus.
That’s also why it’s so important to be grateful no matter what’s happening in your life. Even if you’re going through turmoil, and even if your entire world is crashing down around you, you have to be grateful. While it might sound strange, gratitude is the surest pathway to both success and happiness.
How Gratitude Can Change Your Life
Every morning when I wake up, which is almost always at some point between 3 and 4 in the morning, the first thing that I do is to sit down in front of my computer and write out my morning gratitude list. It always starts with, “Today I Am Grateful For” The funny thing? Each morning when I write out my gratitude list, I realize just how much I do have to be grateful for.
There are things that we all take for granted — almost like given truths in our lives. Whether it’s the roof over our heads, the food on our plates, or the clothes on our backs, it’s there and we always expect those things to be there. But for many people in the world, it’s not there. They lack the basic necessities in life. Food, water, and shelter, along with many other things.
But my list starts even more basic than that. I’m grateful for the air that I breathe, for the heart beating blood in my chest, for the organs in my body, for every living cell and fiber that are functioning towards my survival, I am grateful. We forget about those things from time to time. Until of course these things come into jeopardy.
Gratitude can change your life because it makes you appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t have. Gratitude can change your life because it is the single most powerful source of inspiration that any person can tap into if they simply just stop and paid attention to the simplistic beauty and miracle of life.
I know, I know. Maybe I’m in the minority when I say that gratitude can change your life. Maybe I’m part of the select few voices out there who really know, deep down inside that a transformational shift can occur when you become utterly grateful for everything in your life, even your problems. Or maybe not.
Maybe countless others out there hear the little voice inside their heads about needing to be grateful, and just maybe… maybe they don’t follow that advice. But I will tell you this — having true gratitude for things has completely changed my life. I transformed from a cynic and a pessimist, doubting everything, into a positive-thinking junkie, fueled by the momentum of deep-down appreciation for all things.
Whatever realm of thought you’re living in, the importance of gratitude cannot be underestimated. There are specific reasons why gratitude can change your life, and if you listen to them and truly hear the message beyond the words, there are some incredible things that will begin to happen for you over time.
I’m a real-world testament to the truth in all of this — a living, breathing example of how gratitude can shift your life, creating monumental results. But don’t just take it from me. Some of the most successful people in the world live by this school of thought. They believe, deep down inside, that the pathway to success, whatever definition that might take on for you, is through an ever-grateful attitude for what you have today, right now, in this very moment, rather than what you’re lacking.
#1 — Gratitude shifts your focus
One of the reasons why gratitude can change your life is because it shifts your focus. You see, life is all about focus. Whatever we focus on, we move towards. When we live in a state of lack and negativity, we see more of that. It’s easy to see something in a negative light when you’re focused on that. It’s easy to see all the problems and dilemmas surrounding a situation when your thinking is habitually geared towards that.
In turn, it’s also easy to see things in a positive light, even when problems arise. If you’ve ever met an always-positive person, you know just how true this statement is. Even when something goes wrong, they look for the silver lining in the situation. If they can’t find one, they simply state that something good will eventually come out of whatever they’re going through.
But it’s not just about being a positive person; having gratitude can change your life because it breathes positivity into everything you’re doing. It’s a monumental shift in focus, a new way of seeing things, one that involves a wild-eyed appreciation for the beauty of all things. You move from living in a state of lack to living in a state of sheer abundance in every possible way.
Still, this doesn’t happen overnight. This shift in focus requires time and a habitual retraining of the mind. But it does occur. You can easily move from a negative state to a positive state by recounting all of the things that you have to be grateful for on a daily basis and writing it down. The key is to write it down. Writing it makes it more real rather than abstract concepts living in your mind.
#2 — It improves the quality of your life
From your mental health and wellness to your emotional fortitude, spiritual aptitude, and your physical strength can all be derived from the simple and basic behavior of gratitude. Gratitude can change your life by quite literally improving the quality of it. You’re the sum of all your parts, and it’s gratitude that can help to benefit each of those small parts.
Studies have uniquely linked gratitude with the satisfaction of life and it’s no secret that people who are grateful for things are far more sated in their lives. There’s a sound stability that exists when you can appreciate the importance of things in your life, no matter what shape, size, or form factor they might take on.
However, many people chalk this up to being successful. They think that it’s easy for successful people to be grateful because they have so much to be grateful for. Well, this isn’t about success, money, jobs, cars, houses, or anything else. Do these things help to improve the quality of your life? Sure. Maybe. But money can also mean more problems.
Gratitude isn’t about having lots of money; gratitude must prelude the attainment of large sums of money. When it doesn’t, people can go off the rails. There’s something called Sudden Wealth Syndrome that can set in, and it’s easy to see why so many lottery winners and inheritance receives go bankrupt in a very short period after the windfall of cash arrives.
#3 — Being grateful makes you feel happier
One way that gratitude can change your life is by making you happier. Studies have confirmed that having gratitude does in fact make you feel happier. Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons from the University of California, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami have committed much of their research careers to study the effects of gratitude.
In one such study, the researchers asked a group of people to write a few sentences every week about a particular topic. One group was instructed to write about things that didn’t make them happy. Another was instructed to write about things that they were grateful for. And the control group was instructed to write about things that had occurred but with no focus on being positive or negative.
The results? The group that was instructed to write about things that they were grateful for were far more happier and optimistic about their lives than the group that had focused on things that had occurred in a negative light. When we’re grateful for things, it’s a natural occurrence to be happier about life. You realize the things you have rather than the things you don’t.
It’s far easier to go about your day in a state of appreciation when you’re grateful than when you’re not. This isn’t always easy to do because we all have a Hedonic Set Point, or a baseline level of happiness. When that threshold is crossed one way or another, we become either unhappy or happy. This is also referred to as the Hedonic Treadmill, often related to the incessant drive to accumulate things that only bring momentary bliss but don’t offer sustained happiness.
#4 — Having gratitude reduces your innermost fears
One clear way that gratitude can change your life is by reducing your fears because it’s hard to be fearful and grateful at the same time. Fear is what occurs when we’re left to dwell on topics that we feel are out of our control. We extrapolate the worst-possible scenarios and picture our future plight and our eventual demise when we’re living in a state of fear.
But by being grateful, fear can be overcome. When we’re utterly grateful for everything we have, including our problems, fear has little place to live in our minds. When we’re fearful of things that put us into a state of scarcity, such as not having enough money to pay our bills or putting groceries into our fridge, we’re living in a state of lack rather than a state of abundance.
Being grateful, however, puts you into a state of abundance. It instills the belief that you’re thankful for what you have, right now, in this very moment, rather than worrying about what you don’t have or won’t have at some future point in time. Often, we save our gratitude for one day of the year — Thanksgiving. On that day, we question ourselves for not being grateful every other day of the year.
And why not? Why can’t we be grateful every day of the year? Why does it take a day that’s slated for giving thanks for us to stop and actually do so? We can completely abolish much of our fears by being grateful every single day. Decide, right now, that you’ll create the daily habit of gratitude and write out everything you have to be grateful for, and watch as your fears dissipate over time.
#5 — It strengthens and enhances your faith
Gratitude can transform your life by strengthening and enhancing your faith. Whatever faith or religion you believe in, whether it’s God, Allah, Buddha, or even that spiritual oneness that binds us to each other for all you agnostics out there, gratitude can strengthen and enhance your faith and belief in whatever school of thought you subscribe to.
There’s a deep-rooted appreciation for things that arise for those that are grateful. In fact, it becomes baked into the very fabric of their being. In turn, it strengthens their faith and belief in all things. For me, it’s my belief in God and the realization that I am truly and completely grateful for everything in my life, including all my problems.
Gratitude transforms your faith by instilling the belief that you’re not alone and that whatever it is that you’re going through, it will pass, and on the other end you’ll emerge victorious. You’ll accomplish your goals, overcome your obstacles, and become a better person, one who’s more sympathetic and even empathetic to the plight of others.
As a result of all of this, you’ll seek out ways you can contribute to society and your fellow man, woman, and child. You’ll search for opportunities because you realize that what you have truly is enough and that the focus must become helping others. That’s when true spiritual enlightenment begins.
#6 — Gratitude gives you peace of mind
There’s an inner belief that develops when you’re truly grateful for things. It provides sound piece of mind, the kind that doesn’t exist when you live with the expectation of certain things. If you’ve ever noticed people who expect certain things out of life, or who attempt to bend the will of others for their personal advancement, you’ll find feeble-minded individuals who don’t get far.
There’s a respect that develops for those that can stay humble, even while enduring the meteoric rise to success, fame, or stardom. Humility is definitely one of the prevailing qualities of many of the most successful people in the world because they’ve had to endure and recover from the heartache and pain of failure and defeat.
They’ve become grateful by not taking things for granted because they’ve lived that other life and have had to wade through seas of pain. There’s a certain humility and empathetic nature that’s instilled in the hearts of successful people who had to endure a lot of failure before tasting the sweet victory of success.
But it all started with an attitude of gratitude that helped to instill a sound peace of mind. It was from that platform that success was developed. Not through the expectation of things. Not through cunning deceit or treacherous behavior. Through goodwill, positive vibrations, and the desire to add value to the world by first being grateful, no matter what.
#7 — It emboldens you to reach for your goals
I believe wholeheartedly in the art of goal setting. When you set goals the right way, you can quite literally achieve anything you put your mind to. Not overnight, or in a few weeks or months, but in years of consistent and persistent action. And one of the ways that gratitude can change your life is by emboldening you to reach for those goals.
Gratitude helps you to succeed by first creating a platform of internal success. As long as you are happy, healthy, and sound in your mind, body, and spirit, you can reach for your goals without too much external distraction. But, when you lack these things because you’re unhappy with your current state of affairs, you live in that state of negativity and lack, and it’s harder to push forward.
When you’re so focused on things that are wrong with your life, how can you possibly push tirelessly towards goals that are potentially years away from becoming a reality? You can’t. In fact, what tends to happen is that we get distracted, waste time, and engage in pursuits that hinder us rather than help us.
Create a platform of gratitude by building this habit in the morning. Interweave it into your early-morning routine by writing down, on paper, for just 5 minutes, everything you have to be grateful for. No matter how small it might be, even if it’s just the mere fact that you’re six feet above the ground, write it down and embody that feeling.
That’s how gratitude can truly change and transform your life. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Nothing ever does.