First, Gratitude & Then, Growth
Let’s talk about gratitude and how we can start with gratitude, then we are going to dive into growth and how it can exist at the same time. This episode was recorded on Thanksgiving, all about giving thanks and how that dovetails with growth in this life.
You need gratitude practice. Not because it’s Thanksgiving, a holiday in the United States all about giving thanks, but because what you focus on in this life you will find.
If you have a gratitude practice that you are consistently showing up, giving thanks, and focusing on gratitude and opportunities to be grateful for all that you have, you will more readily see the blessings in your life.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude: the quality of being thankful. Gratitude is also defined as a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Now I think the most important part of this definition is readiness. I want to remind you that there are opportunities to be grateful even on the shittiest day.
A gratitude practice is getting ready… It’s honing that readiness. It’s practicing being ready to give thanks, to show appreciation when those opportunities come up.
Where does Contentment Fit In?
When I think of gratitude I think it goes hand in hand with contentment. But that’s been a journey. There’s a part of me that used to think I’m really grateful for all that I have and these blessings in my life and I see it.
But there’s another part of me… the type A, striving, achieving the part of me that wants to do more, to accomplish more than wondering if feeling grateful meant that I would stop striving and growing.
That part of me incorrectly believed that if I was thankful for the blessings in my life I would stop reaching for more. I was concerned that gratitude would stunt my growth and make me complacent.
This is where contentment comes in so contentment is a state of happiness and satisfaction and you can be content with what you have. You can feel content and still desire to improve yourself and to improve your life and to improve things that are important to you and the things that you value.
A Note on Growth
I’m grateful for my health, and yet I haven’t been feeling very healthy lately. I have always said “I’m 33 and healthy”, but it turns out that I’m 33 with an unknown chronic disease that I’ve been battling for the last 3 years. I’ve been seeing all these different specialists trying to figure out what was going on.
I want to be healthy. I think I used to be healthy and I think that for the last three years there’s been a chronic likely autoimmune condition going on inside my body and I have a chronic health condition that we don’t know what it is.
Um, and that was really hard for me to reconcile the identity that I had for myself, that young and healthy and vibrant person I used to be had become someone who was really struggling with their health. That was a massive identity crisis.
But you can be content and still want to be better. You can be grateful for what you have and still want to be something else. I guess what I’m saying is that you can be young and healthy and want to have a better, healthier heart. You can be young and chronically ill and want to be healthier.
Growing to be Grateful for Small Things
Whatever situation that you’re in you can look around and find something small, something specific that you can say “hey, I’m grateful for this”. My favorite gratitude practice: I look back in the last twenty four hours and I think of 3 very specific things that I’m grateful for. I used to say in general things like I’m thankful for my family, I’m thankful for my health, I’m thankful for my home and my job and my friends.
But I have found that the more words you use to describe what you’re grateful for the more specific you are about it.
Here’s an example: I can say I’m grateful for my kids. Or I can say I’m grateful that yesterday when I picked the kids up from daycare RaeAnne’s eyes lit up when she saw my car in the parking lot. I ran over to her on the playground and she ran to me and it’s that moment as a working parent.
Gosh I love picking my kids up from daycare. I love seeing them after I’ve been at the office all day taking care of patients and they’ve been at school learning and they’ve been at daycare playing. I love seeing them and it’s an instant spark. It’s like love at first sight but with someone that you already love.
That love of daycare pickup was something that I didn’t feel grateful for until I grew into my confidence that work is not only “OK” but it’s what I’m called to do.
Here’s another example of specific gratitude: Nonspecific would be I’m grateful for Dan. Specific is I’m so grateful for the fact that Dan and I have been married long enough that we know each other well enough that we can argue and everything is okay.
We can have a conversation where one of us is asking for something that you’re not giving me in this relationship and that the other person can hear and take that feedback to make changes. Regardless of the outcome of that conversation, we are in this together.
Our relationship can grow and improve all the while when we feel grateful for the relationship and the blessings that we already have.
My Gratitude Practice
I write down 3 specific things every 24 hours that I am grateful for. Specific things! This helps me to grow by encouraging me to look for things to be grateful for. Growth and gratitude can exist simultaneously!
A reminder: what you focus on you will find. I have found that doing it is when you’re in the habit of doing your gratitude practice… you go through the day looking for things that you’re grateful for and you take these mental pictures in your mind of specific things.
Thank you for being the specific thing – a part of this community – that I’m grateful for today. I’m so grateful for you and for this community and for you listening and I hope you have a really really happy Thanksgiving and a day filled with gratitude.
A new take on an old practice was shared by my friend Chrissy Lindley in this post! She’s got a great take on gratitude and growth and is one of the most positive people I know, even after walking through stage 4 cancer early in her life, and she is constantly smiling!