The True Meaning of Gratitude & How to Harness its Power to Transform Life

Last Updated: May.10.18

Gratitude Journal

I’m grateful for the food I eat…

I’m grateful for my friend…

I’m grateful for my partner, who…

 

So, in your quest for finding out how to cultivate gratitude habit, you stumble upon this page. Dear friend! We’re on the same side! But first, let’s talk about what motivate people to practice gratitude and its true meaning.

I’ve been seeking for ways to practice gratitude. So, it must mean that I’m an ingrate, thoughtless kind of guy, who blankly denies all the blessings that my country, the people, and the good Lord have bestowed upon me, right?

Not quite. I’m aware all those. But I’m on the path toward personal transformation, and since I’ve heard all kinds of good stuff about gratitude, so I’m eager to learn more.

Sounds like you?

And to save you the research time, let me hand you my list of all the benefits that people have attributed to gratitude habit. The list is very impressive, indeed. Here it is:

Top 10 Reasons You Should Practice Gratitude

1.Better Health – Improved Sleep, Strengthened Immune System, to

2.Work Harder on Personal Goals, which lead to

3.Better You @ Work

4.and @ Home/Social Relationships, which means

5.Higher Self-esteem & More Acceptance of Others

6.Mind Massage to make the Past/Tragedy more Bearable, in order to

7.Overcome Stress, Loss & Crisis

8.More Contentment

9.Less Depressed & Happier

10.Become more Forgiving & Spiritual

 

But then later, I saw something phony about this list. Well, the problem with this list is that they all end up benefiting ME.

ME!

ME!

ME!

So what, you ask? Suppose you’re trying to cultivate a grateful attitude toward your mom and her unconditional love, appreciate everything she has done so far, all the things that she did FOR you, and BECAUSE OF you…

…so that you will have better health?

……will work harder on yourself and your goals??

………will become happier and more spiritual???

See the phony here? I wonder, isn’t this one of the reasons contributing to the fact that the young become less and less enthusiastic about having babies these days, perhaps because we have first-hand experience of knowing what a bunch of selfish children we are.

Now, let’s take a different approach. Think about someone, whom you regard to be the most grateful person on Earth.

What is he like?

How does he live?

What sort of work does he perform?

Do you think for a moment that he’s practicing gratitude routine daily, asking himself what should he be grateful for, then writing them down in a journal?

Yeah, right, unless he’s a spiritual guru, making a living by teaching the rest of us how to be grateful.

No, the most grateful person on Earth is not busy making a better life for himself. He’s busy with helping other people make better lives for themselves.

The definition of gratefulness, according to Collins dictionary is:

If you are grateful for something that someone has given you or done for you, you have warm, friendly feelings towards them and wish to thank them

To me, the “thanking” part is the real motivation behind gratitude. It’s the one that gives true meaning to being grateful.

~o~

Now, what about the how-to part? I must confess that, I’m super good in this respect. It was easy to be thankful for all the blessings in life. Don’t believe me? I give you 2 examples.

1. Open any local newspapers, at anytime of the year, and read the headlines. In Florida people have been struggling with Hurricane Irma. In Santa Rosa wildfire survivors have no place to live. In Boston, people are struggling with frostbite and extreme weathers. Just last week, 20 people were killed by mudslides in Santa Barbara…A quick look through and all I can say are 4 words: “Thank God, not me!”

2. Every year, we’d like to travel to faraway lands, to under-developed or developing countries, NOT in order to stand in awe of how people could survive with such a low income and under poor living conditions, but to remind ourselves how fortunate we’re, to reside in a rich, developed, and civilized country.

How easy it is, to be thankful for all the blessings in life! In the old days, I used to be guilty of such pervert way of “cultivating” gratitude.

How about this common approach? Often people said to me: “Be thankful because you have something to eat!”, or something like that, whenever I was playing ignorant or showing ingratitude.

I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet (From someone wise)

You might have heard of this Power of Words (YouTube) story about a beggar with this sign:

  

Frankly, I’ve grown irritated about the be-thankful-because-you-have-something-to-eat mentality. That’s not gratitude, but, to paraphrase Paulo Coelho, a sick way to find consolation for our despicable situation, by comparing ours to others’, who are not as fortunate as us.

The flaw in such kind of thinking is that, on our way to make peace with the problems in life, make sure we look down a lot! We need to stop looking up at those who achieve more than us, who are more successful, and seem to be happier (or should I say, stop checking out those vain, self-satisfied selfies flooded on Facebook and other social media networks).

Because if we don’t, our comparison would backfire. How can you be thankful and content with what you have by comparing against others, who are more beautiful, healthier, wealthier, basically more everything, than you?

I. The True Meaning of Gratitude

I’ve learned that:

  • Gratitude isn’t another emotional bandage.
  • Ultimately, cultivating gratitude doesn’t end with having a better life.
  • Cultivating gratitude isn’t about comparing the cards that life has handed me to others’.

Instead,

Gratitude is the highest form of Positive Thinking

The essence of positive thinking is looking for the gems hidden inside every life event we encounter, so that we make the best use of it. When you say “The glass is half full”, you’re not just cheering yourself up by affirming the fact that you still have a half glass of water, but you also focus your mind on looking for ways to make the best use of the remaining water.

And if you practice positive thinking long enough, you would come to an inevitable conclusion that everything happens for a reason, and that reason is bound to move you toward achieving your goal.

Now, gratitude goes much further than that.

You realize not only that life is your ultimate teacher (which means you remain forever a student), but also that you’re obligated to make the best use of the lessons to repay life’s favors

Dear friend, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Life is the ultimate teacher, forever waiting for our arrival. The thing is, we only recognize this fact, when we have a clear set of problem and go in search of a solution.

And that means we must have goals. With our goals in mind, everything/everyone we encounter is our teacher, whose mission of showing up in our lives is to teach us valuable lessons to reach our goals.

Trust me. With such philosophy, you won’t have to crack your brain days and nights wondering “I’m so miserable, what am I grateful for, anyway?”.

I’m a student of life. Every day I try to see:

  • Every bad deed as a test of endurance, if being done to me; or as a warning of a bad example not to follow, if being done to others.
  • Every good deed as a good example to follow.
  • Every failure as a test of patience and a lesson.
  • Every success as a test of contentment and a warning against greediness.

And so,

  • Thank you, my friend, for giving a damn, about my thoughts & feelings, my lessons & failures, my dreams & obsessions, my inspirations & diversions, my ramblings & psychosis.
  • Thank you, for not giving a damn, about, but you wouldn’t give a damn, anyway.
  • Thank you, for loving me unconditionally, so that I learned that, after all, I’m still lovable, and curable.
  • Thank you for making me love you, so that I learned, after all, I’m still capable of love.
  • Thank you, for turning my love into hatred, so that I learned, that there’s such a thin line between love & hatred; because, after all, they’re two sides of the same thing called selfishness.
  • Thank you, for not loving me, so that I learned, after all, you aren’t the only love of my life.
  • Thank you, honey, welcome to my life. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy your stay.
  • Thank you, friend, for leaving my life in such a hurry, as your departure inspired me to part ways with my miserable old-self, too.
  • Thank you, those who challenged my decisions, as this forced me to question the things that I thought I were passionate about, and reinforced the desire to pursue my dreams.
  • Thank you, those who, despite not choosing it, yet being affected by it, still allowed and supported me on this path.
  • Thank you, those motherfuckers, for giving me one more reason to succeed.
  • Thank you, those who turned my life “upside down, so that I could learn, how to live, right side up”*.
  • Thank you, Rumi the Past, for everything that you did/did not do, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today; every sins you committed, and suffered subsequently, so that I won’t have to repeat them; every mistakes & stupidities you made, in order to teach Rumi the Present & Rumi the Future the proper way to say “Yes Ma’am/Sir” to whomever calling him “Rumi The Fool”.
  • Thank you, teachers, for enlightening the path behind, around, and ahead of me.

Now, there’s no bad teacher, only poor student! And the best way I can thank my teachers is to live their teachings, become an example of their teachings, and spread them as far as I can.

I believe this “student of life” attitude is a more “genuine” and “human” way to cultivate gratitude habit. If we’re truly grateful for whatever blessing that life has bestowed upon us, we wouldn’t let it go to waste. We’d want to make the best use of the gift given to us, and one day pay it back.

That way, success, failure, good luck, or bad luck…all now have deeper meanings, because they teach us valuable lessons to reach our goals. We need to cultivate such attitude, if we want to become an awakened dream-walker.

And for those who are still not convinced of the “pay back” part, then perhaps “enlightened self-interest” is worth considering.

If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path ~ Buddha

II. Tips to Apply the Student Philosophy to Cultivate Gratitude

Here’re some tips that I’ve used:

1. STOP making yourself sound like a hypocrite and thus ruin your day by NOT:

  • starting/ending your day by being thankful that you’re alive & feeling grateful for all the good things in your life; nor
  • pausing a moment before you eat, or throughout your day, to count the miracles and blessings given to you.

2. DO these instead:

i. Start your day by feeling grateful to your past self for one decision/action/endeavor that you made, after writing down your goal statement (Why? Please refer to goal-setting guide part 2). If succeeded, contemplate on its impact on your life; if failed, its lesson.

Then, appreciate the fact that you have one more day to do the work that you love,or to make a new start, this time much wiser (if you’ve already started taking the path). Otherwise, be grateful for one aspect of your current job that allows you to move closer to your goals. Ex: It could be the technical know-how that enables you to find freelance work in the future.

(Use a note app to record these thoughts if you have time, but it’s not a must)

ii. Set a reminder to pause during the day and review one specific incident that has occurred. Ask yourself:

  • In what way does this event help me move closer to my goals?
  • What lesson do I learn here? How to apply this lesson to become a better me?

(Write your notes in a note app, call it a Gratitude Journal)

iii. At night, after writing down your goal statement, end your day by recalling one bad deed/offense/injustice/indignity that had been done TO you in the past, ask yourself:

a. If I were the other party, who committed the offense, what excuse could I give myself to explain for such act? (If you can’t think of any possible excuse, or if you start by accusing how wrong the deed was, stop this incident right now, recall another one instead)

b. With regard to the way I reacted/responded/my emotion/thoughts, what did the event teach me about myself?

c. How differently would I respond, if the incident happened today?

d. What lesson have I learned from this event? How have I applied/How do I plan to apply the lesson to become a better me?

(Record these notes in your Gratitude Journal)

Regarding those incidents that you stop, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do the gratitude exercise on them. It simply means they are still “fresh” in your mind. I’ve found that it’s easier to do this exercise on old events. In fact, the older the better, after trauma had passed, and anger subsided. Besides, time heals all wounds. Sure! But if you fail to give them cosmetic surgery once in a while, you risk having your heart and soul full of bitter scars for the rest of your life.

iv. Review & update your Gratitude Journal weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually.

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. Everybody wins, when somebody shares!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

 

* Correct me if I’m wrong, it seems to me this quote was taken from the movie Not Easily Broken?

Author: Rumi Tran

A vEgEtAriAn/A wAnnAbe Artist/A DreAmer/A PsYcho