Cultivating Gratitude

The ability to be grateful and thankful for our present circumstances is something which we, as busy people typically neglect.

But why should we consider it important to nurture this frame of mind?

Life is filled with unforeseen disappointments which bedevil the best laid plans of mice and men. No one emerges completely unscathed. In fact, every living organism needs stress to trigger change and unlock the next level of development. Trees which grow in the face of constant wind grow strong and supple, capable of withstanding all but the harshest of gale force winds. Whilst trees which grow in tranquil, placid conditions often fall at the first sneeze.

The daily stresses we face – the commute to work, bills upon bills, lack of sleep, the noisy neighbour, nosey in-laws, the tyrannical boss etc – seem to amount to death by a thousand cuts. It appears unreasonable to expect gratitude for what appears on the surface to be a jumbled mess which we don’t deserve. But screen sucking on our phones, tablets, laptops and tvs to escape into fantasy and lusting after material diversions and celebrity lifestyles will mostly compound the problem. Drawing us into a spiral of unreasonable and unrealistic comparisons. These have been deliberately engineered by marketers who unsurprisingly want growing shares of your time and money. Virtual reality is not reality, friends. To be sure there are some excellent informative resources online, podcasts, blogs and so forth. But accessing and enjoying them is often tempered by unwanted popups and side ads that inevitably erode your attention and commitment to your original purpose.

The Great Stoics, Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius held the value of gratitude in high regard, and of being grounded within ourselves. Keeping one’s perspective on an even keel and mastering one’s self. But if it worked well for those ancients why should it be of any concern for modern men and women – shouldn’t we be more concerned with maximising our pleasure and broadcasting our success? Perhaps. But there is also wisdom and insight in keeping one’s attention and locus of power within, to be nurtured and stoked and not squandered on trivial pursuits.

In doing so, we do not cheaply cede the sovereignty of our mind and ability to tap into the deeper recesses of our consciousness and talents which as yet remain tucked away, not fully formed. Being grateful for that which makes you stronger is a tenet of Stoicism.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. They go to their graves with their songs still in them.” A quote sometimes attributed to the philosopher Thoreau, though it could just as easily be someone else. The important thing is to live with respect for ourselves, and being mindful of the greater potential benefit to our loved ones and communities of this simultaneous groundedness, and expression of our abilities. If you don’t believe in yourself how can you expect someone else to? As we rightly fix our sights not on what presently is, but what is to come.

Psychology’s theory of ego depletion proposes that self-control or willpower draws from a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up. We may also think of willpower as being rationed to us in limited qualities daily. Though in varying quantities and intensity for different individuals. Whilst this concept has its critics and detractors, it’s worth noting the concept of will power as a muscle to be trained and cultivated and which, may grow over time. What is implicitly true is that our ability to work and deliver, moves in ebbs and flows throughout the day.

All the more reason if you will, to conserve our attention for our intended purpose, and for our own growth, and away from fruitless distractions. Keep your attention on yourself and on your will to win. Here’s wishing you the best in accomplishing your goals for today and the rest of the week.