This is the third exercise in a series of meditations designed to help develop your inner practices. This one is about gratitude.
I have seen gratitude exercises offered in lots of places; it’s not a new idea. However, try doing it every single morning right when you wake up. Same time, every day.
Think of three things for which you are grateful. They could be anything, really — that you’re safe, that you’re healthy — for your family, friends, children — whatever moves you.
As you think of those things, call up a feeling of gratitude, deliberately, in your soul.
And remember, this is not about “success.” There’s no prize for the best gratitude. This is building a muscle, and a disposition, a baseline — and it’s very powerful for counteracting the onslaught of so many harsh realities in day to day world changing and leadership work.
You know how your feelings and emotions pretty much rule your inner life? How they have a life of their own? You know how you can wake up grumpy and there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it? This exercise is one place (we have lots of exercises about this) where you can practice taking back control of your feelings and emotions. And, by the way, I don’t mean suppressing your feelings and emotions; I mean deepening them, refining them, being the master instead of them being the master of you.
Here’s my story about this exercise and why it works:
I would say I was mildly dysthymic the first half of my adult life, characterized by a persistent lack of self-esteem, a chronic “glass is half empty” attitude, and a fatalistic world view — life was ruled by indifferent gods. What this little meditative exercise did for me was gradually turn around my “glass is half empty” habitual mindset and helped me to see the world through the lens of gratitude. Just for one minute each day. Doesn’t sound like much but that TINY intervention went a long way. Over time, it showed me that I can deliberately choose to feel what I want to feel, and it helped me see what the world looks like from a place of gratitude. It’s become a capacity — a muscle in my soul.
And DUDE let me tell you the world became a much richer and happier place from that perspective! Doing this exercise turned my life around. I’m not dysthymic these days, and moreover I wouldn’t be able to do what I do today with so much enthusiasm and love (raise kids, run the dog, build a business, support clients, clean the horse, nurse the old cat, keep the fire going, etc., etc.). Frankly, I wouldn’t be able to do much of it at all, because mild forms of depression like dysthymia can undermine one’s will to engage and strive in the world creating instead fragility, despair, and apathy.
So a minute spent every day can, over time, become real — and you just can’t over-estimate how important gratitude is to your inner vitality and, ultimately, your happiness.
Do this exercise every morning right when you wake up; that’s when you will be most vulnerable to attacks from negative thoughts. It’s an effective antidote!!
For extra dynamos, do it also every evening as a day finisher before going to sleep.
Since this is the third of three articles, here’s the all important wrap up:
If you do the three exercises: first concentration, then peace, and then a “cool down” with gratitude, as a daily practice every morning and every evening, you will create for yourself a “reserve” of capacity — it’s like a battery — that you can draw on when the day gets rough — or when drama begs you to engage. Suddenly, instead of being drawn in, you have some insulation, some space. It’s true!
You’ll be stronger and more resilient for it, we PROMISE. We have used these tools and disciplines to GREAT effect. But please don’t take my word for it; try for yourself and give it at least a month. Then, tell me what you have experienced here in the comments!!