Grateful Lions 3

Why You Need Gratitude, Not The Guru

Gratitude.

It’s trendy now. It’s a buzzword on the lips of many a motivational speaker, life coach, and self-help personality. Heck, I talk about it all the time, too. I think it’s a great habit to adopt.

But I also know gratitude is in danger of becoming a cliche. We’re being bombarded by the idea. Overexposure to people pushing us to feel grateful is threatening to make us cynical about the whole concept. 

Just like teenagers who abandon a social media platform once their parents start using it, you may be feeling a little disdainful toward any would-be gratitude guru.

That’s what I’m worried about.

I want to rescue gratitude from the clutches of cliche, because the concept is too damn important to lose.

So, let this be the last blog post you ever read about gratitude. You already know it’s important to not take your life for granted. Stop listening to the gurus, including me. You don’t need any more advice on this particular type of mindfulness.

Self-Help Versus Personal Development

I just want to clarify: I’m not into self-help. Because the term implies you’re alone when it comes to improving yourself.

No one should be an island. We don’t do well in extended isolation.

We need other people to help us grow. That’s why it’s so important to develop good relationships: other people help us see ourselves more clearly.

This is why I prefer the term “personal development.” It doesn’t imply you need to work on yourself alone.

Yes, I just said “work.” Let me be totally honest here, too. Like anything worthwhile, shaping your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions so they become your strength takes effort.

Creating your ideal “designer life” takes work. Cultivating gratitude also takes work. I know, the gurus usually avoid that naughty four-letter word.

The first step in becoming consistently grateful is accepting that it will take work to make it a habit.

The Final Word on Developing a Gratitude Habit

The practice of gratitude as a happiness tool is scientifically supported. Long-term studies – especially in the area of positive psychology – prove gratitude’s effectiveness. A positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success at work, better health, a higher sense of well-being, and even faster recovery from injury.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what’s lacking in our lives. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit.

When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are glossed over or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

So, flex those common sense muscles and figure out what triggers your gratitude. It’s going to be different for everyone. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Pick a “gratitude time” during your day and stick to it. It needs to be scheduled, just like physical exercise or taking medicine. Take five minutes in a peaceful place and focus on what’s good in your life.
  • Gamify your gratitude. Give yourself some sort of meaningful reward for finding the hidden blessings in a challenging situation.
  • Set an “appreciation alarm.” Use your smart phone or other device and create an automated alert to remind you to pay attention to the good things you’ve got going on during your busy day.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Include lists of people, things, whatever you’re thankful for. Paste in pictures. Keep the journal easily accessible. Use it as a reminder when you’re feeling down. If you don’t want to keep an old-fashioned journal, create something you can save on your computer, smart phone, or online.
  • Speaking of online gratitude, consider joining or creating a Facebook (or other social media) community of like-minded people dedicated to practicing gratitude.

There, that’s it. That’s the last time you ever need to read an article about gratitude! You’ve got your appreciation certification! You don’t need any more training! Now get out there and live it!

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The H.E.R.O. Defined: O is for Open

In mythology, the end result of the hero’s journey is discovering new wisdom to bring back to society, so that everyone benefits from the hero’s experience.

hobbit hole and road

“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Obtaining new wisdom to help the community grow and improve requires stepping out of the known comforts of home and into the wide and wild world.

One of my favorite metaphors for this is the journey of Bilbo Baggins, who did what no other hobbit wanted to do: he went on an adventure. And eventually, he came back rich and became very famous. Bilbo showed the other hobbits what was possible when you take a chance and step out onto the road.

However, there’s no point stepping out of your safe little hobbit hole if you’re not willing to keep an open mind. If you don’t allow the journey to change you for the better, you’re just wasting time. (TWEET THIS!)

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The H.E.R.O Defined: R is for Resourceful (includes Internal Resources Worksheet)

Do you ever take time to consider the tools you have in your self-support system? As you read this post, I want you to think about the collection of beliefs that make up your worldview. Imagine those beliefs as tools in a toolbox.

Keep that metaphor in mind. Now brace yourself, I’m going to talk about Hercules again!

One of the Greek strongman’s labors was to clean out some nasty horse stables that hadn’t been scoured in decades. Ugh.

hercules 5th laborBut Hercules didn’t just grab a spade and start shoveling. Nope, he saw two nearby rivers and diverted them, so tons of water washed through the stables and did the cleaning for him.

Hercules got creative and used the resources at hand to make his job easier.

Want a more contemporary mythology? How about MacGuyver? That guy took ordinary items he found around him and created devices to get out of dangerous situations.

I know both Hercules and MacGuyver are fictional characters, but we’re talking about heroic mythology again, folks. That means we need to look for the deeper meaning beneath the story, which is this:

You must think creatively about your mental and emotional resources. If you’re struggling with certain situations in life, it might be time to look for new sources of inspiration, new ways to look at the world. Discomfort means it’s time to adapt.

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The H.E.R.O. Defined: E is for Elastic (includes Resilience Worksheet)

What do you do when you get punched?

I’m not talking about a physical beating. I’m talking about the metaphorical pummeling you sometimes receive courtesy of life’s circumstances.

Let’s take an American mythological hero and use his example metaphorically. Let’s take some lessons from the legend of Rocky Balboa (spoilers ahead if you’ve been living in a bomb shelter for the last 40 years and haven’t seen Rocky).

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The H.E.R.O. Defined: H is for Human (includes Boost Your Belief Worksheet)

You and the ancient Greek hero Hercules have a lot in common.

Sure, maybe you’re not a demigod with superhuman strength. But depending on your worldview you probably consider yourself a combination of the divine (a soul) and the mortal (the body). By that definition, you’re just as miraculous as Hercules.

But more importantly, you and Hercules both make mistakes. Sure, maybe you weren’t cursed by a goddess and tricked into killing your own family. But you still make mistakes.

Mistakes aren’t a downside of being human. They’re a benefit, an awesome “standard feature” of life. (Tweet this!)

Why? Because mistakes make you better. Unfortunately, we’ve created a world where mistake is a dirty word.

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