Two boys were on a vacation in a city full of beautiful lakes and mountains. They both decided to try their hand with fishing.
They woke up early and had a lavish breakfast. They hiked for almost two hours, listening to the chirruping of the birds and catching the sunlight sneaking through the dense trees.
In just an hour after they had reached a glistening river, dark grey clouds started to appear in the sky. The sky burst open and little drops of rain started pouring.
Alas, their fishing day went all awry.
When they came back to their hotel, the manager asked them both, “How was your day?”
The replies went like this:
Person A: Oh, I had dreamt of a beautiful sunny day and catching at least three fish. The day was completely ruined.
Person B: What a wonderful day it was! If not fishing, I at least got to eat a lavish breakfast, go for a hike in nature where everything was so beautiful. I also got to watch the rain making beautiful splashes on the river. The day didn’t go as planned but it was so great.
How many times have we been Person A? Ignoring hundreds of good things in our lives and focusing on that one bad thing that happened?
Maybe you slept till late and missed the morning bus. Your schedule went all wrong but you got that extra sleep too. Yay?
Or maybe your day at work was crazy but you got to return to a house filled with so much love and happiness?
Isn’t it crazy how so much good goes on in our life but we always fail to appreciate it?
Let’s learn together how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude by following these five doable tips.
- Transform the way you look at your past
A man was sitting alone on a bench. His eyes were watery. A woman approached him and asked, “Hey, is everything alright?”
The man wiped his tears, put on a small smile on his face and replied, “It’s just that my wife passed away yesterday. I was always so busy with work that I couldn’t spend enough time with her.”
“Oh, I am so sorry for your loss,” the woman replied.
The man replied, “No, it’s fine. Although I wouldn’t have wanted to learn this life lesson in such a way, this made me realize that life is uncertain and I’ll now make sure I spend enough time with my children.”
The way you look at your past determines the way you’ll live in the present.
Think about it yourself. How do you see your past? Do you see yourself as the child that fumbled on the stage? Or the teenager that couldn’t get anything right? Or the adult that failed to acquire a high-paying job?
If you think of yourself in such a way, you’re living in what Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, calls the “The Gap”. What it means is that you always see what’s missing or what went wrong.
For example, if someone bought you sunflowers and you tell them, “Oh but I like roses”, you’re ignoring the fact that they went out of their way to buy you flowers and instead focusing on the fact that they didn’t buy you your favourite flowers.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude pushes you to remember your past while focusing on the gain. For example, you might have fumbled on the stage but you were brave enough to walk up there in the first place.
Your past can be a beautiful story you tell yourself. A story filled with inspiration. Not a story that starts with, “I am like this because of [some past experience]”
Your failures and your setbacks could be a source of great learning, joy and success in the present. You just need to shift your perspective and focus on the gains.
- Invest in the process, not the outcome
Srikumar Rao, founder of the Rao Institute, said in a video, “After training for months and spending weeks in climbing to the top, how much time one actually spend on the Everest?”
Give a thought to this line.
Till how long does that feeling of achieving a seven or eight figure salary last? Till how long does that feeling of happiness last when you bake a cake?
The truth is the journey, the process is where everything lies. A person doesn’t grow or learn when he fulfills that outcome, he grows and learns during the process. The adrenaline rush of climbing the Everest, the jokes cracked with your friends during the climb, the thought of “Just a little more to climb now”; those are the memories you’ll cherish, not just reaching Everest and spending a few minutes clicking photos there.
So give your all during the process and don’t worry about the outcome. Make a journal where you highlight the things that you learnt during the process even if you failed to achieve the outcome.
This will serve as a reminder that while outcomes are important, they are not the end-all of life.
- Believe that the universe is benevolent
A girl got a little late and missed catching the train to work.
She looked up at the sky and muttered to herself, “Why me, universe?”
The next day, on the 5th page of the newspaper, there was a headline that said, “2 dead. 15 injured. Train derails.”
The girl missed reading that headline. The headline which she could have been a part of if she had not missed that train.
How often have we done that? Categorized a thing as bad just because it didn’t go according to the plan? And how often have we been wrong in doing that?
That job loss you went through may have opened doors to a better paying job or a job that you actually enjoy. The project you weren’t included in may have gotten you extra time to spend with your family or work on something you’re passionate about.
The things you instantly label as wrong can turn out to be the ones that can change your life for the better. The one way to bring that shift in your perspective is to start trusting that the universe is benevolent.
- Shift your focus
During the pandemic, two co-workers from an organization lost their jobs.
One went home and stayed in bed for several days blaming the pandemic and how everything went wrong only in his life.
The other discussed this situation with his family and decided to upskill himself and made a schedule for the entire month after which he’d try giving interviews for a new job.
In two months’ time, they both met again.
One had got an even better job than the one he had before and the other was still busy blaming the pandemic and everything in the world.
Our circumstances in life may never be ideal. There will always be challenges and friction in our lives.
If you focus on your circumstances, you’ll always have a lot to complain about. But if you shift your focus on your capabilities, the only option you’ll have is to keep going on.
There is always something you can do to change the direction of your life or to make things around you better. Instead of complaining about everything, try to be grateful for these challenges because they are opportunities in disguise, helping you grow and learn.
- Let loose the attitude of controlling everything
Let’s suppose you want a promotion. There’s a project that will be the decider factor for it.
You spend days on end working for it and you’re under a lot of stress.
What do you think is the reason behind that stress?
No. The reason you’re stressed is that you want everything in your life to go according to your wishes. You feel the need to control everything in your life and set it in such a way that it aligns with the perfect life you’ve dreamt about.
But life doesn’t work that way, right?
Maybe someone might have worked even harder than you for the promotion or someone could have gained an unfair advantage.
At the end of every such situation, ask yourself, “Is this under my control? Can I do something about it?”
If yes, work on that. If no, what will you gain by worrying about that thing?
Find things that you can be grateful for about the current situation. Not getting a promotion can mean extra time for working on something you’re passionate about or a chance to learn more about the current role.
If you let loose that attitude of wanting to control everything, you will end up seeing a lot of positives even when life doesn’t work your way.
If you only say one prayer in a day, make it “Thank you” – Rumi
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s difficult not to feel stressed, anxious or go through periods of despair. As a result, gratitude fails to grab our attention.
We go through our days bickering and complaining while the good moments in life go unappreciated. It’s these moments that we sadly end up missing the most.
So start today. It will not be easy but you can change your life, one day at a time.
Now, if you are an HR or Business Leader, by now you would have felt how the lack of ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ affects Employee Happiness as well as relationships both between employees as well as employee-employer. It is high-time business and HR Leaders focus on building an attitude of Gratitude among themselves as well as their team members.