“What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.
— Oprah Winfrey
What do you focus on?
Are you focusing on how the world is going to hell in a hand-basket? Or how so many things in your life are not -yet- what you want them to be?
You want to lose weight, you have acid reflux, or high cholesterol.
You don't have the money you want, the car you want, the _____ you want.
Your husband isn't doing the dishes or cleaning up the yard without your nudge.
Your kids aren't doing their chores or homework either.
Your boss keeps ignoring your request to review your project.
The list of what you do NOT want is endless. Is that what you want to expand? If the answer is no, then stop thinking about them! But our psychosis will usually retort, "but I have to think about them in order to change them!"
“...a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.
— Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein's meaning from the interview in which he originally said the quote above is often summarized and paraphrased as, "Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them."
Step 1 therefore is to stop focusing on that which is not working. Step 2 is to aspire to a new level of thinking.
It is reasonable to say that we have not yet attained a new level of thinking regarding our specific problem, for if we had, said problem would have already ceased to exist. And since we can't very well reach for a new level of thinking we have yet to know, the best thing we can do is to move into appreciation.
The magic of gratitude is that it will immediately set us on the journey towards a new level of thinking. Gratitude is automatic and it can start anywhere.
Creating a gratitude practice has had some popularity for a few years. The idea is to write anywhere from one to a whole list of gratitudes at the end of every day. That's one way of doing it.
Here's my favorite way: when you catch yourself focusing on an undesired thing, switch to a gratitude about that same thing.
Going back to the previous list:
Catch yourself thinking about your health issues? Find genuine appreciation for your able-bodied gifts: walking steps, being able to see your children's smiles and hear their laughs, your hands wrapping presents and feeling the warmth of your partner's hand in yours. Give yourself 2 minutes to REALLY feel the gratitude for the myriad experiences your body allows you to have EVERY. SINGLE. BREATHING. MOMENT.
Thinking about money woes? Give thanks and say grace as you think of your next meal, because you know you're not so short on change that you wouldn't have money to buy food. Appreciate that in this very instant you likely have 99% of your needs met. Give thanks that you can actually donate $1 or $1,000 to charities.
Griping about your partner? Turn immediately to appreciating what you love about them. What are the qualities in which they shine? How do they enrich your life when you are still enough to observe it? Watch your relationship shift as you switch into appreciation. It will blow your mind if you give it a few days of consistent practice.
Hating single life? I know this one well ;-) Find 2-3 things you appreciate about yourself. Love who you are in this moment and take yourself out on a date.
Are you nagging your kids to do their chores? Like above, switch to celebration and recognition. How are they the most amazing kids that have graced this earth?
Boss not giving you the time of day? Can you verbally thank them for something else they've done? Do it, challenge yourself to do it and let it go. Practice consistently thanking them. See what happens.
How does your job allow you to have a life of purpose?
When the well of gratitude feels particularly dry...
Sometimes life looks and feels so bleak we can't find anything to be grateful for.
In the past when I had those days, I would begin my gratitude practice with my bed. I'd think of my bed, the fact that I even HAVE one and that it's really cozy. I'd think of all the people who don't have a cozy bed to sleep in tonight. Instantaneously that would shift me into gratitude. It would easily flow from there.
What's one thing in your life in this moment that you are grateful for? Start with something really small.
What you focus on expands.
All you need to do for the good to expand in your life is to focus on it. Focus on what is already good. More will come.