Raise your hand if you have thought something like this before: I will be successful if…I will be happy if… I will be worthy if ….
My hand is definitely up. I can think of a million ways I have finished a sentence like that in my head. Whatever lies at the other end of that sentence for you is a condition. And although conditions slide so easily into our minds, maybe they even disguise themselves as goals, creating conditions for our happiness is just not going to get us where we want to be. When I say something like, I will be successful if this campaign gets funded (I cannot tell you how many times this thought popped into my head over the course of our 30 day pre-sales campaign last month), I am letting my happiness, and more specifically my gratitude, be conditional on outside factors.
And it’s a slippery slope. I would let things like how many people showed up to an event or what percent of funding we received that day dictate my worth. And I was deep down this path as I continued to desperately measure, forgetting how to be present where I was. I was too busy measuring to appreciate the journey I was on and I was left feeling completely depleted.
Near the end of our campaign, in a rare moment when I was practicing being present, I was able to let everything else fall away: the stress, worry, and anxiety that had been eating me up. And I realized that what their ugly vines had been covering up was gratitude. This gratitude was not conditional on whether or not my campaign succeed or failed. This gratitude existed because I showed up, and the ones around me showed up. We were all given the gift of being able to show up for our lives. Friends, if you are a measurer like me, put those tapes away so you can show up for your life, and I mean really show up.
Here are some tips to help you out:
Be still - Stillness is a really good way to let all of the negative distractions fall away. I like to do this by meditating. I use the app Headspace and I love it. Some days it’s really hard to be still for 10 minutes, other days I find myself wanting more. But every time that I engage with the meditation exercises and let my mind be still, I always walk away with a greater sense of gratitude.
Sit down at the table for dinner - It really makes me sad that we don’t take time to gather around the table anymore (do I sound old fashioned?) But seriously, on days that Joe and I turn off the TV, and actually sit around our beautiful cherry table, I feel so much more connected to him. Some nights there are a lot to say, some nights not so much. But the thing is, it doesn’t really matter. We are inviting connection when we spend time together free of distractions. And guess what else, I always feel grateful for that connection.
Focus on what you have - It’s really easy to focus on the things we don’t have, the things we wished we had, and the things that if-only-we-had-this-then-we’d-be….But do you know where that leaves us, feeling ungrateful. Every time I catch myself dwelling on something I don’t have, I try to think of 3 things that I do have and that make my life mine. Of course, I almost immediately feel grateful for my wonderful life and remember that I have everything I need to be happy.
Take care of yourself - One of the best things that we can do to practice gratitude is taking good care of the most amazing thing that we have been uniquely given, our bodies. When we take time to do things like exercise, sleep, and make that leafy green smoothie, we remind ourselves that we are worth investing in. And that feels pretty darn good, not to mention the physical benefits. When we develop healthy routines we create a wonderful cycle of pouring into ourselves and then having the energy to pour into others.
Treat Yourself - In my opinion, this is just as important as taking care of yourself. Because life is meant to be enjoyed, am I right? When I let the pressure to be perfect keep me from enjoying life, I am not practicing unconditional gratitude. When I turn my really worthy goals (like eating well and living simply) into things that need to be measured and compared, I am not really focusing on creating the best life for me and those around me (even though it might look like I am). So ‘treat yourself’ is a daily reminder for me and it looks like a lot of different things: ending work an hour early, a second glass of wine, skipping a work-out to spend time with my husband. All of these things could make me feel guilty if I started measuring. But when I practice unconditional gratitude, these are the things that make room for so much joy.
Want more ways to practice gratitude? Download my free guide on how to actually start living according to your priorities.