Happiness is born from gratitude. If you want happiness in your life, cultivate gratitude. This is a simple insight, yet often elusive to attain. Living with a mindset of gratefulness was the mantra I was listening to from Brother David Steindl-Rast during his Ted Talk on an early morning drive.
The person I know that leads a life with gratitude is my 91 year old father. All my life I knew my Dad had an approach to life that I admired. The odd thing is I never put my finger on what exactly was the root of his approach until I asked myself, “who is the most grateful person I know?”
On my way home from work later that day, I did my usual routine and gave my Dad a call to check in on him. I asked, “how is your day going Dad?”
“Pretty well,” he said. “I have one issue though, my TV doesn’t seem to be working right.”
The TV is important for someone who is 91, lives alone and has limited mobility. So I asked, “what is the problem?”
“Well, I don’t get any channels except channel 2,” he replied.
“You only get one channel?” I asked.
“Yep, channel 2. But you know I was thinking to myself that at least I get Channel 2 and it is coming in perfectly clear!” he declared.
“That is great Dad, but maybe we could find a way to get the other channels going for you,” I replied. We took a few minutes over the phone and eventually figured out which button on his remote control he needed to push to bring all the channels back.
After I hung up, I thought about my morning drive on gratitude. What might seem as an inconvenience for most of us was an opportunity for my dad to show gratitude: “at least I get Channel 2.”
I remember my Dad telling me one time that “gratitude is the root of all other virtues.”
Gratefulness isn’t born into us, it is a cultivated and learned mindset. Hence, gratitude can be more present in our lives when we design for gratitude. The habits, rhythms and rituals present in our life often need a ‘gratitude cue’ to prompt the mindset we prefer. As Daniel Pink describes in his book Habit, “the cue is a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.” Often our ‘automatic mode’ is a mindset of scarcity, fear and anxiety. Brother David gives us the cue to design into our life: “stop, look, go.” Too often when we design our day, and hence our lives, we don’t stop and look so that we might go in the manner we desire. A gratitude cue of “stop, look, go” gives us a chance to recognize that “at least I get channel 2 and it is coming in perfectly clear.”