Friday, December 22, 2017

Introducing the Dynamic Gratitude List

As I’ve noted in a prior blog post**, I aspire to live my life in the solution. That means I focus on generating options. I don't burrow down into or wallow in the problem. I remain optimistic. And I am resilient in the face of innumerable difficulties.

I am very much a work in progress in these arenas. One of the ways I practice the principles I’ve outlined is by making gratitude lists. In other words, being in the solution means acting in gratefulness towards all you have by noting those things in your life for which you are grateful.

People compile gratitude lists at set times during the day. For example, Tari Gevinson, editor-in-chief of Rookie, an online magazine for teens, writes down five things she’s grateful for at the beginning of each day. Others compile these lists at night when they review their entire day.

Here’s an example of a gratitude list I compiled one morning earlier this year:
  • My house
  • My wife
  • My cat
  • Our home
  • My parents

Taking action to compile gratitude lists can serve us well. It challenges us to pause to take stock of the good things in our lives. That's especially critical when we feel overwhelmed by negativity.

The problem is that we can fall into dreadful routines as we compile our lists. It becomes another thing that has to get done. Let me explain. I write down five things that I’m grateful for this morning. The next day I come up with five other things (if I put some thought into it). The process repeats daily until I’ve run out of things to be grateful for at that very moment. Or I see I’m repeating the same things every day. There’s nothing wrong with such repetition. Yet systematizing the making of gratitude lists can limit our universe of possibilities. That’s why I propose we embrace dynamic gratitude lists in our daily personal practice.

Dynamic gratitude is an in the moment, 24 hours/7 day a week commitment—a tall order indeed. It means we become and remain present and aware from moment to moment about what’s happening in our lives. In the process, we assess our feelings.

Dynamic gratitude means we note what’s good. We isolate the beauty, joy, and wonder that exists if only we challenge ourselves to do so. In other words, we’re noticing ourselves as we conduct our lives and engage the world. And we relish the beauty of things we can be grateful for.

Consider the following list of things I noted I am grateful for in the process of writing this blog post:
  • My laptop
  • My willingness to write
  • My maintaining of a blog
  • The tools that enable me to easily share my writing
  • A comfortable chair to sit in while I write

That’s a very different kind of list than I make in the morning or at night when I routinely make gratitude lists. It’s more specific, in the moment, and relevant to what’s actually happening.

Lest you think I’m a Pollyanna, let me add an important qualifying note. I know that pain, fear, and loss are not by themselves desirable or worthy of being grateful for. I’ve known enough of all three in my life to realize that. I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. Dynamic gratitude means I know all good and bad things will pass. The next moment, and the moment after that, and the one after that, will be different. We don’t have to stay stuck in ingratitude—or gratitude—for long. Everything will change, including our perspectives on our lives. 

So how about joining me in living a life of dynamic gratitude? You can start right now by picking up a pen, finding a notebook, and writing your first list. You can add to the list during the day during a pause in your activities. The following day goes on a different page. Soon, you’ll have a notebook full of all the things in your life for which you are grateful. With it and your vision board, you'll have a readily accessible source of happiness and inspiration I’d bet you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

** (I've written four blog posts on what it means to live "in the solution." Read them hereherehere, and here). 

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