Living Gratitude And Other Positive Habits

As I've mentioned in at least one post in the past, I've been using my drive time to and from work as a time for thinking. I like having this quiet time to let my mind go wild and dart around to wherever it feels it needs to be. This darting, over time, ends up covering every aspect of my life that happens to be at the front of my mind at the time.

Self-improvement is something that I actively seek out, more so the older I've gotten, and even more so since I got married four years ago. This year in particular, I've been working on "upping my game" on a more personal "in my head" kind of way, and I have been inspired by others who have achieved success, especially those who have achieved success in similar ways that I aspire to. I've talked about gratitude in the past, specifically in the post, "Amazing," and while gratitude hasn't always been as forward in my mind as it should be, it's not something I have often forgot about for too long.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a video from someone I've been following on social media over the last few months, Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary was interviewing another motivational person, Tony Robbins, for one of the many videos that Gary puts out on social media. Although there were a lot of good points to take from that conversation, the portion of time they spoke about gratitude stuck with me a little differently than it has in the past. When I have heard others talking about its importance, I acknowledge the point and move on, knowing that what they're saying seems valid and true. This time, I decided to try it on and see how it fits.

What Gary and Tony were talking about was building the habit of being grateful into a person's everyday schedule. It's not enough to understand gratitude's importance, a person needs to live gratitude, and to build that habit, a person needs to be intentional with their actions. They and many other people who would be considered successful see it as an essential building block of their success.

But wait...

Right now, you may be thinking, "I don't really care to aspire to what they have done. I have my own dreams." To that I say, success is how you define it, and any improvement to your life will make you more successful in the way that you choose. Living gratitude may be the missing piece in you being a better spouse or parent. It may be the vital weapon in your battle with addiction. Maybe, it's what caused you to find your purpose. Who knows, it could be the real reason, the real catalyst to how you became a millionaire. The way success can apply to an individual is endless.

What Gary and Tony do, as do many successful people that have been asked, is find time every day to be grateful. Even though they both do this in different ways, the bottom line is that they leave the experience with the same outcome—a higher awareness of themselves and their lives and a positive manipulation of their attitudes. The idea is that when a person forces themselves to acknowledge, realize, and remember what they have to be grateful for, what they are living for, negative thoughts and emotions have a harder time creeping in and ruining a person's day, relationships, their general outlook on life, whatever, etc, moving forward. If done correctly and is maintained, it can be a total transformation of the self. It's reprogramming the brain for the better, to increase the likelihood of positivity every day. Happy people are successful, if only because they are happy!

As I stated previously, I decided to try it on and see how it fits. A daily gratitude session, that is. And while my methods and subject matters are sure to change over time with the passing of life, the intent, the habit, and the outcome won't. I have been holding a "gratitude session" every morning that I've went to work for the last two weeks, ever since I watched the video. The reason I've done it every morning before I work is because those mornings seem to be the easiest for me to try out new habits. Eventually, I'd like to transition these habits to be an every day occurrence.

One of those habits is waking up early at five a.m. The other is reading out of a book before I leave for work. Someday, maybe, I could include exercise or drumming into that morning routine. Without getting up at five a.m., I'm not likely to be able to even have a chance at doing any of these and other things, because my wife and kids need me in other ways. For non-working days, getting up before them is key.

However, there's more to getting up at five a.m. than the act of making the choice to get up. The toddler still sleeps in a crib in our room and can be pretty restless. Since he's been born, I sleep in a spare bedroom in the basement on work nights so that I don't disturb him with my early morning alarms, and he doesn't disturb me with cries in the night. My wife is a stay-at-home mom, and I work as much overtime as I can to help make up for this. Plus, we want to be comfortable in our living with an eye to the future as well. Money is nice to have.

On non-work nights, I sleep in the room with my wife and toddler. If I made it a priority to wake at five a.m. every day, then the only REAL solution is to sleep in the spare room until the toddler can handle being roommates with my other son. We're not there yet. I'm sure my wife doesn't want to be woken up that early either, but I don't see that being a problem, since it wasn't a problem before I started sleeping in the basement on work nights. Our marriage is strong, but that's in part because we have healthy marriage habits. I don't want to permanently have separate bedrooms and neither does my wife. Also on non-working nights, we both tend to stay up a little later, talking, watching TV together, or sitting around a fire with family or friends, for example. Sometimes, I use that time to get some work done on the computer. This doesn't make getting up early any easier. Family dynamics and current habits don't always present easy solutions.

However, our priorities are what drive us and will, in the end, win out and determine our lives. How much or how little my life changes will be, in part, based upon my priorities. Whether or not I adopt a new habit or end an old one will depend on how much I want it to happen. Idealizing a life (and habits) you don't have can be a good thing until it becomes a bad thing. Dreams without action can become bitter thoughts. We can point a finger at others, but there will always be three pointing back at ourselves. The sayings could go on, but the points are ultimately the same. Do or do not, there is no try. There's only one person responsible for what you do with your life. YOU.

So, I've worked ten out of the last fourteen days. On each of those ten days, I got up and did my normal morning routine. I drove out of my neighborhood and onto the first major road, and that's when I'd start. Beginning with the most immediate and simple things I could think of, I would then think about the day and what unique things it presented that I could be grateful for. In fact, some of those things were the same everyday and those were the things I'd start with. I'm grateful for waking up, the cup of coffee I enjoyed, and the ability to read and learn from a book. From there I moved on to my family and specifics within that, the job that provides for us and so forth. Pretty simple, it doesn't take a lot of thought. Of course, at some point, it gets/can get more difficult and quite ridiculous trying to come up with more and more reasons, but by that time, my mind usually has wandered into other things I have going on in my life. I've never timed how long I spend on it, and it's different every day, but I would wager a guess I average about five to ten minutes, and that's definitely on the high side.

What have I noticed? Is there value in it?

Yes. I have a hard time denying that I've noticed a difference. A fluke? Perhaps, but for now, I plan on sticking with it. Last week was a long and tiring week for me between early mornings for work, late nights for multiple holiday get togethers, home projects, and weather that was both hot and humid. I was tired. I was beat. I'm getting older, not younger, and I could tell. Despite this, I think my general attitude and my interactions with my family would have been worse without my daily gratitude sessions. It's a hunch, but one grounded in a unique and intimate knowledge of myself. If I can see a difference in that small amount of time, in even the smallest of ways, just imagine how better I can make my life, my successes and happiness, by expressing to myself what I'm grateful for.

Another side effect of this new morning habit is that gratitude, whether it be the theory of gratitude or anything in particular to be grateful for, enters my mind once in a while during the day, which only reinforces the habit and its benefits. You may have noticed that it motivated me to write a post about it.

And yes, I do say them out loud in the car. I think it packs more of a mental punch. It also keeps me focused on the habit itself.

Maybe you should give it a shot? What are you grateful for?

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