The Gratitude Effect

“Too much gratitude may encourage behaviors which others have not previously been witnessed from you .”

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s prudent to count your blessings and really reflect on the influence and results it produced over the past year. In last week’s article (click here to read it), thankfulness and gratitude were presented as two different yet similar ideas and how their impact can be more powerful when combined as one continuous effort.

What makes someone become more thankful, and how does gratitude saturate our hearts and minds? In my experience, there was a conscious effort to become aware and increase those virtues. I had to remind myself to be vigilant and work at becoming more thankful. Although some circumstances may have warranted a completely opposite response, gratitude would soon help me maintain composure.  Eventually, this turned into a habit and now is more of a routine than an undertaking.

Clearly it has positively affected my actions in nearly all aspects of my behavior. It increased patience, amplified kindness, and definitely heightened compassion. While there is no single most important virtue, what has brought me the most noticeable changes is compassion. It has been the reason my life has become more giving, caring, and spawned a real interest in helping others.

Full disclosure, I must warn you about a hazardous side effects unquestionably brought on by too much compassion. When those repugnant feelings of too much good intention begin to infect your soul, you begin to worry less about your own wellbeing and focus on others. No longer is it important for the spotlight to cast your shadow but you delight when others shine. The victories and accomplishments of others may actually bring you more joy than your own.

You begin to work in conjunction and not in competition. It helps you acknowledge that while you may have put in a tremendous effort, there is always something or someone who aided you or believed in you which helped propel you to where you are. Business doesn’t translate to taking advantage of an opportunity but rather making the world a better place. 

 It is difficult, if not impossible, for greed and compassion to coexist. Although it’s important to be vigilant and discerning, compassion quickly erodes any semblance of selfishness and replaces it with a genuine concern which may have been lost years ago.

Compassion is a trap for the narcissist and a noose for the arrogant. It battles against self-importance and wars against egotism and conceit; never needing sophisticated weaponry or stealth aircraft to fight its battles. Sometimes it appears as though defeat is inevitable but ultimately finds a way to hold its head high and proud; knowing that integrity and decency is a reward far greater than any money or power could ever fill.

As this year comes to a close, count your opportunities for being thankful and grateful. Link them together to have, what was explained in last week’s article, “Thanktitude”. For if there were a way to reunite the divisions across the globe, it would begin when we realize all of us can be a part of reshaping our planet.

My thanks to Nathan Anderson for the beautiful photo. Find out more about him by clicking here. I look forward to your comments. 

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Always Thankful

“Being thankful is a sign of a grateful heart.”

This coming Thursday, we in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving. The holiday is a reminder of when early European settlers came to the “New World” to colonize it. While controversy still remains about the original event, it is always a good reminder for us to be extremely thankful for what we have.

Last week’s article (click here to read it), the idea of change was presented and how in most cases, we truly can only change ourselves. Ironically enough, if there is one virtue that has created a huge impact on me, it would have to be thankfulness and gratitude. Allow me to expand on that a bit because there are some who would argue the definitions are different. 

A linguist or wordsmith might tell you that thankfulness is a feeling and gratitude is an action. I’d like to combine both of those definitions into one word. For now, let’s call it “thanktitude”. The ability to be continually in a state of a thankful feeling while at the same time, showing it through one’s actions. 

After my healing journey began nearly 7 years ago, I often find myself being thankful for many things which previously were taken for granted. Thanktitude has manifested itself in me by being a much more giving and caring person. There has been a profound difference: one from which no other feeling, I believe, would ever reverse it.

What truly is the most important virtue that has resulted in me is compassion. It is nearly impossible to damage someone when showing them compassion. It provides empathy, promotes kindness, and genuinely endows an authentic need to care. It is true that these feelings can be tempered when others take advantage of that but one should not allow the ingratitude of others to negatively impact our own caring attitude.

Someone very dear to me once expressed a thought that has cemented its way into my psyche. She told me that she “always errors on the side of kindness”. Although I didn’t forget the phrase, it took a while for it to sink in because it wasn’t my default reaction. It’s stands to reason that our wall of defense gets a little taller or thicker each time we get hurt by showing kindness. Erroring on the side of kindness takes a cognizant effort along with battling our initial, negative reaction. It’s reminding yourself to act differently and when this happens enough, it becomes our default reaction.

This week, while the U.S. celebrates Thanksgiving, let the entire world remember to be – or rather to have Thanktitude. Carry the feeling of thankfulness and let it shine in your everyday encounters. Allow it to take action and work towards having it occur more often. There is so much more that unites us and division is typically the product of animosity and hostility. See how many lives you can impact even with something as easy as a smile. Thankfulness – just as change – occurs one person at a time.

My thanks to Brittney Dowel. Find out more about her  by clicking here. I look forward to your comments.

The Power to Change

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Photo by Jeremy Thomas of Unsplash

“The easiest change to make is often the most difficult to see.”

In last week’s article, the expression “Benevolent ignorance” was used to describe how people can become excessively zealous in their personal beliefs and values (click here to read it). It commonly occurs when a person is so convinced their ideals are of utmost importance and altruistic that anyone thinking differently needs to change.

Why this happens is easily understood. When we believe something is offensive, incorrect, or wrong, there is a strong urge triggering us to do something about it. Depending on one’s idiosyncrasies, it could be as trivial as correcting someone’s grammar or as significant as demanding an apology for differing views.

What all this means is that most of us have convictions that because they’re based solely on utmost integrity, there is no logic that would dictate anyone would or should feel differently. In order to persuade any opposition, some develop skills which make their points of view seem to be the only intelligent choice while making any opposing views appear ignorant, futile, or worthless.

This is the enigma of the human condition. Everyone has encountered this kind of experience. Whether it was from a parent, teacher, or a host of other situations, we all have either tried to convince someone or have had others try to “set us straight”.

There is nothing wrong with having firm beliefs. It does, however, become a problem when those ideas are mandated or forced on others. We all want to believe, especially when it comes to moral, ethical, or even political beliefs, that ours are only done for the purposes of good. Nothing is self-serving or opportunistic and since the end goal is only the betterment of all, anyone opposing these beliefs is simply wrong.

Forcing anyone to change is never real change. At best, it’s appeasement and at worst, it is brainwashing. People change because they either see a need or they want to. The only person whom we really have the power to change is ourselves.

No matter how firmly you believe in your values, think for one moment if someone were as adamant about forcing you to change yours. No doubt your objection could be so vigorous that you’d defend it to your own demise. If that is your stance, what makes you believe others won’t do the same?

As human beings we are constantly changing. We are not the same person we were 5 years ago. If we are to be the best version of ourselves then the goal should be how we can change ourselves. Peer into the mirror of self-reflection. Get out the figurative microscope and scrutinize your own intentions and purposes. Ask questions that ultimately alter your journey because the best way to influence others is by setting a stellar example to which others would gladly follow. The one thing that is true is that each of us has that power to change.

Thanks to Jeremy Thomas for the beautiful photo. To find out more about him, click here. I look forward to your comments.

In all Sincerity

 

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The Las Vegas Strip on a calm, Autumn morning

 

“The need to be right may be covering something wrong.”

Leadership is not the only thing which makes a community, nation, or even a business great. In last week’s article, (click here to read it) the duties and responsibilities of those being led were also considered. One person, no matter how great that leader is, cannot account for the success of the whole without inspiring the group to act.

Determination can be a huge factor in the success of a leader and that resolve will often  permeate throughout the group. Is it possible, however, for a leader to be so resolute towards an idea that it ultimately becomes divisive and corrodes some of its original intentions?

There are times when we believe in something so strongly that it would make sense for everyone else to feel almost the same. Nothing, in that belief, is self-serving and because its sole purpose is for good, logic would dictate that anyone who feels otherwise would be wrong. Allow me to explain with a personal example.

Many of you know I wrote a book about how I discovered my own shame controlled my thoughts and actions without my complete understanding. The book chronicled how I was able to overcome it and begin to heal. The result was a spiritual journey far greater than I could have ever imagined and now dedicate my life to helping others have a similar experience.

What I also learned was that no matter how miraculous that transformation was, I cannot expect that all others experience theirs in a similar way. At times, my zeal only chased some away. It confounded me at first. There was no question it was how my healing began and I figured others needed to experience it in a similar way. It was right for me and since there was nothing self-serving about discovering my own faults, it ought to be true for everyone else.

I’ve termed this style of reasoning as “benevolent ignorance”: when someone is certain he or she has only the best of intentions with no personal gain, that it develops into a resolve where everyone else must think that same way and those thinking differently are simply flat wrong.

We can often find examples by examining our own recent pasts. Frequently, we expect others to reason and think as we do although that is the quickest way to destroy a relationship. We haven’t walked in their shoes, traveled their same paths, and cannot always understand how those experiences formed their own opinions. Assuming or expecting them to come to our same conclusions is ignorant, no matter how benevolent we believe ours to be.

That is not to say being resolute or certain is wrong. Clearly we must trust in our beliefs but requiring and demanding others do the same will often produce contrary outcomes. All of us have the right to our own opinions but only a dictator can force theirs on those who are being led.

Thanks as always and I look forward to your comments.