If you have spent any time at all in or around Fearless Living Institute, you've probably heard “Are you doing your gratitudes?" more times than you can count. And if you're like me, when someone asks you that, you have probably groaned inwardly and thought to yourself, “Yes, I've been doing them, but I don't get what the big deal is. I don't even get what they're supposed to be doing anyway. " So what are gratitudes supposed to be ‘doing'? What are they really for?
On the most obvious side, spending time being grateful is a pleasant way to pass the time - the world looks better, we may make ourselves feel happier for a little while - we may even find ourselves pleased at our creativity that we can turn some horrible complaint into an artful gratitude (Today I'm grateful that the cable guy was five hours late so that I could wash the entire kitchen floor with a toothbrush while I listened for the doorbell). This is the experience most folks have when starting to write gratitudes: it's nice & pleasant to be grateful but the real “point" isn't all that clear.
Writing gratitudes every day actually does some thing far deeper than just giving us a momentary pleasant experience if we do them long enough. Over time, they actually change how we see the world around us-it changes not only our perception of what we see-but it can also dramatically change WHAT we see. We see more of whatever we focus on. If we complain and focus on it, we see more things to complain about; if we are grateful, we see things that we are grateful for. But to many people, those are just words on a page and doesn't mean anything until that perception shift actually occurs for us (and for that to happen, we have to stick it out, writing gratitude after gratitude for possibly a long time before that happens, and many people give up before then).
I had an experience the other day that brought home this perceptual shift. Since January, I've been exercising almost every day with videos in my living room. I do my best to keep the variety up by using lots of different tapes and DVDs, but I have a few favorite workouts. One of my favorites is a heck of a workout and lots of fun, but one of the exercisers in the video really, really bothered me. She was one of the background exercisers, but the camera person appeared to be enamored with her and would zoom in on her at every opportunity. In other videos, this woman doesn't bother me, but in this one, she continually mugs for the camera in this flirty, fake smile, eye-softening, I'm-posing-for-my-prom-and- I'm-looking-for-a-husband-did-you-notice-my-new- hair-do-sort-of-way. She smiles at the camera like a 50's housewife, tilting her head and softening her gaze as though she's just come from the kitchen with a pineapple upside down cake greeting her husband at the door and offering to go straight into the bedroom if he doesn't feel like eating it. In an exercise video, this is totally bizarre. And, for whatever reason, it REALLY bothered me and I'd start to get really annoyed and even angry the more I looked at her (which happened frequently because most of the cutaway shots were close-ups of her face).
I realized that I really, really, REALLY wanted to enjoy my workout. I loved this DVD, but watching this woman was driving me nuts (and yet, I still needed to watch the screen for the proper form of the exercises). So I started focusing on the exercisers behind her. I'd look at the smaller forms of the people the camera person wasn't enamored with- - whether their whole bodies were on screen or not-if it was just a torso, I watched it, just a leg, I watched it, and pulled my eyes back to it every time my eyes drifted back to the “Are you falling in love with me yet?" face of the woman who I found so annoying. Daily I forced myself to look at the other exercisers. If I felt myself getting annoyed, I'd check to make sure I was looking at the women in the back. And then one day, the miraculous happened. I did the whole workout, and I didn't even SEE the woman I was annoyed with. She was right there, big as life, taking up most of the screen with her prom queen smile, but I didn't even SEE her. It was actually as though she wasn't even on the DVD. I had trained myself so well to see only the people BEHIND her, that I had gotten to the point where they were ALL I saw! And my workout, as a result, was fun again. Fifty-five minutes of step aerobics and weight lifting and it all felt fun instead of annoying. And that's when I finally ‘got it’ about gratitudes. If we train ourselves to see only one thing-we actually STOP seeing whatever it was we were focusing on before, as though it's not even there.
That's what's so great about gratitudes-if we keep it up, they will be all we see. We will interpret situations differently until we simply see them in a totally different way. We may still be annoyed when the cable guy is late, but it is entirely possible that our initial thought about it turns into something like “I'm so happy (grateful) to have the whole day open and free so that I can finally scrub the crevices of the kitchen floor with a toothbrush-I've been wanting to do it for a long time and am so psyched that today I finally have a chance to do it. I hope the cable guy takes his time, because it's nice to have this stretch of time to do this!" No kidding!
If you want your world to look different-to be different than the one you see now, then write your gratitudes. Seek out things to be grateful for, train yourself to see only them, and don't let up. The world you will see, the life you will see after doing it regularly will be a world and a life you probably didn't even know was ever there. The truth is, it's been here all the time, waiting for you to focus on it, so that the world you're not grateful for can disappear. Focus on what you are grateful to see and soon that will be all that you see. That's what's so great about being grateful.
(c) 2008 Rebecca P. Soulette
Life Coach, Rebecca Soulette, CFLC III, is a senior level coach certified through the Fearless Living Institute. She is an expert in helping her clients to live fulfilling and balanced lives packed full of inspiration, joy, and freedom. She offers FREE ecourses, resources, teleclasses, private 1:1 and group coaching. For more information or to sign up for her FREE email newsletter, check out http://www.RebeccaSoulette.com
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