How do you find happiness?

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
 
L.M. Montgomery

I just finished reading a fascinating and compelling historical fiction titled “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan.  It is an incredible story about a young Italian patriot in WWII fighting against Nazi tyranny and oppression. When I read stories like this and what others have gone through it really puts everything in life firmly in perspective.  

One of my favorite passages in the entire book reads: “How do you find happiness?” Anna paused, then said, “You start by looking right around you for the blessings you have.  When you find them, be grateful.” “Father Re says the same thing,” Pino said, “He says, to give thanks for every day, no matter how flawed.  And to have faith in God and a better tomorrow.”

Finding happiness and enjoyment is truly a choice and a belief that, no matter what, there will be a better tomorrow.  

Gratitude into action = Thanksgiving…

“It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.”

Tim Keller

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It is a time where all the demands of the world seem to pause, if just for a moment.  Even though it can be stressful with cooking and cleaning and preparing for guests, it is work that is enjoyable and rewarding because of what it stands for; a celebration of thanks for all the incredible blessings that we have received in life.

Reading and reflecting on the quote above makes me ponder on the power of Thanksgiving, on the actions taken because of our gratitude.   Perhaps that is why this particular holiday is so celebrated.  It is a time when we pause to convert gratitude into action as we gather with friends and family and share our blessings.

Every day is an opportunity for an active Thanksgiving day.  But just once a year we have the Super Bowl, the championship, the over the top day where we actively celebrate thankfulness.  Today I hope that your Thanksgiving day is filled with happiness and gratitude.

 “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”  Psalms 9:1 

Thank you…

“For the veteran, thank you for bravely doing what you’re called to do so we can safely do what we’re free to do.”

Unknown

Thank you…

Thank you to all of those who served our country. Thank you to the families that sacrificed while their loved ones were away from home on long deployments.  Thank you for hearing the call of patriotism and freedom.  Thank you for giving yourself, so we can all be free.  Without you there is no such thing as freedom.

Thank you…

Gratitude is the foundation of riches…

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I know that I have so incredibly much to be grateful for in life.  We all have so much to be grateful for.  When I read this statement from Bonhoeffer (and if you haven’t read any of his works, or the exceptional biography written about him,  I highly encourage you to check them out) I was reminded of the power of including gratitude as part of your daily routine.  

It is as simple as writing down three things that you are grateful for each day.  I wrote about this back in July but I wanted to mention it again as I don’t think the power of this habit can be overstated.  I can speak from experience because of late I have been in a particularly busy season and this is one of the habits that I have allowed to go to the wayside.  Shame on me.  Without this daily perspective and attitude of thankfulness it is hard to keep the thief of joy at bay.  But a simple practice reframes the mind and lets one carry forward to serve others with a cheerful heart.  

I challenge you to simply try it for a week.  First thing in the morning, or just before bed at night, write down three things that have happened in the last 24 hours that you are particularly grateful for.  See how you feel after a week.  Then see if you can complete the month.  What better month of the year to express Thanksgiving than November?

See what happens.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Climb the wall!

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” 

Randy Pausch

If you haven’t read the Randy Pausch book “The Last Lecture” I HIGHLY recommend that you do so.  It is easily one of the most compelling and inspirational books I have read in my life.  I haven’t read it in a number of years but it is going to the very top of my queue to reread starting this weekend.  If you are interested there is also a video of his lecture that is well worth the time.  You can check that out here.

I believe the ability to overcome obstacles and achieve despite the barriers in front of you is one of the most critical to long-term success in life.  Whether you call it grit, determination, or perseverance it is a fundamental element that those who are successful (and defining success is for another post…) seem to have as a deep core character trait.  It is an attitudinal element that manifests through behavior.  Those that have it seem to live life with an “over, under, around or through” ethos that allows them to overcome any of the brick walls that life throws at them.

How do you approach the walls in life?  Is it with defeatism or an intense focus that allows you to drive and show just how badly you want something?

Give the gift…

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Arthur Ward

For some reason this reminds me of the age old philosophical question of, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?”  If you feel grateful to another person, but don’t share it, does it have the impact it could? I am HUGE proponent of daily journaling and specifically of keeping a gratitude journal.  Writing down the 3-5 things each day that I am grateful for, and why, has really been impactful in my life over the past 3-4 years.  To learn more check out this article on The Transformative Power of Gratitude.

As I read this quote it makes me think that perhaps I have been stuck in first gear regarding my gratitude habit. I journal daily about what I am grateful for, but I haven’t made sharing that gratitude a daily priority.  There are so many incredible gifts that we receive in life, isn’t the best and most appropriate response to simply say thank you?

Attitude of gratitude…

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I began a daily “gratitude journal” several years ago where I would write down the 3-5 things that happened within the past 24 hours that I was especially grateful for.  It started as a 21-day challenge that was nothing more than a simple bullet list of specific items. Over time this became an exercise of deeper and more reflective journalling.  Invariably “life” would take over and I’d miss a day, then a week because of the time it took to write all the pages that I now expected myself to produce.  So I stopped.  Why? Because I created an expectation of myself that missed the point of the exercise entirely. I made it formulaic instead of remaining connected with the essence of the exercise.  It was a religion versus a spiritual connection.

Why do we humans do this?  Why do we take the simple and make it complicated and overwhelming?  Maybe I am the only one who does this but I don’t think so.  I see it happen at work, I see it happen in my personal life.  I see it happen when I am not taking time to be grateful for the good things that are there and instead focus on all the ways I think things should be. Make no mistake, it is okay to be discontent with the status quo.  In fact, I think it is AWESOME to be relentlessly discontent with the status quo. But don’t sacrifice thoughtful gratitude in an effort to get better.  Gratitude is a launching pad for even greater things…

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