Dan Millman, described a time when his mentor, Socrates, challenged him to sit out on a large, flat stone until he had "something of value" to share. Dan sat out on the rock for hours. At different times, believing he had come up with something to share, he went to tell Socrates. Each of those times, Socrates decided the statement was not good enough, and he sent Dan back to the rock for more hours of pondering. Finally, Dan had an insight that he knew was something of value. When Dan shared this insight, Socrates looked up, smiled, and welcomed Dan back inside. The "something of value" that Dan had realized was this: "There are no ordinary moments."
This is the meaning of gratitude. Nothing in your life, not a single moment, should be taken for granted. There are no ordinary moments! When we develop gratitude for every moment, for the simple joys, as well as for the challenges that we face, we come to truly enjoy and appreciate life. We are then able to see the blessings of the Lord in our lives every second of every minute of every hour of every day.
There were times in my life, when something especially wonderful happened, and I genuinely felt grateful for being at that place and in that time. But I never really thought about consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude until I read a conference talk given by David B Haight, from the Ensign, Nov. 2002.
Now, each day, I try to come up with a few specific events that occurred during the day and for which I feel grateful. Some days, it is easy. Other days, it is more of a challenge, so I begin with the basics, like, "I am grateful for being alive, I am grateful for the gospel, I am grateful for my testimony."
As I give myself time, I always come up with more and more things that I am grateful for. It seems to be easier if I start with the little things that I am always thankful for. A home, church, family, work, a loving husband, food to eat, clothes to wear. You can start to get the picture.
There is an old saying in the Post Office where I work, "What gets measured, gets done". I have found that gratitude is actually a lot like that saying. It we don't acknowledge it, we don't notice the things we have in our lives to be grateful for. But, if we take a moment to really look, we can see the miracles and blessings that surround us. We can measure the things in our lives that we are grateful for. When it gets noticed, it gets done.
Sometimes, it seems a little hard to focus and think about gratitude. Especially, after a particularly bad day. (The day all the girls got the flu comes to mind). But, if I start with the basics, the things I am ALWAYS grateful for, somehow, it is not as difficult as it first seemed.
Trying to cultivate an attitude of gratitude has changed my life: I am much more happy and at peace than I have ever been before. I feel the spirit more often in my life. I recognize the Lord's hand in the daily experiences that I have. I appreciate the many little things that are done in my behalf every day.
I am certain that if you try to find a moment everyday to think about the gratitude you have for your many blessings, it will change your life also. Taking the time to think about the things for which you feel grateful is a way to increase your individual happiness. You are reminding yourself that there is good in your life, and ending your day on a positive note. You will also find more things than you ever noticed before to be grateful for.
This positive attitude seems to carry over from one day to the next. Over time, you may notice that you feel happier, closer to the spirit, and more aware of your blessings. You may realize that the "little annoyances" that would have disturbed you in the past, no longer bother you in quite the same way. The more you are appreciative, the more you will notice, throughout the day, so many other things for which you have reason to feel grateful.
Heavenly Father is aware of everything that happens to you. He doesn't cause things to happen, but he sometimes allows them to happen. Our difficult experiences often bring to us the greatest teachings of our life. Where ever there is pain, there will also come a blessing. So much so, that we will not have room to receive it. Sometimes, our experiences are meant to help us "morn with those who morn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort". Sometimes the challenges in our lives help us by developing and reaffirming our core values and beliefs.
When you can maintain an attitude of gratitude, even on a bad day, then the challenging days will not feel as bad, and the good days will just seem that much sweeter to you. You will realize, as Dan Millman did, that "There are no ordinary moments." You will begin to see the blessings in your everyday life.
Life is about choice. It is about free agency. Or, as the young women say, "choice and accountability". To be spiritual people, we must be willing to make spiritual choices. We must be willing to choose the right. In other words, we must be willing to act on our convictions. Honesty is a spiritual choice. So is faith, integrity, good works, virtue, and any other good thing. We owe it to ourselves to choose wisely. We can do that thanks to the principles that we have been taught.
"It’s so easy in life for us to receive blessings, many of them almost uncounted, and have things happen in our lives that can help change our lives, improve our lives, and bring the Spirit into our lives. But we sometimes take them for granted. How grateful we should be for the blessings that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings into our hearts and souls. I would remind all of you that if we’re ever going to show gratitude properly to our Heavenly Father, we should do it with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—because it was He who gave us life and breath" (David B. Haight, "Were There Not Ten Cleansed?," Ensign, Nov 2002, 24).
20 Little Attitudes
- Mind your manners. Say please, thank you and excuse me.
- Smile when you see your family. Turn your frown upside down.
- Pick up after yourself.
- Notice when others do kind things for you, show gratitude by action or words.
- Say I love you before going to bed.
- Give hugs daily.
- Don’t worry about tomorrow. Focus on what you are happy about today.
- Create gratitude journals to keep track of daily blessings.
- Show thankfulness for even the little things others do for you.
- Leave love notes in unexpected places like lunch boxes and under pillows.
- Encourage someone with a compliment.
- Verbalize what you are grateful for when you feel like complaining about life.
- Keep a basket of small slips of paper on the table. Write notes of thankfulness during the week and read them to each other during a family meal.
- Remember to thank God for blessings each day.
- Surprise your family (or friends) with little gifts or treats to show you thought of them.
- No grumbling about minor annoyances around the house.
- Do special things to cherish time with your family. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
- Reflect on happy memories regularly. Make inspiration boards of special times.
- Help someone out without them having to ask you. Watch for someone in need.
- When you are doing household chores, be grateful you have a home to clean.