Today as I made my way through town at lunch there were lots of tourists around, peeping into shop windows, snapping away on cameras and generally poking about the place.
As on most summer days a cruise ship had stopped by. I love it when we get visitors – I feel honoured that people travel a long way to check out my home. On this occasion, the way they were taking such interest in everything struck me. I followed the steady gaze of one man to the old pink-granite church, and another’s to the boats bobbing out on still water. Watching them made me think about how much there is about my home that I take for granted, because I’m used to it.
I spent the rest of my journey considering the other good things in my life that I rarely acknowledge because of my familiarity with them, and came to the conclusion that there are mountains of them.
We have so much good stuff, don’t we? Our lives are rich. It’s fair to say that we enjoy more opportunities, wealth and comfort than those of any time before us. In many ways life is easier than it has ever been.
If we need something, we can pop along to a shop or press a couple of buttons; I don’t even have to put down my cup of tea to get a new tin opener delivered to my door. If we’re sick we have healthcare; and can receive cures for many of the things that would have been fatal to those before us.
In times past journeying a few miles was a rarity. Today we can be on the opposite side of the planet in a matter of hours.
Having a job and an employer who is obliged to look after us is not unusual in our time. How many men and women in centuries past spent life with their faces to the soil and backs to the sun to keep their families alive? What kind of luxury would a fridge have been, let alone one housing blemish-free, perfectly prepared food from every corner of the earth?
I’m so thankful for the times in which we live.
Richer but not happier
Despite all we have, do you ever find yourself feeling that you don’t quite have enough? I do. In spite of all of that we’ve gained, we often find ourselves unsatisfied. We wish we had more, and long for the things others have. It seems that all the stuff and comfort we’ve gained hasn’t made us happy.
Why is that? If freedom from low life expectancy and back breaking toil doesn’t put a smile on our faces, what on earth can? Is it possible to have nice things and be happy too, or are we doomed to a life of unceasing dissatisfaction and restlessness?
The answer, I believe, is almost entirely down to one factor – our level of thankfulness.
Life or death
For every good thing that we receive, If our response is not thankfulness, the thing that was meant for our good actually leaves us worse-off. Despite acquiring something new, we become poorer.
If, on the other hand, we chose to respond to the things we have and receive with thankfulness, we give them the power to bring us joy.
For example, when Roger the tiler’s boss pays him at the end of the week, he has a choice. The first option is to peer into the brown envelope and think to himself, I wish I had a better job and earned more, like Bryan. Then I could have a decent car and take the family on holidays to the Caribbean. Life would be easier – we would be so much happier.
Do you see how despite gaining something good in the form of money, poor Rog feels worse off?
The second option would be for the guy to take control of his thoughts and announce, I’m so grateful that I have a job. I’m thankful that we earn enough to feed and clothe our children, and have some leftover to spend on fun stuff.
Now, instead of sliding into a pit of misery, Roger’s on his way to a state of joyful contentment. The same envelope of cash, just different thoughts producing two very different people. Which one do you think his kids would like to come through the front door that evening?
Being thankful rather than ungrateful brings out the very best in us. If you want to shine, start looking for things in your life that are good and celebrate them. They might be big things, or tiny ones – it really doesn’t matter.
Choosing a lifestyle of thankfulness doesn’t mean giving up on dreams – but being content on the road to reaching them. It’s very possible to enjoy the now while looking forward to even better things to come. Living this way causes every bit of progress and good new thing to bring you joy. An ungrateful life, on the other hand, means that there is never enough to make you happy.
So, why not have a go at taking charge of your thoughts? Each morning as you crunch through toast or brush your hair inform you mind of your intentions for the day. ‘Brain, listen up! Today we’re choosing thankfulness.’ When gratitude is your default position, joy will never be far away, and you’ll position yourself to receive even more good things.