You’ve probably been hearing a lot about gratitude lately. As spiritual power tools go, it ranks among the highest in my book! Right next to prayer. I have a bit of a twist on the process of gratitude I’d like to share with you.
It started when I walked away from a marriage, friends, church and everything familiar. I had never held down a full time job and had to provide for my troubled teenager and I in a new city. The extraction from that marriage was messy to say the least. I had no backbone and had no idea who I was, much less what to do with myself. My teenager was falling down the rabbit hole of addiction and I was barely keeping food on the table. Some days I felt overwhelmed and I wished I could die. Some days I felt glad I was alive and free and had a chance for a better life. Some days I felt both at the same time.
I don’t remember how I got it, but I ended up with an old calendar – one with a pretty picture and positive saying on one side of the page and the week laid out on the other. The dates weren’t accurate because it was from the previous year, but I appreciated the beautiful pictures and the positive sayings a great deal, so I kept it.
Since the days didn’t matter, I began to write down every accomplishment, no matter how small. When I found something to be grateful for, I wrote that in the calendar. Many days in a row were blank. As the weeks and months dragged by, I started over the next year continuing to notice milestones I made . . . getting my own apartment . . . buying my first car . . . These were huge things I never thought I would ever do. I also noted the little things. The little things that made me smile, like a sunbreak in the clouds that seemed to shine down on me just when I needed it the most.
I noticed that as I turned the pages from one year to the next, that I had grown. On days when I felt overwhelmed and lost, I would see an accomplishment I’d made a year ago that I didn’t think I would ever to and I felt encouraged to do what was before me right now. Or I would remember some little gratitude that generated that same sense of gratitude again giving me the strength to look for Grace one more time. I would see the name of someone I appreciated and a kindness they had done for me and I was inspired to be kind yet again.
The most important acknowledgment I noted was during a group counseling session with multiple families whose kids were in the same treatment facility.
My ex and his wife were there along with Phil and I – showing support for our now 16 year old son and his 3rd trip through re-hab. There were about 30 people including the kids in a huge circle and we were doing some sort of activity. I don’t remember the circumstances, nor do I remember the words, but somehow my ex challenged me in a disdainful way in front of all these people. Normally I would have shut up, backed down, cowered and felt victimized. I don’t remember the words I said, but I do remember that I stood up and spoke my truth with calmness.
The entire room applauded! The ex backed down. In that moment, I had a spiritual spinal implant and overwhelming support as a result. In my calendar, (it was on the 3rd of the month. I don’t even remember which month or which year) I acknowledged the situation that put me at a point of choice and my decision to speak my truth with grace. Had I not had my calendar and the building of my strength that it gave me up to that point, I probably would have caved in one more time.
Acknowledgement is not about pride. It’s not about me being better than someone else. It’s acknowledging a moment of growth. Those acknowledgments become anchor points for the future. Once experienced, we never go back to the way we were. Not really. We may repeat some old behaviors, but the new person we are becoming sees the truth and moves closer to that reality with stronger dedication than before.
Gratitude is the emotional response to acknowledgement. Appreciation is the expression of awareness for another’s kindnesses in our behalf. This too, leads to the feeling of gratitude.
You see, we tend to remember the bad stuff. Researchers call this “negativity bias”. We tend to look for what isn’t working to protect ourselves and keep ourselves from harm. This smallness may feel like we are keeping ourselves safe, but in fact, it’s just keeping us in survival mode. Life is so much more!
I’ve noticed a lot of people lately saying how terrible 2019 was and how they hope 2020 will be better . . . 2019 probably held a lot of growth and beauty that got forgotten due to the negativity bias!
As you look at the close of this year and look to the hope of next year I hope you take the time to take note (literally!) of the people and their kindnesses towards you along with your own accomplishments. As you physically note these and take moments to ponder them, the feelings of gratitude will flow through you. These feelings of gratitude draw to you MORE THINGS FOR WHICH TO BE GRATEFUL!!!!
If you really want to bless your own life, use this powerful tool. I’m including a pdf of a simple Gratitude, Appreciation, and Acknowledgment sheet. Print out 31 of these. One for each day of the month. Make note of your Appreciation and make Acknowledgment of your own breakthrough’s and list opportunities to express Gratitude on that day of the month – any month. From month to month you will see changes and growth. Notice positive feelings expanding and positive experiences building.
I don’t have that old calendar anymore. Several moves later and it was lost to the chaos of change. Yet, the positive energy that practice gave me sustains itself in my awareness.
I’ve created other Gratitude, Appreciation, and Acknowledgment journals over the years and this process still continues to bless me.
Whether you check in with this every morning or every evening or even once in a while, at the end of 2020 you will have a record of positive and powerful experiences to build the rest of our life upon! Bless yourself with this simple tool and you will be richly blessed in all areas of your life.
May it be so!