Gratitude is a choice. A powerful choice
Especially in difficult seasons of life. Problem is, gratitude and contentment are unnatural responses for most of us humanoids. Even in normal times (are there such times?) being grateful doesn’t come automatically for the majority of humankind. Something in our psyche seems to be wired to default to complaining and negativity. During times of crisis, gratefulness tends to be more difficult to locate.
Even the Apostle Paul said: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” And a bit later he wrote: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” One of the greatest leaders in Christian history had to learn gratitude. Apparently, we’re not born with this aptitude. It must be acquired.
Question is . . . how does a leader—with everything swirling around them as the lead an organization–acquire it? Gratitude is something we all can agree we need, but how in the world do we get there? And why does it matter? Let me offer a few steps that move us toward gratitude:
Find God in every situation
In good situations, and in not-so-good situations. If you belong to Him, He is with you always—for real. He never wastes anything in our lives, whether it’s good or not-so-good. Ask Him, “What are You wanting to teach me in this situation Lord?” “What are You up to?” Even though the current situation you’re experiencing may simply stink, you can be certain God will leverage it for your good at some time in the future. We’re not grateful for the pain—we’re grateful for what God produces through the pain.
I’ve had more than a few leaders ask what inspired me to start Converge Coaching, and I tell them one of the catalysts was pain. The personal pain of major depression experienced years ago. The pain of watching leaders struggle with their emotional health, at times ending in their premature exit from vocational ministry. And for some, sadly, their premature exit from this world.
Pain can be a teacher if you try to find God in it. If you’re struggling to find Him in those moments, invite others into your pain to help you find God in it . . . a trusted friend or family member, a mentor, or a counselor.
Be grateful for what you have instead of ungrateful for what you don’t have
Today I’m thankful for legs that can walk, hands that can write, eyes that can see, ears that can hear, a brain that still functions, a roof over my head, food in the belly, a car that runs, a wife who loves me, children who are making something out of their lives, grandbabies who love papa and grandma, friends who are dear, work I love to do . . . and on and on it goes.
When we focus on what we don’t have, happiness and joy seem elusive. When we focus on what others have that we don’t, discontentment lurks. When we practice gratefulness for what we do have, we locate joy, no matter what circumstances swirl around us.
Focus on what’s left . . . not on what’s lost
I’m not suggesting we deny legitimate loss in our lives. If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced plenty of loss. Loss of life, loss of health, loss of personal contact with close friends, loss of certain freedoms, loss of income, etc. These losses are real and must be acknowledged as such. Denial is unhealthy.
But I’m learning all over again that even while I acknowledge and grieve these losses, good things still are happening in my life. So, while we grieve our losses, let’s also celebrate what’s left.
Perhaps you’re asking: “why does practicing gratefulness matter? Why should I put effort into it?”
Dr Randy Kamen in a HuffPost article spells out some reasons for practicing gratitude:
- Improved physical, emotional, and social well-being
- Greater optimism and happiness
- Improved feelings of connection in times of loss or crises
- Increased self-esteem
- Heightened energy levels
- Strengthened heart, immune system, and decreased blood pressure
- Improved emotional intelligence
- Expanded capacity for forgiveness
- Decreased stress, anxiety, depression, and headaches
- Improved self-care and greater likelihood to exercise
- Heightened spirituality
Convinced yet? Amazing power resides within gratitude. It’s worth the effort to develop this skill. It will help you lead better, lead longer, and enjoy it more!
You still may be thinking: “I’m not sure I can live this way.” Let Paul encourage you with his well-known line from Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Paul’s words here are written in the context of learning how to be content.
If we bring the effort, God will supply the strength to grow in this most important character quality.
I am grateful for you today!