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Gratitude is a discipline

It is recommended that we all maintain the daily discipline of a gratitude list.

And reading the words discipline and gratitude in the same sentence can be a shock, yet my experience has shown me that happiness and gratitude takes training and work.

To wear life like a loose veil is a skill.

It does not come naturally.

For me anyway because I wake up each morning in anxiety.

I feel the knot of worry tightening in my stomach.

Anxiety twists my innards into a ball.

After years of becoming sick and tired of being led around by people, places and things I decided to draw a line in the sand and get well.

Very challenging when your natural state is discontent.

So, how did I make the change when each morning I wake up in a knot of worry?

Drum roll please maestro!

Before I get out of bed and into the day I do three things;

  • meditate
  • pray
  • make a gratitude list.

And some days are more successful than others.

Meditation slows me down and takes me out of my emotional mind and puts me into my reasonable mind.

Prayer keeps my ego in check. I am one man among 7.7 billion human beings. I am born to die and there are bigger forces at play. I am not an expert and I am not that important.

A gratitude list snaps my negativity in half and flips me into a positive state. Immediately, my focus is tuned into the well-being of others.

Let’s put this all into a perspective with a story.

This morning I was driving up the hill from Bondi Beach along Ocean Road. It is a local’s back way that avoids the madness and traffic of Bondi Road.

Leaning on a walking stick, in the middle of Ocean Road was an ancient, tiny, old man.

He was holding up his hand asking me to stop my car.

I drove up to him, wound down the window and said;

‘How can I help?’

In an Eastern European accent he replied;

“Can I get a lift up to the corner of Bondi Road?”

‘Of course you can.’ I said.

So I opened the passenger door and let him into the car.

He could hardly walk and bending into the car was difficult.

Once he got in, he turned to me and his face lit up my day.

He had a huge smile.

His eyes were a piercing light blue.

The cracks and crevasses in his cheeks and forehead told me of a life well led.

An old, old man but full of life.

This old chap had a tale to tell.

‘Where are you off to?’ I asked.

“Maccas for a feed.”

‘Bondi Junction?’

“No back down to the beach on a bus.”

I was blown away by his positive mind set.

The one minute he spent in my car was a lifetime of joy.

We laughed and chatted like old friends.

This old fella could hardly walk, lived on his own and was off to Maccas for a hot breakfast.

His age and physical ailments did not allow him the simple pleasure of cooking his own breakfast.

Yet, here he was smiling and laughing, grateful for the opportunity to catch a bus to McDonalds for a sausage and egg muffin or some hot cakes.

He was grateful to be alive and grateful to be part of the Bondi community.

Grateful to have access to public transport.

Grateful to have the small amount of money to visit a public restaurant.

And I was grateful to be granted a few minutes to share his energy and wisdom.

He passed on a huge life lesson.

So here is my gratitude list for today:

  1. A beautiful, intelligent, kind wife.
  2. Three amazing, courageous sons.
  3. My happy, loving dog.
  4. A fantastic job and team mates.
  5. Living near the ocean.

And the secrets to an effective gratitude list.

  • do it in the morning.
  • write it down.
  • for me, 5 points of gratitude is just right. Enough to stretch yourself and not too much so you forget the list.

I know it sounds like common sense but it is a rare skill and it works.

Remember, happiness is a choice but it takes discipline.

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