Perhaps it was the endless winter that started it, but a few years ago I suddenly found myself feeling uncomfortably restless. Not Sell-Up-And-Move-To-South America-Restless, but antsy just the same.
Business had never been better, so that wasn’t causing the winter of my discontent. Or was it?
“Maybe I’m getting too comfortable,” I reasoned. “Maybe I need to stir things up, find a new challenge.” As I began concocting several possible adventures (including one that had me living in a motorhome), I was reminded of an old lesson I had conveniently forgotten – or, at least, neglected.
It came about one day during the Oprah Winfrey show when someone was sharing a frustration about their life. Almost offhandedly, Oprah said, “The best way to get the life you want is to begin appreciating the life you’ve got.”
When you notice the world, you notice it noticing you…
She went on to say that she’d started keeping a Gratitude Journal and every night wrote down at least five things that she felt grateful for that day.
Hearing Oprah talk about the Gratitude Journal jolted me into taking up my pen and beginning one of my own. Unlike Oprah, I didn’t write in it every night, but found that even after a few short months, my journal was full of revealing insights.
Looking over my cumulative list of things that I feel grateful to have in my life I find entries that include safe airplane flights, homemade chocolate chip cookies and sleeping in my own bed. Most of the list, however, is not about things.
My Gratitude List is heavily weighted with the names of people who have enriched my life in some way. There are names of my grandchildren, daughter and friends, the 400 people who made my favorite movies (listed collectively, of course), my siblings, seminar participants and readers of my writing, authors, and others who inspired or taught me something.
I am frequently dazzled, I am reminded, by the people who open my eyes a bit and cause me to see farther.
There has been an unexpected bonus with keeping a Gratitude Journal. On days when I don’t feel grateful for much or self-doubt takes over, I need only pick up the journal and read a page or two to be reminded of what a rich life I have been living.
Page after page shows me that this is no mere exercise in being positive. I’ve got evidence that goodness is no stranger. In fact, it’s a faithful companion.
More and more, I see what sages and mystics have been saying all along: if we open our eyes and pay attention, the things that we seek are often right in front of us.
Artist Danny Gregory, who writes so eloquently about drawing as a way to become more conscious of our surroundings, says, “The world is always full of opportunity, of possibilities, of stimuli, of pots of gold. When you finally start to look around, to see clearly, to live in the now and dump your baggage, you can’t help but notice.
“When you notice the world, you notice it noticing you. You hear lyrics to songs you used to fast-forward through. You read poems carved in monuments. You open your fortune cookies. Small wonder the world suddenly seems to be flowing your way. It always did but perhaps you were too busy paddling upstream to notice.”
Seems to me that almost everyone enters a new year hoping it will be better than the one that came before it. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s not the only option. Discovering and celebrating the riches all around is the most reliable way to turn each and every year into the best one yet.
You may just need to pay closer attention now.
Barbara Winter is a writer and gypsy teacher who thinks hanging out with inspired entrepreneurs is as much fun as visiting a museum.