Is Gratitude Really an “Attitude”?

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook may periodically see posts from Peter Tarshis. Peter is a Toronto-area Real Estate Agent who you can do business with on a handshake. Peter lives key spiritual principles daily, and I consider it an honour to have him as a friend (a REAL friend, not just a Facebook friend).

From time-to-time, Peter will post a “Gratitude List” on Facebook, reminding me that I should be doing the same. I’ve been exceptionally busy lately. I have barely had time to breathe, it seems. Most mornings I’m up at 5 or 5:30 AM, and I don’t often get to bed until 11:30 PM. My business is very busy, since it’s post-New Year’s, and many people have resolved to make some important changes in their lives. I have the honour and privilege of helping them out, and I take that very, very seriously. I work a lot, sometimes, to make sure they have the routines and nutrition plans they need to take them to where they want to go.

But I found myself a few days ago in a place of frustration. Frustration that my work hours are so long, that I have so little time to myself, for Emi, and for my dogs (some of you may have seen the post I shared about what my dogs are really thinking). If I let that get away from me, I can lose sight of what’s really going on. At that moment, I almost did, until I remembered Peter and his gratitude lists.

You see, the fact is that I am doing something today that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE. I will happily work the crazy long hours, because it’s a passion of mine, my first love. Each client is first and foremost an individual. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution at Fit in 20. They’re like a puzzle, and my job is to organize, arrange and ultimately assemble the pieces so that these people with hopes and dreams achieve what they want to achieve. Each one is so different, and I love the challenge of trying to figure out how best to help them. How much exercise, how often, and what kind? How best to organize their food plan? What macronutrient ratio? Do they need supplementation and/or special foods to overcome issues such as food allergies/intolerances that can contribute to a slower metabolism? Figuring answers to these questions – and more – is something I love to do.

So after I threw a little hissy fit in my frustration a few days ago (yes, I’m human, I do that from time-to-time), I ran through a mental list of 10 things I’m grateful for. I’m lucky: I work 1 ½ days per week in a fitness store, so I channeled my hissy fit in to 2 minutes of boxing, hitting a heavy bag to get the frustration out. Then I mentally ran through my gratitude list, and called up my massage therapist to see if she could get me in for an appointment. She did, and I ended the day on a better note, meeting Emi for a nice dinner afterwards.

I’ve often heard the slogan that we need to have “An Attitude of Gratitude.” Gratitude for me is not primarily an attitude. It’s an action. I have to take the actions of gratitude in order to get the attitude of gratitude that I need to be happy. In the case of a few days ago, I had to mentally run through ten things I’m grateful for. I had to force myself. I didn’t want to, because the other option is self-pity, an expression of my ego that offers a crazy, self-centred satisfaction, and yet at the same time is so destructive to my soul.

Self-pity says “I have it way worse than you do.” I’ll want to say things like “You just don’t understand how bad it is,” or the ever-tempting “Why me? Why do I have to work so hard?” etc., etc. The fact of the matter is, when I force myself to work on gratitude, then – and only then – can I see the truth. MANY people work as hard as I do. Several work even harder, and they have to work jobs they don’t even like, and often detest. There are those who work harder than I do, at a job that they detest AND they only make minimum wage. I had best be grateful for what I have!

Self-pity is a soul-killer, and I can’t afford to have it in my life today. The fact is I have a lot to be grateful for. How about you? Here’s my list:

1. A roof over my head
2. 4 healthy, beautiful dogs
3. A wonderful, loving, caring and kind life partner
4. A vehicle with gas in it to get me around
5. A business that I love to work at AND it pays our bills
6. Both parents are still alive and healthy
7. Great friends who actually care about me
8. Excellent teachers and mentors who challenge me to always move beyond where I’m at
9. My French course at Collège Boréal, where I have learned enough to be able to communicate in Canada’s other official language; and
10. A Higher Power that cares about me and my welfare

Yes, I believe in a Higher Power. If that makes you uncomfortable, then all I’ll say is this: it doesn’t bother me what you believe, or don’t believe. You’ll never hear me try to convince you to believe what I do. That journey is yours, and I support you on it, wherever you’re at. The concept of a loving, caring, Higher Power works for me, however, and often – I believe – is the thing that helps me to get out of myself (my self-pity), and in to action (i.e. gratitude).

The first action I must always take, whenever self-pity is knocking at the door, is to work a gratitude list. Then the second thing is to go and help someone else, preferably without being found out. A friend of mine in Georgia, Ed, when he’s feeling down, likes to go through a Drive-Through and pay for the meal of the person behind him. The key for him is to get out of the parking lot before they catch him and thank him. Alternately you can shovel someone’s driveway (yup it’s winter here in Canada!), mow their lawn (for you lucky bucks in Florida ), pick up garbage in a park, do something to get yourself out of yourself.

Gratitude is an action. I must act first, and then the feeling of gratitude will follow. When I’m in self-pity I am rarely able to move out of it by thinking my way out of it. As a matter of fact, I can’t recall a time when I’ve successfully managed my way out of it through thinking.

So, what are you grateful for today? What actions will you take to secure your gratitude? Who will you help – without getting caught – and when? Take the actions, and you will end up with an attitude of gratitude!