Letting Go Of Gratitude

Who's got time for that s***?

Last Tuesday I posted this picture to Instagram.


I was on the early train from home in Ballarat to the St Kilda Rd office of a client.

I was due to deliver a four hour training course. By its completion I'd clock up 25 hours of face to face facilitation in a week, and close to 1000 km of travel.

With an hour to my destination, I did not want to go. 

The voice in my head was moaning, 'I don't want to do this. I don't have the energy to stand in front of people and talk. I'm tired. Don't make me do this. Can't I just turn around and go home? Please?'

I arrived in the CBD with 30 minutes til my start time and a tram journey ahead of me. I procrastinated at every opportunity. 

I'll just go to the toilet...

Better get a coffee...

Ooh, that's a lovely scene. I'll take a photo....

Hmm, that tram's too full. I'll get the next one.

Too full. Next one.

Maybe the next one...

It was an exercise in behaviour defying logic and reason.

I had to be at my destination on time yet I did everything I could to make myself late. 

Even for me (a chronically late insane person) this was an epic attempt to delay the inevitable.  

As my deadline drew closer my conscience kicked in. I pressed the mental accelerator, focused and made it to my destination on time.

I still didn't want to be there. It was taking every ounce of emotional energy to enter the building and walk to the training room.

But I did it.

On the train trip home I looked at the image I posted to Instagram. I read my words, and like a notification 'ping' in my mind, I remembered what gratitude is about.

It's not about the journal.

I bought a gratitude journal. I wrote in it for four days. I was grateful for my family. I was grateful for my health. I was grateful for an upcoming holiday. By day four I was grateful for a repaired garage door.

Day five is blank. 

After gathering dust for some time I hid the journal in my bedside drawer. The guilt got to me. 

Gratitude is not about the journal. It's not about letters to loved ones or apps or adding an extra 'should' to your day.

'I should write in my gratitude journal. It's supposed to make me happier' said with slumped shoulders.

Gratitude is not about what you should be doing at all.

Gratitude is a mode of thinking that helps us get through the tough moments. 

It's 'a sense of wonder, thankfulness and an appreciation for life,' says Robert Emmons, world expert on the topic.

True momentary gratitude lifts us above the drudgery and the 'shoulds' and 'musts'. True gratitude is awe and realising that we have a choice in every moment.

Not in what we do, but in how we think.

Choose choice. 

The Merrymaker Sisters alerted me that same morning to this 2 minute gratitude exercise. It's a variation on an activity I've seen before and they've added their own #merry take on it.

In it we're prompted to switch our thinking from 'have to' to 'choose to'.

I don't have to go to work. I choose to. 

I don't want to deliver client training today but I choose to because tomorrow I will work in my back yard in the sun.

Try it. It works.

It's a reminder that we can feel irritated, angry, frustrated, disappointed or sad. Or we can rethink it and choose gratitude and happiness.

I could have wallowed in my 'I don't want to do this' thinking and been miserable all day. It was hard not to. Exhausted from a busy week, my resilience was low, my optimism in short supply.  

But in the moment that I snapped that photo and wrote those words I chose to flip my thinking. I chose to be thankful for a beautiful view, an ancient landscape, a life of flexibility.

That choice gave my the perspective to keep going. It lifted me and carried me forward.

That's what gratitude is all about.

That's real, helpful, meaningful gratitude.

And that gratitude journal by my bed? I think I'll use it for the shopping list.

Your turn.

Have you tried flipping your thinking? Here's that gratitude exercise again.

Let me know how you go.