Perhaps it’s my fast approaching 40th birthday, but in recent years, I’ve learned not to take the good stuff for granted. Sometimes the craziness of life can make it impossible to take a moment to be grateful. I know I don’t need to enumerate the many variations of our daily struggles, obligations, and to-do lists. I know you feel me and we know the struggle is real.
When I was younger, I knew I was never automatically entitled to anything, but I definitely felt that life should be fair. Fair meaning that if you worked hard, you were rewarded in some way. Maybe not by your boss, but some other piece of good karma would surely float your way because you’re a good person. You try your best to be friendly, courteous, hardworking, and balanced. I don’t believe in the fairness so much anymore, but I do subscribe to the idea of good karma.
January was a big month for me. I ran my first Disney race, the Star Wars Rebel Challenge. I got the promotion I’ve been working toward for three years. It came with a raise, too, and I’m able to breathe a little easier from month to month (and sock more away for future race entries). My marriage is stronger than ever, and my health is good. I think I’m getting some karma payback at this particular moment in time. Overall, life is pretty fricking awesome right now.
Just right now. Because we all know “fricking awesome” is a very temporary state.
I’m not trying to brag and don’t misunderstand me, there are certainly things in my life that aren’t going swimmingly, things that are too private to share with the interwebs. But my point is, when we find ourselves in a good place overall, we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the few difficult challenges and pass over the fricking awesome. It’s hard. I know. Here’s what we have to remember, we have to refuse to get distracted from all the amazing in life because it’s too precious, and all too fleeting.
Living in the moment is sooooooo hard. Finding two minutes to reflect on what is cause for happiness can be easily blotted out by the daily grind. Maybe for you it’s the stress of your kid’s schedule, demands and deadlines at work, bills piling up, or countless, never-ending chores to do. We all have different coping strategies, and here is what I’ve found works best for me.
Stop stressing over things I have no control over. This took me a long time to learn, but once I finally let go of worrying about every possible worst case scenario, I felt so free. Free to be. Free to come up with creative solutions when and if the need arose. Free to let other people worry about stuff. Free to put this extra crap I don’t need to carry around out of my mind.
Don’t waste emotional dollars on small grievances. Years ago, an employer sent me to this cheesy seminar (you know the ones) where I learned nifty strategies for dealing with difficult workplace challenges. This particular seminar taught me the concept of emotional dollars, and almost 20 years later, I still use this tool to check myself. How does it work? Like this; when you wake up in the morning, you have 100.00 emotional dollars in your “emotional bank account” for the whole day. Let’s say you spend 10 getting angry at the guy who cuts you off on the freeway, another 25.00 at the lunch waiter because he got your order wrong, and 40.00 listening to your annoying co-worker gripe about how much they hate their job. At the end of the day when you go home to your family, you only have 25.00 left to spend. Only twenty-five emotional dollars to spend on the people and relationships that really matter. I try to spend my dollars wisely because spending emotional energy on this kind of stuff drains me and leaves me emotionally unavailable to the people who count. Not to mention, very little left for positive appreciation and contentment.
Objectively look at my current situation and seek out the positives. Being objective about myself is super difficult, and I’m guessing that might be true for many folks. We’re always comparing and judging ourselves against others when the only comparison should be against ourselves. My strategy is to focus on the basics first, things we sometimes take for granted like having a home, healthy food and clean water, having a job, good health; you know, the important things. Even more effective is to reflect on my past. When I look back at my mistakes and wrong choices and see how they led me to my current situation, it’s easier to see how far I’ve come and be proud and content with myself.
Being grateful is a practice in mindfulness and living in the present. I’ve also had to learn to accept what I cannot change and forgive myself for some of my choices. I hope this post sends you some good karma and helps you find a little more peace and contentment.
How do you cope with stress and worry? Have you ever kept a gratitude journal? Tell us what you’re grateful for in the comments!