Self-Awareness 101 Episode 22: The Power Of Living In Gratitude
In this episode Willard discusses one of the first personal development tools that he used to move from living a life filled with anger with no resources for dealing with what was going on around him to a place of peace and resourcefulness. This is a skill he still uses to this day and teaches to others. By using the skill he will share with you, he was able to shift from constantly living in anger to living in gratitude and begin making greater contributions to those around him.
Today we're going to discuss the power of living in gratitude
I was recently having a conversation with a dear friend of mine, and she asked me, what I would say was one of the most powerful tools that I found in my own journey of self awareness. That was a tough question to answer because over the years there are points that you reach where one new idea, one new tool, will make a quantum leap for you in your growth.
I wanted to make sure that I answered the question honestly, and the one that just kept coming up was learning a tool that helped me begin living in gratitude. I kept trying to think of something "better" because it didn't seem like a big deal. But as I looked at it more, I realized though it may seem "simple", learning to even begin living in gratitude was actually a very powerful shift for me. It actually was one the skills that I used that made my first major accomplishment, because when I first started my journey of self awareness, I was a mess.
Some of you are familiar with my history from other videos; it's safe to say that when I started my journey, I was not the person that is sitting here today in many significant ways. I had no resources available to me at that time that I was aware of that would allow me to live a peaceful and productive life. I was an angry young man, and that is pretty much how I had lived most of my life. I didn't know anything about emotions, let alone that I had the power to manage emotions if I chose to. I actually couldn't tell the difference between an emotion and a belief. Over the years I have learned that is not uncommon and that is a whole other topic that we will address in the future about emotions versus beliefs.
People would ask me what I was feeling, and I never really had an answer. I thought I maintained pretty much a flat line when things would happen and that I was just not an emotional person. If something really good happened, I might vary a little bit, if something bad happened, I thought that I was pretty good at keeping cool and dealing with bad situations, but people around me saw my reactions differently.
In time, I found that the main emotion I was experiencing, the place where I spent most of my time, was living in a state of anger.
You may actually know someone who lives like that. Someone who doesn't deal well with situations when they're confronted with them. It seems that when life throws a curve ball their way, they don't respond constructively, because they don't have options available that allow them to respond in a positive way.
I can tell you from my own experience that if you are in that state of anger, or frustration, or rage you have very limited resources available to you. I can say that because I spent so much time as an angry person. I had very limited options to respond to things when they happened, and I never realized it. As Tony Robbins says, "People do the best they can with the resources they have." Have you ever noticed that when you are an angry person, you don't have the ability to respond in a healthy way to problems. You've usually got one reaction; anything that comes at you... fight it. But when you are living in gratitude you see the world in a completely different way that gives you access to resources that you never would have had otherwise.
When I started my journey of self awareness, I had people around me who were trying to help me take a better look at myself. You know, being able to explore the self in self-awareness was not part my ability at that point.
There was actually an exercise in the rehab that I was involved in called "The Hot Seat". This was where I was physically placed in the middle of the room, and it was where other people were metaphorically shining a spotlight on me saying, "Take a look at this."
It didn't take long until one of the people asked, "What are you so angry about?" Well from my perspective I was not angry at anything so I said so. But they did not let up. "Yes you are. What are you so angry about?" And they just kept hammering me with this question. I had a circle of literally 20 people sitting around me; me sitting on a chair in the middle, and every one of those 20 people continuing to ask me, "What are you so angry about?" Until I finally got angry and exploded.
I screamed, "You want to know why I'm angry?!?! Here's why!!" And I went off on a rant. I can't even tell you how long I went on screaming, but it was the first time I realized that I was angry at everything. I was angry at my family, I was angry at God, I was angry about losing my leg, I was angry about having been in jail, I was angry about something as simple and silly as the weather, I was angry at everything.
They let me rant until I got it all out of my system, and then they started asking me some different kinds of questions. They started trying to direct my focus away from the anger. But I was stubborn, I was very stubborn.
They said, "We can appreciate you being angry because of these things that have happened to you, but let's look at something differently. What could you be grateful for?" I was thinking they were crazy. I said, "Grateful for? Nothing." Weren't they listening? I had just explained to them everything that was wrong in my life. What did I have to be grateful for?
One of them suggested, "You have an option, you can choose living in anger, or living in gratitude." I had options? What were they talking about? They continued, "You woke up this morning, other people didn't." And they tried to say it in a humorous way. But I wasn't in a humorous mood. My response was, "The one who didn't wake up, they're the lucky one. They don't have to deal with all this crap."
I was starting to get a very good look at just how angry of a person I was. I know it wasn't easy for them to do this, and today I thank them for sticking with it because they truly made an impact on how I live my life now.
They kept asking me what I could be grateful for. They wouldn't stop. They kept offering suggestions of things I could be grateful for, that today as I look back, it is almost embarrassing of how stubborn I was being. But they had to point out to me these things for me to start shifting from that place of living in anger into a place of even beginning living in gratitude.
They said to me things like, "You woke up this morning and you could see. Other people will never see the face of their loved ones. The only thing they will see is darkness. You woke up this morning and you could hear that music that you love so much. Some people will never get to experience that." These people were good at what they did. They were committed to getting me to open my eyes because they kept hammering with these "little things" to be grateful for. "You know, you woke up this morning and you were able to walk. You may only have one leg to stand on, but some people don't even have that. They never get out of their bed, or out of a wheelchair."
I started feeling like a very selfish bastard. I started learning that I did have things to be grateful for. Through this process they gave me one of the first tools I would use, which was called a gratitude list. They suggested that I go back to my room and that I sit down and start making a list of things to be grateful for. They said, "If you don't feel grateful, ask yourself if you weren't so stubborn, what COULD you be grateful for?
That little shift in the question, made a huge difference because I was able to come up with quite a long list.
Now I'm not going to sit here and say, I made one gratitude list and I shifted from being an angry bastard to a happy person who started living in gratitude for the rest of my life. Not even close. I spent too many years being angry.
What happened was that I was given a tool that I used daily because I was committed to making a change. Every day when I got up and I felt that anger swirling around me, I would sit down and ask, "Okay, what am I grateful for?" And I can't tell you how many days, my first response was, “Nothing." Then I would change the question to, "Okay, if I wasn't so stubborn, what could I be grateful for?" Then I would use the same list that they hammered me with. I would say, "You know what, I can see this morning, I can hear, I can taste, I can smell, I can..." on and on down the list, until I could find other things to be grateful for and literally, the way I saw the world would change as I shifted to living in gratitude.
I still use that tool today. Even though I speak about this subject often, even though I teach it, even though I've practiced these things for over twenty years now; life still throws curve balls and I still have choices on how to react. I can react with frustration, I can react with anger and sometimes I do. Anger is actually a healthy emotion. It's a matter of what we do with it. But today, I choose how long I am going to stay angry, and what I am ultimately going to do about it.
One of the tools I know I can always go to is the gratitude list. I can stop myself and say, "Okay, what do I need to do, to get myself out of this place? I need to get into a more resourceful emotional state. Let's start with gratitude."
Again, when you're in that place of anger, I don't know, maybe you have had this experience yourself or maybe you've seen other people that if they're angry, you can't get them to see any other prospective. They only have one and it’s the one they are fighting against.
Learning to become more self aware, learning to find ways to be positive is not about saying, "The world is fine and I'm a happy person." It is about being able to be more resourceful in dealing with some of the hits that life gives you. Maybe you just lost your job. Maybe someone close to you just died. Maybe a relationship that was really important to you just ended. Even in the worst of times, you can still find something to be grateful for.
For me, learning to begin living in gratitude was one of the most powerful lessons I learned in that rehab. It is one of the greatest tools I put in my tool kit that I still use today, and I want to share it with you. It's called a gratitude list.
When things aren't going the way that you want them to, or you feel like you're getting beat down and you need to find a way to become more resourceful, when you need to find a way to be able to deal with the situation more effectively; sit down, grab a pen and a paper and make a gratitude list. Actually for practice, do it right now, just to experience what living in gratitude feels like. You will notice a difference in how you look at the world when you do this.
So grab a pen and a paper right now, and ask yourself, "What can I be grateful for?" Write it down. And if you are a stubborn bastard like I was, change the question. Ask yourself, "Alright, if I wasn't so stubborn, what COULD I be grateful for?" Make a list. Keep asking, "What am I grateful for?" Keep going until you feel that emotion shift and you begin living in gratitude. You'll be surprised, it usually doesn't take long for the shift to happen. Then look at some of the problems you are dealing with in your life. And ask yourself how you can deal with them with this new state of mind? It's a valuable tool. It has worked tremendously for me over the years.
I look forward to hearing how living in gratitude works for you. I look forward to your feedback. We'll see you again soon.
If you enjoyed this episode on Living in Gratitude, choose another Episode you would like to watch from the list below:
Self-Awareness 101 Series with Transcription Plus
Introduction To Self-Awareness 101: To Inspire, Educate and Empower
SA 101 Episode 1: The Importance of Developing Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 2: How to Truly Learn from Mistakes
SA 101 Episode 3: To Soar, I Needed To Let Go Of The Past
SA 101 Episode 4: The Meaning That We Give Things
SA 101 Episode 5: Kind Words And Good Deeds Are Eternal
SA 101 Episode 6: Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone
SA 101 Episode 7: Two Most Powerful Words You'll Ever Say
SA 101 Episode 8: Making Time For What's Truly Important
SA 101 Episode 9: Expectations and Desires About How It Ought To Be
SA 101 Episode 10: Tap Into The Sources Of The Universe
SA 101 Episode 11: The Four Agreements
SA 101 Episode 12: Courage-Being Scared But Saddling Up Anyways
SA 101 Episode 13: The Power Of Belief Systems
SA 101 Episode 14: Change Is Inevitable, Growth Is Optional
SA 101 Episode 15: You Always Have Choices, It's OK To Say No
SA 101 Episode 16: Encountering External Resistance To Change
SA 101 Episode 17: Creating A Supportive Environment
SA 101 Episode 18: Our Decisions Determine Who We Become
SA 101 Episode 19: Questions To Ask When You Overcome An Obstacle
SA 101 Episode 20: A List Of Excuses Vs. Results
SA 101 Episode 21: The Meaning Of Honesty
SA 101 Episode 22: Living In Gratitude
SA 101 Episode 23: Repetitive Patterns
SA 101 Episode 24: Non-Verbal Cues
SA 101 Episode 25: Be Brave Enough To Accept The Help Of Others
SA 101 Episode 26: Positive Thoughts And Positive Intentions
SA 101 Episode 27: Active Listening Skills
SA 101 Episode 28: How Self-Awareness Relates To Spirituality
SA 101 Episode 29: Positive Affirmations
SA 101 Episode 30: Basic Meditation Exercises
SA 101 Episode 31: Personal Development At Work
SA 101 Episode 32: Toxic Shame
SA 101 Episode 33: Eliminating Clutter
SA 101 Episode 34: How To Forgive Others
SA 101 Episode 35: Self-Forgiveness
SA 101 Episode 36: Deepening Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 37: What Is Fear?
SA 101 Episode 38: How To Overcome Fear
SA 101 Episode 39: Dealing With Your Anger
SA 101 Episode 40: How To Find Your Passion
SA 101 Episode 41: Increasing Your Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 42: How To Feel Deserving
SA 101 Episode 43: How To Be A Humble Observer
SA 101 Episode 44: Progress Not Perfection
SA 101 Episode 45: Expectations And Perfectionism
SA 101 Episode 46: Dealing With Anger
SA 101 Episode 47: Taking Responsibility For Yourself
SA 101 Episode 48: Achieving Higher Consciousness
SA 101 Episode 49: Trust Life
SA 101 Episode 50: Being Skeptical
SA 101 Episode 51: Benefits Of Closure
SA 101 Episode 52: The Final Episode