“You can’t always get what you want . But if you try sometimes well you might find, You get what you need.” – M. Jagger / K. Richards
Life can be challenging. This summer has been no exception around the Storry house. With two business startups humming along, a house & yard to maintain, and the discovery of a little one on the way, there have been no shortage of urgent things to do and critical decisions to make. To put it mildly, there have been plenty of events that have occurred that I could dwell on in negative frustration. I think three-years-ago-me probably would have buckled over the stress, or at least not managed it well, if at all. I attribute the positive shift to my yoga & meditation practise. I’ve taken my practise more seriously over the last year by creating a regular routine around it.
Whether it’s the physical yoga, the mental mediation, or the studying of philosophy, I’ve found I can roll all these activities up into a more general concept of mindfulness practise. My meta-goal in all this is to simply be more mindful in my thought and action without necessarily identifying with any one specific discipline. A common suggestion across these disciplines is the cultivation of gratitude. Whenever I find a recurring theme across diverse sources, I figure there’s probably something to it! I recently read a Yoga Journal article on gratitude and a particular passage struck a cord:
“On the surface, gratitude appears to arise from a sense that you’re indebted to another for taking care of you in some way, but looking deeper, you’ll see that the feeling is actually a heightened awareness of your connection to everything else. Gratitude flows when you break out of the small, self-centered point of view —with its ferocious expectations and demands —and appreciate that through the labors and intentions and even the simple existence of an inconceivably large number of people, weather patterns, chemical reactions, and the like, you have been given the miracle of your life, with all the goodness in it today.
…When you awaken to the truth of this incredible interconnectedness, you are spontaneously filled with joy and appreciation. It is for this reason that one of the most transformative practices you can engage in is the cultivation of gratitude.”
It’s easy to focus on the things that go wrong. We humans seem to be wired to care far more about negative impacts and loss over positive benefit and gain. This principle of loss aversion has been well documented in the realm of marketing and finance psychology as a completely irrational human trait. Marketers have taken advantage of this irrational psychology for a long time in how they present offers to consumers, or the language they use to frame certain products over others.
So, when confronted with some challenge, it could be easy to dwell on the stress and let negativity feed. How do I ensure I don’t succumb to my own irrational psychology, and instead, develop a practise shifting focus to a more positive mindset? Perhaps the answers lay within the cultivation of gratitude. Let’s experiment.
For the next week I’m going to actively seek out and focus on being grateful for the many positive things in my life. I’m going to tweet them out as I take the time to notice and appreciate them, with the hashtag #gratitude. My goal is to see if this concentrated effort on gratitude does indeed awaken me to a state of more joy and appreciation.
Instead of focusing on not getting exactly what I want, I’m going to focus on what I am getting in my life and how I’m being supported by those around me and by the universe. As challenging as the summer has been in some ways, I reflect on the weeks gone by, and I can safely say that I am getting what I need. I’m actually maintaining a pretty positive mindset through it all, but why not throw a little more joy into the mix?
I’ll report back in a week or so.