ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Gratitude
Critical Concept: Gratitude is a choice, not a feeling.
The best description of the optimal wellness mindset is ultimately peace of mind. Individuals who enjoy peace of mind do not necessarily experience fewer challenges or opposition in their lives; they simply choose healthier responses.
Our ability to choose our response to a situation is a learned skill. Like a muscle, it requires time and practice to develop strength and coordination. Our inherent emotional reflexes are primal in origin and are rooted in our deepest survival mechanisms. They are neurological remnants from a time when threats to life and limb were a constant companion. Historically, they served us well by protecting us from predators. In the modern world, these ancient reflexes often cause worry and anxiety personally, and conflict and defensiveness in our relationships.
On a personal level you get to choose your attitude. Your attitude is a set of beliefs that are developed over time. Your attitude reflects your chosen belief system and dictates your behaviors and feelings. In any given situation you have the ability to choose your attitude and therefore your response to it.
Too often we become totally associated to our outcomes. In any given venture we have an objective (what we want to create), a process (how we do it) and an outcome (what we get). If we tend to associate too strongly to our outcomes, our lives will be an emotional roller-coaster, vacillating between elation and depression. 1 To combat this cycle, we must anchor ourselves to our Vision first, our Process second and our Outcome third. We simply cannot “do” an outcome. Our influence is found in our process, and that is where our focus should be.
To maintain this focus we must leverage gratitude. If our attitude reflects the belief that every circumstance provides an opportunity for growth, we can maintain a state of gratitude.
In every situation there is the possibility of receiving support or resistance. We can choose the perspective that promotes gratitude by recognizing that every source of opposition, challenge or struggle strengthens us. We can choose to be grateful for the opportunity to learn and develop. In these situations we can choose to allow stress to build in our hearts and minds or let gratitude fill our growing minds and spirit.
Conversely, if we experience support, we must choose to recognize it and be grateful. We should be careful not to take it for granted and miss the opportunity to recognize others for the support. A Bonfire best practice is to role model gratitude, recognition and appreciation in our relationships. Show others how we wish to be treated. Be deliberate and discuss this openly with the people you care about. Having clear standards for communication is as critical in our personal relationships as our professional ones.
Healthy people choose to fill their hearts and minds with gratitude at every opportunity like a traveler filling a canteen for a long journey. As James Macdonald says, your heart is like a bucket that you fill with your attitude. You never get to see what’s in the bucket until you bump it and its contents spill out.
On this journey called life there will be plenty of bumps. What will spill out of your bucket?