On circumstances, gratitude and abundance.

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Dearest readers,

Today I wanted to write about a topic that I see not only people around me struggling with, but one that I struggle with myself every now and then.

Wishing

It seems to me that we are often occupied with wishing for things. “If only… then I would be so happy”. “I wish I had her life – I wish things would be so easy for me “. “I wish I could eat whatever I want and stay slim”. “I wish I was smarter”. “I wish I had more time”. “I wish he would understand me”. I wish. I wish.

Ever since  I moved to Switzerland, people frequently tell me they’d like to swap lives with me because I have “such an amazing life” (according to my pictures on Facebook/Instagram).

People see me as a very positive person living in a world of “sunshine, rainbows and unicorns”. But boy, I can tell you. In my head, my life is far from perfect too…! YES, I’m often unsatisfied and “wishing” too. To give you a sample of things I was unhappy about last week: I wished I could eat a kilogram of chocolate each day without gaining any weight. I wished I was a faster runner. I wished my boyfriend would have some more time every now and then. I wished I could see my sisters a bit more. I wished I had some more time for reading. I wished the weather would be better when my friends would be over to visit me. I wished I could enjoy the nice weather instead of spending my time behind my desk.

We seem to be on this lifelong path of seeking happiness – and mostly focusing on what is not there. We act as being dependent on the chances we get, our circumstances and our “wishes that’ll be granted”.

Lessons learned

I have been reading quite some books on self-motivation, self-improvement and self-development. Honestly, I realize some of you might not be fans of such books, but it has brought me great value (and I’ll share a blog post later with some insights from my favourite book). Reading these books, there’s definitely 3 things I’ve learned:

  1. Too often, we pretend to be victims of our circumstances. As Stephen Covey (one of my favourite authors) puts it: “When life does not go our way or we inadvertently make a mistake, it is so easy to make excuses, place blame on others, or argue that circumstances were against us. But we only progress in life to the extent that we take responsibility for our actions and attitudes, and put forth the initiative necessary to create our own circumstances” and “when we succumb to believing that we are victims of our circumstances and yield to the plight of determinism, we lose hope, we lose drive, and we settle into resignation and stagnation.” The moment we realize we are responsible for our own lives, is the moment we realize we can create and shape our lives as we want it to be.
  2. We create our own happiness. Knowing that we are the responsible for our lives we should know that “Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.” What is crucial here, is that we realize that even in case something bad happens, it is up to us to make the best out of it. And this could be about anything. For example, imagine you lose your job due to a restructuring in your company. It can be devastating. The question is: what do you do next? Will you stay home, on your sofa to complain about the situation, whilst watching some Netflix? Or will you go out and look for new opportunities?
  3. Practising gratitude makes us happy. But creating happiness is more than being responsible and “making the best out of life”. Creating happiness, being happy, being joyful,… is as well about realizing your blessings.

Yes, we may be born in “bad” circumstances. We may be unhappy with certain aspects of life. But how “bad” are these things in fact? In case you experienced a traumatic experience, then yes, I agree you will probably suffer from it mentally (and potentially as well physically).

But look around and realize how great your life is. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of people wishing to have what you have. The same is true for me. I indeed have so much in my life to be grateful for. But too often, I forget. And you know what? Science has proven that practising gratitude makes us more joyful and happy. Happiness comes to those who appreciate the present moment, no matter what it looks like. It creates abundance.

Ms. Rainbow, sunshine and unicorns

Of course, this all sounds nice and amazing. Yet fluffy. So how to put this into practise? Even for me, Ms. “Rainbow, sunshine and unicorns”, this seems very difficult. So I did some research and decided for myself to get going some new habits. To create these habits, I’ll use a “habit tracker” (“Way of Life” is a good app to do so) and I’ll start with a period of 1 month to get it going.

What I will do every single day:

  1. Take a few minutes every morning to write down 5 things I appreciate in life to cultivate an air of positivity for myself and people around me. To get started, over the first two weeks, I will post every day a picture on my Instagram to share something I’m grateful for.
  2. I will carry a (physical) “token” of gratitude with me (I’ll have to figure out something this evening) to remind me to appreciate the smallest blessings around me. I have food in the fridge, decent clothes to wear and a roof above my head. I have a great job, a phone, an amazing boyfriend (more than a “small blessing” for sure). Whenever I feel the token, I will use it as a reminder to stop, breathe and take a moment to fully experience the emotion of gratitude. In general, I think we should look more at the bright side of life (okay, I realize it sounds cheesy). For example, some of my favourite friends are coming over to Zürich for the weekend and I’m disappointed it will be raining. I should just turn my negative thoughts (on rain) into: YES, my friends are coming!

I realize this post is -again- becoming longer than I intended it to be. anyhow – to wrap up- it would be really cool if you would join me in my journey and start practising gratitude. I’m convinced it will be a very easy step towards (even) more rainbows and sunshine. So who’s in?!

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