Did you pray every week that your mom would buy the brands with the best freebies?
Were you disappointed when she’d bring home some “But it’s good for you!” cereal which never had any surprises inside, and didn’t taste anywhere near as yummy as Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms, or Cookie Crisp?
At that tender age, it is certainly difficult to look on the bright side when your friends are showing off their nifty stickers, puzzles, and small toys, and all you have to show is a bit of oatmeal that dribbled onto your shirt and has turned into a hard, dry lump.
Who knew that years later you would probably be grateful to your parents for their food choices, which helped contribute to your overall healthier state as an adult?
Plus, the earlier you recognize those circumstances, the more joy you will experience at home and at work.
There is an old joke that illustrates this concept very well.
I am sharing it below as an excerpt from the book How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life by Peter Robinson.
“Over lunch today I asked Ed Meese about one of Reagan’s favorite jokes. ‘The pony joke?’ Meese replied. ‘Sure I remember it. If I heard him tell it once, I heard him tell it a thousand times.’”
“The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities – one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist – their parents took them to a psychiatrist.”
“First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. ‘What’s the matter?’ the psychiatrist asked, baffled. ‘Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?’ ‘Yes,’ the little boy bawled, ‘but if I did I’d only break them.’”
“Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. ‘With all this manure,’ the little boy replied, beaming, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere!’”
The first little boy, when faced with a mountain of toys, couldn’t see any reason to be grateful for a pile of broken junk.
The second, when faced with a mountain of manure, saw delightful possibilities.
Maybe you spend your hours with someone who always assumes clouds on the horizons means rain pouring down on their parade.
Perhaps you spend time instead with someone who eagerly awaits the rainbows that the showers bring forth.
Whatever the case, gratitude is a skill that can be learned and cultivated, one baby step at a time.
You can begin with something as simple as Thank You, and move forward from there.
Wherever you are in the process, here are three basic steps I recommend:
1. Become more aware. If you need the extra nudge, set the alarm on your phone to go off during the day and perform a random gratitude check on your circumstances when it does.
2. Choose where to focus. If you look for the good, you will find it. It really is that simple.
3. Write it all down. This reinforces your expression of thankfulness and gives you examples to look back on when you need a boost.
There will still be times when you struggle.
The more you practice gratitude, though, the more it will become your automatic response.
Just remember to keep this phrase in mind to help you the next time you face down mountain of manure at home or at work:
For more resources on changing your point of view to gratitude, check out these posts:
Question: Under what circumstances do you find gratitude the most elusive?
Photo: Sara Nel
Kim Hall created Too Darn Happy to help you build stronger and more joyful relationships through offerings of fresh perspectives and practical advice. Having been a wife for thirty years and a mom for almost as long to two daughters, she also shares occasional cautionary tales of her own character building life experiences. Kim recently authored her first ebook, Practicing Gratitude and Discovering Joy-Thirty Days to a Happier You. You can connect with Kim on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, too!