“I Have to” vs. “I Get To”

I get to

If you want to make one simple change that can alter the way you move through life, change “I have to” to “I get to.” Stress is caused by trying, feeling put upon, hurrying, and a lack of choice. When you have to do things, you can go through life feeling like a beast of burden. You might feel a lack of freedom and joy. Life can feel like drudgery.

If you change your attitude to “I get to” magic can happen. Here is what I mean.

  • Think of all the people who are unemployed and can’t seem to find a job. If you have a job, you get to work. You get to make money to feed yourself, enjoy nice clothes, have social activities with friends, and do all the things that money provides. How lucky is that? Wow, what a great perk of having a job! If it’s not the most fulfilling or glamorous work, okay, but you still have a way to serve yourself, your family, and the world until something else comes along.
  • Think about all the people who can’t walk. Maybe they are in wheelchairs or live in constant pain. You, on the other hand, can move about freely. You can exercise, run, play sports, and do all kinds of things. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, but a gift.
  • Today is Mother’s Day. Maybe you and your mom aren’t the best of friends. Heck, maybe you aren’t on the greatest terms with your whole family, but if you have a family, you get the choice of hanging out with them today. Some people don’t have that. Some people never had that. Jeez, how lucky you are that you have a mother to honor today.
  • Do you have a pile of work to do? Me, too. That can feel like a lot of stress, but if I look at why I am doing it, then it becomes a blessing. I get to pay taxes because I am productive and making money. I get to bill insurance for reimbursement because I have clients who want to see me. Today I get to clean my house because I have a house!
  • Let’s say that you have depression or anxiety. Whoopie! You get to cope with that. How is that awesome? Well, there are blessings in everything. Think about all the people who are writers, motivational speakers, and healers who have a story of overcoming something and coming out the other side stronger. This could be your big break. We all need challenges to make life worthwhile. So learn something. Enjoy the ride, and have some fun with it.
  • Now think about your blessings. I just came back from a trip to South America. It was a wonderful time. If you also think of the things that delight you as gifts, well, your whole life becomes one big, fabulous wave of good luck.

Most days I go for a walk for exercise and just to be a part of the big, wide world. I often find myself saying thanks that I get to be here doing this. It’s a small thing. It’s just a walk, but so often we walk by people and things without seeing them. Without appreciating them. When you adopt an attitude of “I get to…” those things don’t escape you anymore.

Try it and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear!

Gratitude Letter to My Clients

gratitude letter

There are so many people I am grateful for. So I want to write a public gratitude letter to my clients past and present. It’s long overdue.

Dear Trooper,

You rock. You show up. That inspires me. You’re willing to be vulnerable, say hard things, sit in your feelings, and do some really hard work. I admire your courage and strength. It takes a lot of guts to do all that. I know I don’t even see half of what happens inside your head and when you’re alone at home. So, add that to the mix, and you are a real rock star!

I know there are times when you feel stuck, like nothing is making a difference, yet to keep on going. That little engine that could eventually does. Thank you for your courage. I am cheering you along all the way!

Thank you for your questions. I say that I help the “hard to help” because I like a challenge. When you ask me things I don’t know, that inspires to me find out the answers. When you show up with something I’ve never seen before, you know I am going to do what I can to figure this out with you (unless it’s outside of my wheelhouse, in which case I have to refer you onward). As long as you keep trying, I am going to keep on trying. So thanks for helping me grow.

I appreciate all that you teach me. Although I am the “paid expert,” never doubt that I am learning from you too! You give me tips about all kinds of things I’ve never heard of that I pass along to others who could use that wisdom. You teach me about the strength of the human spirit, the ability to forgive, the power of love, and so much more. This is not only a place of growth for clients but for me too. Thank you!

I get a lot of “I’ve never told anyone this before stories.” I deeply appreciate your trust. Our stories need to be told. They bring us power and the ability to transcend. They help us to know our own power and identity. I am honored more than I can say that you entrust them with me. Being able to walk alongside you in your journey gives my work and life meaning. Thank you.

I often say that I love my job. I love my job because I love my people. We’re all in this life together. We create our world together. I feel a lot of hope for our children and our future when I see the amazing people who flow through my office and my life. You’re so wise and wonderful. Thank you for being you.

I yearn for a world of vulnerability, beauty, and truth. And here it is inside my office every day. How lucky I am. I hope that all of you keep that bright light shining when you cross the threshold of my door and go bravely out into the world. The world needs your brand of beauty. You may carry battle scars, but as you know, “The wound is the place where the light enters you” ~Rumi. Let it shine.

I am told that an open gratitude letter to my clients crosses boundaries. Really? I think appreciation is always appropriate. I appreciate you! Thank you.

‘Tis the Season for Gratitude

gratitude

‘Tis the season for gratitude! With the fall harvest in, and Thanksgiving just days away, it’s nice to take a moment to give thanks for all the blessings and growth you’ve received this year. It’s also a great time to think about what you’d like the coming year to be like. Hopefully growing in gratitude is part of that.

Appreciate has two meanings: to be thankful and to increase in value. These two things go hand in hand. You can’t feel and express gratitude without it increasing and coming back to you. It’s also an important part of creating a happy lifestyle.

Positive psychology research has proven that expressing gratitude leads to the following benefits:

  • improves overall well-being
  • make people more agreeable and open
  • increases life satisfaction and decreases depression
  • improves relationships by creating a more forgiving nature, enhancing connection and satisfaction
  • promotes relationship formation and maintenance
  • reduces stress, cortisol levels, and increases heart coherence

So how do you create a lifestyle of gratitude so that you can have all these wonderful benefits? Here are some ideas.

Write a Gratitude Letter

The gratitude letter is something that has been studied over and over. Writing a gratitude letter makes the recipient feel good, but it makes the writer feel even better! In fact, the benefits last for about 30 days!

Here’s how you do it. Think of someone who has done something important or nice for you whom you haven’t acknowledged. This can be your boss, neighbor, family member, friend, or even someone you don’t know very well. Think about what this person did and how it impacted you. Write about it from the heart. Be specific.

Personalize it. Maybe you can write it out in your own hand. Or perhaps you choose pretty stationery. Some have framed it. You want to make it special.

Now present it. Perhaps you can go for coffee or lunch. Read it to the person before you give it to him or her. This makes it more of an event that honors what they did. You may be surprised at how moving it is for you and them. Such a small thing can be so healing and bonding. Try it.

Here are some other ideas:

  • start each morning with acknowledgement, like a gratitude prayer
  • end each day with a dinner time ritual of sharing the high for the day with someone
  • each day write something that you are grateful for and put it in a jar. Take them out and look at them when things aren’t going so great.
  • write in a gratitude journal daily. Use a bulleted lists, sentences, or paragraphs.
  • when things aren’t going great, stop your thoughts and think of something that you can appreciate. For example, if you just got into a car accident, you might think, “I am so happy no one was hurt.” If you got passed over for a promotion at work, you can think, “I am thankful to have been interviewed.” When you focus on the silver lining, disappointments don’t take you so low.
  • when you are with loved ones, give each person a chance to acknowledge the gifts that each person brings to the world. It’s an incredible bonding exercise
  • make a gratitude tree. It’s like an Angel tree. Instead of taking a tag with a wish on it, you write down the things you are grateful for and decorate the tree with your blessings. This is particularly nice if it’s in a place like a business, dorm, or public space where lots of people contribute to it. Blessings are contagious. When you read or hear about what others have received, the happiness is shared.

As you are acknowledging your blessings, don’t censor yourself. Don’t say or write what you think you are “supposed to.” If you are thankful for your car, good looks, or boyfriend, say that! Make it come from the heart. Keep it real.

The holidays are rough for so many people. They can bring back old grudges. Family obligations can put you into contact with people that you don’t like or who haven’t been very nice to you. Holiday stress and travel can make you cranky. Getting out of your routine, eating and drinking too much can make you feel not your best. “Tis the season for gratitude! Stay focused on what it’s all about and perhaps this year will be different. Try it and let me know how it goes.

The Magic of the Gratitude Letter

gratitude letter

When I was in high school, matriculated students would routinely come to my choir class to visit with the teacher. It was easy to see that he was the kind of person who made an impact on people’s lives. He often sought out the kids who didn’t have good grades, might have problematic home lives, didn’t have great self-esteem, and didn’t have a lot of reason to come to school. He made them literally and figuratively sing. He wasn’t just a teacher. He was a healer. Through love and song, he created an award winning choir and gave kids something to belong to. He gave them a reason to feel good about themselves. And they returned to say thanks and show him that they made good in life.

Most people go through life never knowing the big and small ways that they positively impact others. You can let them know with a gratitude letter.

I started assigning writing a gratitude letter as homework years ago when I first heard about it as a form of practicing Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is different in that it focuses on what makes a person happy and well vs. what makes them depressed and anxious. Expressing gratitude is one of the hallmarks of happy folks. You can’t be grateful unless you can see things in your life that you are thankful for. If you are thankful, there is less space for resentment, disappointment, and unhappiness. This not only positively impacts you. It positively impacts people around you as well as the environment.

Despite knowing this on an intellectual level, it wasn’t something that I did until years later. It wasn’t until I did it that I felt firsthand the impact of it.

I chose someone whom I had known for a very long time, but had never had this type of interaction with. I painstakingly chose a heartfelt card. Then I hand wrote a letter to accompany it. I included specific memories of how my life was made better by this person. I included how this person’s presence in my life made me feel. I then invited him to lunch to present it to him and watched him read it.

His face lit up. If his smile were any bigger, his face would have cracked. He was almost brought to tears. I got a tremendous boost from it too. Our relationship has been forever changed by this. It took very little time, yet it yielded such huge rewards. It was so dramatic that I made a habit of doing one once a month. It’s especially meaningful when I have to search for things that I am grateful for.

Gratitude is most powerful when it becomes a daily habit. Yet, there is something profoundly powerful in writing it down and sharing it with someone. If you are feeling down or just need a boost in your life, I recommend making gratitude a habit. Write a gratitude letter. Start with someone easy. Someone who has no expectations of you. Then just watch love happen.

Work your way up to the people who have disappointed you, the people who have hurt and wronged you. You may find that the thing they gave you makes it easier to forgive. Even if it’s a letter that can never be sent because the person is dead, it would be inappropriate to make contact, or you just have no way of reaching them, write it. As long as you do it for you, not for what it might do for your relationship, it will have a positive impact on you.

Here are some tips on how to write a gratitude letter.

  • Write from your heart. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. That’s not what this is about.
  • Keep it to a single page. Focus on one or two incidents, not your whole relationship. This makes more of an impact.
  • Make it concrete. Don’t just say, “You were so nice to me.” Be specific. When what is? What happened? How did you feel? How has this impacted you since then?
  • Hand write it. You will feel the difference in this by doing it.
  • If possible, make an effort to make it pretty. One client wrote a poem and framed it. It was absolutely gorgeous! You don’t have to make it that elaborate, but pretty paper or a card can make it more special.
  • Present it in person. Emails, texts and phone calls can be impersonal. Presenting it in person gives it the importance it deserves.
  • Stick only to gratitude! This is not the time to make apologies, accusations, or share blame. That will dilute the impact of the letter. Sticking to what you are thankful for may lay the groundwork for future conversations that can lead to apologies and healing, if they are required.
  • Release any expectations for positive results. It’s not about what you get. It’s about what you give.

 

Make Thanksgiving a Lifestyle

gratitude

America celebrated its first nationwide day of thanks in 1789 under the leadership of our first president, George Washington.

However, it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln was president that our country had its first official Thanksgiving holiday. It’s evolved since then to include football, pre-shopping, parades, feasting, as well as setting aside a moment to express gratitude for our blessings. Unfortunately when the day is over, the gratitude goes by the wayside for another year for most of us. Thanksgiving is not just for November. If you can keep it in your heart all year, your life and the lives of those around you can be enriched every day. Why not make Thanksgiving a lifestyle?

People Who Express Gratitude Are Healthier

Grateful people take better care of themselves and live a healthier lifestyle. They tend to exercise, eat well, sleep well, get regular check-ups, and engage in healthy relationships. A healthy body is a huge contributor to a satisfying, long life.

Grateful People Have Better Relationships

People who are grateful tend to be more optimistic and easier to be around. This translates into more satisfying personal and professional relationships. They are able to balance work and play. They give more time to the people in their lives. The time that is spent is quality time, so both sides benefit from the interaction.

People Who Give Thanks Bounce Back Faster

Little disappoints and tragedies happen in every life. No one gets a free pass. However, people who give thanks for their blessings are able to bounce back faster. They see life as having meaning, even if they don’t know what that meaning is. They see bad things as random and temporary. This helps them to overcome unavoidable setbacks.

Gratitude is Associated with Success

So many people feel that when they are successful, they will be happier, will slow down, enjoy life and be more grateful. However, studies show that a grateful heart is correlated with a happier, more relaxed lifestyle that leads to more success. If you want to be successful, it’s better to focus on creating gratitude first!

If you would like these benefits to be a part of your future, start by setting aside time each day for seeing and appreciating a few things in your life that are good. It doesn’t matter how small they are. Just notice. Give an inner acknowledgement or write down a sentence or two how lucky and thankful you are. Soon you will be seeing life in a whole new way. People will respond differently to you, and Thanksgiving won’t just be a day. It will become a lifestyle.