An alarm goes off on my phone every day at 3:16 that plays a beautiful violin song. It’s my reminder to stop whatever I am doing and feel gratitude for the things happening in my world – no matter how small or few.
Lately I have been quick to dismiss the alarm and continue on with my day, but today (despite feeling totally overwhelmed) I stopped. I set that alarm for a reason, with an intention to have a moment – even just 10 seconds – to say thank you.
But life is having some weird twists right now – many of them very stressful and a bit scary. When the 3:16 alarm went off today, I struggled to find gratitude. How does one find gratitude in total chaos?
Then I remembered that chaos always brings change. The world crashing down brings surrender – usually to a higher power. The demon on my doorstep was forcing me to face it head on (doing so would actually give me peace of mind). And yeah; maybe rejection really is god’s protection. The closed doors were nudging me to change direction – toward something a little scary, but much more fulfilling for me. This mess was sparking action – the action my life desperately needed.
Maybe this chaos is guiding me toward something better, building something new within me, or clearing away things that are no longer serving me. Maybe this chaos is propelling me to take the action needed to heal old wounds, break patterns or overcome setbacks.
Sometimes we have to break down before we can break through.
And sometimes chaos is simply our art “getting ruined” so we end up with something far better.
That epiphany changed how I see the mess and chaos in life. I can now find gratitude and blessings in those places – no matter how small or few.
3:16 is my moment to view the world with fresh eyes each day. The numbers 3:16 represent the time of my birth. This is my reminder to renew my life force each day… to be in wonder, awe and gratitude with where I am right now, every day – just as I did the moment I took my very first breath.
Gratitude is the single most powerful change I’ve made in my life.
Intrigued? Try my Gratitude Challenge.
A few months ago, I challenged myself to find 100 things in my life to be grateful for. When I share this story with others, people oftentimes look lost and express their doubt that they can do the same. If you want to take on this challenge and you find yourself struggling with getting to #100, here are some thoughts to nudge you along.
First, I recognize that some of these are not going to apply to you. You may be recovering from an illness or an accident or had a childhood of hardship. If that is the case, shift your focus to being grateful for whatever good you can find. Whatever hardship you are experiencing in your life, recognize that it could be much worse.
The key here is to be specific. When you write about your family, friends or yourself, write exactly what traits you value and appreciate. You can always use it later to create the most touching and best gift ever.
Lastly, when I do Gratitude Journal, I start every entry with one of the following: “I am SO grateful for…” or “I love…” or “I deeply appreciate…”. Let yourself get emotional and REALLY feel the love and appreciation. Be effusive and gushy. Emotion deepens the power of gratitude. It makes it real, and not just words on paper.
So… what kinds of things might you be grateful for? Here are some ideas to draw from.
Your Health and Body
- The gift of sight, speech, hearing, smell, taste (and what do you LOVE seeing, hearing, tasting, sensing?)
- Having strong bones, smooth skin, healthy teeth, strong digestion, healthy heart, etc.
- The ability to walk, reproduce, move freely, think clearly, or carry your own child.
- What features do you love? Your hair, your smile, your laugh, your hands, your eyes, your cute butt, etc.
- Their sense of humor (can they always get you in a good mood, raise your spirits?)
- How reliable they are (when did they really come through for you?)
- How fun they are (what makes them so fun? Common interests? Quirky personalities? Adventurous spirits?
- The way they give great advice (when did they help you through a tough time?)
- How they inspire you or motivate you (when did they made a big difference in your life?)
- Thoughtful things they do (remembering your birthday, treating you to coffee, baking your favorite cookies).
- Remembering to invite you or include you for outings and parties.
- Favors they have done for you, gifts they have given you, kind words or meaningful compliments they’ve given you.
- The way they just listen when you need to talk.
- Friends who stood by you during difficult times and hardships.
- Did you have enough food growing up?
- Were you raised in a reasonably safe neighborhood?
- Were your basic needs provided for?
- What traits did you love about your mother, father and siblings?
- Did your parents take you on vacations? What special memories do you have from those trips?
- Did they make meals you loved? Take good care of you when you were sick?
- Did they give you special gifts for holidays or birthdays? Maybe something that meant a lot to you at the time? Did you like how they celebrated your birthdays or graduations?
- Did they pass on heirlooms to you? Or give special possessions to you?
- Did they financially support you when they didn’t really have to?
- Did they sacrifice for you? Work two jobs to put food on the table?
- Did they instill values, beliefs or practices that positively affected your life?
- Were they good role models? Were they caring? Honest? Dependable? Did they show you unconditional love?
- Any favorite memories from childhood? What moments still warm your heart today?
Your Own Characteristics
- Consider traits like your sense of humor, intelligence, intuition, dedication, discipline, commitment, persuasiveness, kindness, compassion, etc.
- Are you a helpful person? Do you do volunteer work? Are you a good cheerleader for others?
- Do you have common sense, good judgement, integrity, strong morals/ethics, or unshakable integrity?
- What knowledge or skills are you grateful for having? Are you handy? Creative? Have a great sense of style? Always know the right thing to say? Good at handling conflict? Learn things easily? Have a natural talent for sports? An amazing cook or a great writer?
- What values are you most proud of? Who or what ingrained those values in you?
- What parts of your work life are you most proud of? Are you always on time? Excellent with following up? A strategic thinker? Good at planning things? Give stellar customer service? Great at solving problems? Addressing conflict?
- What kinds of things have you accomplished or overcome? A fear of public speaking? Run a 5k? Have you published something? Performed or competed?
- What attributes of yourself are you most proud of? Are you thoughtful? Reliable? Have integrity? Romantic? Creative? Friendly? Extroverted? Witty? A great story teller? Fun at parties?
- What hobbies have contributed to your quality of life? Did you have teachers, trainers or coaches who you learned from or who encouraged you?
- Did you have teachers who inspired you?
- Classes that you especially enjoyed?
- Any fond memories of old classmates?
- How did school inspire you or prepare you for life ahead?
- Did you receive financial aid for school? Did your parents pay for your education? Did anyone help you through school? Tutors? Study groups? Counselors?
Life in General
- Do you like the sunshine? The rain? Cold weather? I am grateful every day for the warm, bright sunshine!
- Are you grateful for having downtime to just relax, watch tv, or hang out with friends?
- Are you grateful for where you live and what you live close to?
- Do you like your home? What parts of your home do you love?
- Are you grateful for having a roof over your head? Do you live in a generally safe neighborhood?
- Do you have reliable transportation? Have a car with air conditioning or a heater that works?
- What conveniences are you grateful for? Microwave ovens? Garage door openers?
This should give you some ideas of how to begin looking at your world differently…. Don’t forget that even some of the painful moments in your life may have been gifts that weren’t realized until later in life. Getting laid off from a job ultimately turned me into an entrepreneur who works from home (my dream life!).
I have found that virtually everything in my life was a blessing in some way – and therefore, something to be grateful for.
I consider my Gratitude Journal to be my most powerful tool in life. Every morning I write down all the things I am grateful for. This simple act has had a stunning impact on my life.
After many years of doing gratitude journal and NOT having any significant changes in my life, I had a major epiphany.
Most people are introduced to the concept by being told, “Write down 5 things you are grateful for each day”. They do that and after six months they say, “Well, that’s very nice, but my life isn’t much different.” So they stop.
If I told you that you could get flat abs by doing 5 sit ups a day, you’d think I was crazy. Gratitude is the same way. You get flat abs by working at it constantly. You get an attitude of gratitude by working at it until it becomes second nature.
At first, I began every day with a list of 10 things. Nothing changed in my life. I was about to give it up when I had a small epiphany. I decided to write down anything that made me happy, that I loved, enjoyed or appreciated. I was easily filling my book with 20-30 things each day.
Then one day, I had a crazy thought. Could I find 100 things that I was grateful for? It seemed intimidating. I knew I would be struggling to list 100 things; I’d have to reach, stretch, hurt my little brain to do it…. I figured it was worth trying.
I was on fire for the first 50 items. The more I wrote down, the more passionate and excited I got… items were filling my head faster than I could write them down. I was on a total high.
Then I slowed down… and I had to really think about my world, the different parts of my world, the people I knew, the past I had, the decisions I made, the things I took for granted, the beautiful things that I never really “saw” until that day.
That was when I “got” it. Gratitude is about retraining your mind in how it experiences the world. If I hadn’t been challenged to find 100 things, I wouldn’t have been pushed to see how incredibly beautiful and wonderful my world truly was. I became grateful for things I hadn’t been acknowledging.
I felt amazing when I hit #100. The next day, I reflected on my challenge to find 100 things and I found myself asking whether I could do it again. I took my journal and once again, listed 100 more things I was grateful for.
This simple challenge changed how I saw my world. It sensitized me to the beauty and grace of everything around me. That is what shifted me into naturally finding gratitude in most everything I do and experience.
The result? When you are truly, deeply grateful, life gives you more to be grateful for. The key to having a life of wonder, ease and joy? Gratitude.