The Discipline of Gratitude [Slow Down Challenge: Day 5]

Note: This week, I'm writing a series of challenges to help you (and me) slow down and savor the good parts of life. Find out more about it here, and make sure you're signed up for email updates so you don't miss a thing.

One of the curses of living in such a fast-paced society is that we tend to take things for granted. We overlook everyday blessings, oblivious to the fact that life itself is a gift. And if we're not careful, we can find ourselves rushing through each day, less and less grateful, which is no way to live.

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The sickness of ingratitude creeps into our lives slowly and inconspicuously. It manifests in subtle ways, like a feeling of offense when the person ahead of you in line takes her sweet time counting pennies before paying the store clerk.

It grows in us as we believe the thoughts that pop into our head: “I don't deserve this” and “This is a waste of my time.”

Eventually this plague takes root in our hearts, where it can be hard to shake. And all of the sudden, every inconvenience becomes a personal affront, which we take very seriously.

Remembering to be grateful

When we forget to be grateful for the less-than-extraordinary times, we forget to be grateful, period.

Beauty and goodness are all around us; we just need eyes to see them. And the way we acquire such vision is saying thanks for the things that we don't even understand to be gifts.

That's not to say bad things don't happen or that injustice and evil are not real. They are. But how we act when the worst stuff happens is correlated to our deepest beliefs about ourself and the world.

Are we expecting these bad things, even dreading them? Or can we find the good in them, seeing signs of possible redemption even in the worst of circumstances?

What we do in the worst of times determines who we are all the time [tweet that]. And in every evil and inconvenient time, there is still some good to be found.

Part of the reason we learn to say “thanks” for the seemingly small things is that it helps us appreciate the “big” things in life when they do come.

And the other reason is that as we learn to appreciate the small, we realize it is all big. We learn to stop waiting for tomorrow or a better break and finally embrace where we are, right now. Which hopefully by now we can say is a very good place.

Challenge: Give thanks


Today, try saying “thank you” — for everything. Say it to your spouse who makes you wait for dinner. Say it to the cashier who moves too slow. Say it to your late lunch appointment or the call center operator who keeps putting you on hold. Say it to God for every inconvenience that causes you to grow.

Say “thank you.” Don't just think it or tell it to yourself. Actually speak the words, and mean them.

Be grateful for the moments that slow you down, the ones that cause you to take your time. Use these opportunities to appreciate what you already have and tend to miss.

As you do, see how much better life looks, and actually is, when you approach it with gratitude.

For more about learning to slow down, check out my new book, The In-Between, which is a call to be grateful for the less-than-spectacular times (it's currently 40% off on Amazon).

What's something that doesn't seem like a blessing that you can be grateful for today? Share in the comments.