(An excerpt from "Outsmarting odds in life")
You feel depressed, you don’t know why. You think you ought to be happy as you now have all that you ever wanted, but you are not. The fine home, the nice cars, a loving husband or wife, your job, all those things that were so exciting some time ago now seem to remind you of a deep void that you just can’t fill. Life is becoming more and more meaningless in every way. You tried to fill this emptiness with activities, yet it’s like a mirage, there seems to be no end in sight. I know that feeling, too, because I have been down there and I know how deep it can get when you get lost in it. It’s the black hole of the mind, a place you’d rather not be. But if you ever find yourself in there, there is a way out, it’s called gratitude.
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and often we lose the things we have for lack of appreciation. We take life and all the simple things it gives us for granted. That you woke up this morning, that you are not ill or dead, that you can breathe, that you have a child, that you have a job you go to every day, that you narrowly missed a car accident. Trifle as it may seem, a grateful heart is a happy heart, and happiness opens the door to greater opportunities. Yet you would rather focus on the things you don’t have or the pain that is bothering you. There’s never going to be an end to this bucket list of desires, but if you appreciate the now and how far you have come, the air you breath, how bright and sunny the day is or how fresh the breeze is, appreciating even the mundane, you will be opening doors for those big opportunities you seek to come in. There is a saying that givers never lack. Why is it so? It’s a simple life principle, giving attracts more opportunities to give, and when you give more you receive more so that you can give even more! The circle never stops. Gratitude is an expression of appreciation for what you have. The more gratitude you express, the more opportunities you will get to express even more gratitude. Express genuinely heartfelt appreciation in whatever condition you find yourself, it may not be the very best of what you wanted, but it is a stepping stone toward your destiny. In that way, you open the door to your most wanted desires.
One of the strongest factors in achieving a manifestation of any expectation is gratitude. You only need to observe the world around you to find that gratitude is a major ingredient in any growth process, from the annual corporate gifts exchanged by the big multinationals to the leaves that fall to the ground causing the ground to be nourished. Everything is expressing appreciation for the gift of giving; it’s all a circle that brings about expansion in our universe. Gratitude is an inevitable process, if growth must occur.
People generally take gratitude for its literal meaning, that is, to show appreciation for a service rendered, which by no means is wrong. However, the benefit goes both ways, that is, for the giver and the receiver, but, the giver receives more. Gratitude comes from a heart that is full of appreciation; with thankfulness a heart that is full of gratitude expresses his gratefulness. In expressing gratitude the soul has come to a full circle, there is nothing more to add, rather, it gives from the abundance that is overflowing within. Gratitude is a satisfied heart seeking a joyful outlet, an out-pouring of love that is not inhibited or colored with any intentions, but is imbued with a joyful exhilaration and exploding vocals.
In recent research, grateful people have been found to be more extroverted, they have stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, they are more agreeable, more open, and more conscientious, they are less angry, less depressed, less emotionally vulnerable, and often have positive emotions. If this is scientifically proven, shouldn’t we practice gratitude more? Take away a man’s hope and he’s gone like the wind! But expressing gratitude for the moment gives an assured hope for another moment, another day, another tomorrow! Hope leads to belief; belief creates life experiences. If you really want to be frustrated and become depressed, it takes less than a few seconds. Just start a negative thought and in no time many more of same kind follows. A simple thought about what you could not complete yesterday could skyrocket into all the multiple failed attempts at other endeavors in your entire life. Don’t judge yourself too harshly, celebrate yourself, celebrate every moment, life is for the living, you are not going to have this experience again, so be grateful for the life you have now and for the various attempts you have made at tackling some of your life challenges! You are a hero! Give yourself that liberty to congratulate yourself for your efforts. I have promised myself that when I die, I would have written on my tombstone: “This man Tried.” For out of a naked little baby who arrived on planet Earth, lives were transformed, a family was raised, people were impacted with my messages. If not for anything else, for all these I applaud myself and I am grateful.
Happiness is a choice, the same goes for gratitude. You may choose to see the glass half full or half empty. Your decision will determine the state of your emotions. Contentment plays a key role in determining how you feel. Recently, I read in a forum that most singers were not happy with their voices when they first started singing, but after a while they got used to the sound of their voices and they blossomed. The point at which they accepted their voices was the point of their gratitude, and the reward was an opened gate of beauty, of color, of texture and harmonies they never believed existed, and then came the cheers and applause from the audience. Now, if they had remained in the throes of self-hate, nobody would ever have found them.
Accept yourself for who you are, my friends; there is beauty in everything if you apply gratitude. Take a listen to all the beautiful singers all over the world, do they sound alike? No. But do they sound beautiful? Yes, of course! No two singers sound exactly alike, each one is unique in his or her own way. For instance, Whitney Houston sounds so wonderful; now turn to Aaron Nervile, you hear the voice of an angel. But I bet these people never sounded this way when they first started! Gratitude holds the key to the joy you are searching for. You get better at the things you do when you appreciate how far you have come.
It’s a new day, a new life, a new moment. Celebrate everything, the Bible says, “in everything give thanks,” be thankful for every circumstance. There is always some good tucked somewhere within that avalanche of trouble. A great percentage of achievers today had devastating setbacks before their success stories. Henry Ford was bankrupt, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, Michael Jordan couldn’t make his high school basketball team; this list can be endless. So, were the circumstances surrounding these people pleasant? No. Were they happy with their situation? No. But did events eventually turn out to be good? Yes! In every adversity, a seed of success is embedded.
Many times our gratitude is obliterated when we think about what we could not achieve or have not achieved. The first line in the 3rd stanza of Johnson Outman Jr.’s song, Count your blessings (1897), says, “When you look at others with their lands and gold …” Now wait a minute, he said “others” – not what you have but what others have. In comparing yourself with others you lose the joy and excitement of what you already have! Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
There are no two people born at the same time from the same woman. We all came here through that portal one at a time; you are not here to compete with anybody. If anything, you ought to compare yourself with yourself, compare yourself with your goals, with your dreams, and with your aspirations, see how far you have come and how much more you need to accomplish! Paul, writing to the Galatians in chapter 6:4 said, “But let every man put to the proof his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in him alone, and not in another.” Celebrate yourself! Dwelling on lack and inadequacy takes away from the joy of thankfulness and gratitude. The cure for sleeplessness, frustration, anger, jealousy, hatred, is embedded in gratitude. Stay focused on that little mundane task; however, be sure that it is your calling, don’t go hiding in some mediocre job and say you are fulfilling your destiny. We are all meant first off, to be happy, and that is the ultimate goal for every man, it is happiness that attracts all other good things, including wealth. People see success and applaud, and then everybody wants to be like the successful person. People seem to forget that there was a gestation period for the successful man. I know a musician who in his early years was in lack, he couldn’t even pay his bus fare, often, you would find him walking down the street with his beat up shoes. But he was always a happy and nice fellow. He was grateful and contented in his current predicament, but he never let his vision slip away from him, he continuously worked hard at his craft. Today he is a millionaire, nobody remembers the young man that had one pair of jeans and worn out shoes.
At every moment in your life be thankful, no matter how bad a situation is, just be thankful knowing that the infinite one is always there when everything seems absolutely hopeless. For even in the midst of the rubble and dirt, a piece of glass catches a ray of sun and reflects a glow that obliterates its ugly surroundings. A thankful heart may see and feel pain but will never dwell therein. No matter what you are going through, know that God, the infinite spirit, the superconscious, the source energy, whatever name you want to call it, is always there with you. Donna Summer, in her song titled Break Away (1989), sings, “forget about the bad times, remember all the good times, hold your head up high and break away.” Focus on what is good and in no time everything will ease out.
In gratitude, you appreciate how far you have come and you are thankful. Gratitude births more things to be thankful for, just as ingratitude leads to more depressive thoughts. When you are overwhelmed with depressive thoughts, you can hardly see in that darkness, but if you start with little things you are grateful for, the simple things, the insignificant, they sort of buildup. Gratitude brings healing and causes us to look inside instead of looking outside. In looking within, those little things that seem insignificant become magnified. Teach your heart to be quiet. The modern way of life gives us few opportunities to have introverted reflections; it’s always go-get, grab-run. People are always asking for more, not taking into account how much they already have. For a moment, focus on what you already have and forget about what you lack. This is the moment that will resolve all the unsolved problems. The moment of gratitude humbles us and causes us to feel close to the infinite. A sense of appreciation feels warm, like being wrapped up in a warm blanket on a cold winter morning, a feeling you don’t want to hurry out from. It is a deliberate choice, we choose to see the world the way it is and appreciate it for the goodness and the bumps. The scripture that says “all things work together for good” feels so true when you come into the place of gratitude. There is no negative experience in this life that does not have a positive side. You may not see it when the heat of the trouble is on, but after a while it will unravel. Gratitude brings us in close consciousness with the divine, we radiate joy, we find it easier to love and be loved, and the world becomes a happier and better place. Gratitude begets more gratitude, it is a chain link; gratitude has a tendency to pull out more good things to be grateful for. Look around you, there is so much to be grateful for. Take a moment and write down just one thing that you are grateful for, right now. Stop everything you are doing and really consider what you are most grateful for. Once noted, consider this one thing when you wake up every morning, think about it for five minutes before starting your day. I promise you, you will be bouncing through your day with exuberance because you have a reason to live, and because you have a reason to live, you now have a reason to be grateful, and grateful people make happy and successful people.
Gratitude citation: Wood, A. M., et al., Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration, Clinical Psychology Review
(201 0), doi: 10.1 016/j.cpr.201 0.03.005
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude Jeremy Adam Smith (2014), Scientific Insights from the Greater Good Gratitude Summit. Retrieved from: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/new_insights_from_the_gratitude_summit
MMO Champion (2009), Thread: Why do I hate the sound of my 'real' voice? Retrieved from:
How gratitude changes everything –Blue Parkway Unity Village, MO. Publisher: Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village
 1 Thessalonians 5 : 18
 Romans 8:28 (King James Version)