An Ode to a Grateful Life

Your cup may be half empty or half full, gratitude will always take you further ahead.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay
Yes, I know it. You’ve already had more than your fair share of those seemingly unending tips and hacks for keeping your head above the waters in these turbulent times.

Right from our mothers’ wombs to our infant days and throughout our early teens, we were all dependent on our parents and other loved ones for our existence.

Today, many young adults are still tied to their parents’ umbilical cords. Severing these cords of dependency early in life is vital towards healthy growth and self-reliance.

How do you pull this off?

1. Get out of the mire of learned self helplessness.

People who have experienced stressful conditions repeatedly may begin to believe that they cannot change their situations. Hamstrung by this mindset, they do not even try to help themselves when opportunities for change become available to them. This is called Learned Helplessness.

According to the American psychologist, Dr. Barry Schwartz, learned helplessness makes people have the feeling that they do not have control over any or all of their life’s circumstances. This self-limiting hangover leads to dire consequences as it drains such self-inflicted victims of future motivations to even make the least effort towards escaping from their less-than-ideal conditions.

People with attitudes of learned helplessness paradoxically sustain self-defeating behaviors. They do this by responding to the possibility of failing by deliberately sabotaging their own likelihood of success by not putting in any effort.

So long as you will try just one more time, you have not failed. You only fail when you quit. So try one more time. This is the only way to overcome self-helplessness and self-fulfilling self-defeating behaviors.

First, you must change your entitlement mentality because nobody owes you anything.

2. No One Owes You Anything

No, I am not talking of debt as measured in dollars.

Some years ago, I was on a company-sponsored training. On one of those days, after the training hours, I went with some of my colleagues for shopping. We were driving back from the mall when one of my pals made an apt observation that a pair of simple men’s boxers cost as much as what it costs to dry clean the same set when they get dirty. We both laughed it off as he exclaimed, “Welcome to America, where washing your pants cost more than buying an extra pair.”

Some people are so fortunate in this life that they take life and everything for granted. But then, you must realize that no one owes you anything. For me, this is a true and awesomely liberating life’s philosophy. If you know it, you just know it, and afterward you can’t “unknow” it.

But, while it may be true that no one really owes you anything, can you, in all honesty, say that you are not indebted to at least one person?

I am in the debt of many unknown, unseen, unforgotten, and sadly at times forgotten benefactors for whom I will be forever grateful. With no exception, the same experience applies to you and all the people you know.

What will the mindset of “nobody owes me anything” do for your psyche positively?

  • You depend more on yourself. Whether you fail or succeed, you always go home with the joyful satisfaction that you have done your best. Come another day, come another opportunity.
  • You take your friends and other people as you see them. This mindset helps you to develop resilience, which leaves no room for corrosive resentment against those who let you down.Nobody really owes me anything. For me, this is the 100% awesome and most liberating mindset. You live life charging on under your own terms, carrying on irrespective of what life hurls at you.

Maybe no one really owes you anything, you can not in all honesty bluff on through life with “I don’t owe anybody anything.” Or can you?

Some people took chances on you at some crucial points in your life, say, the first job that eventually helped you to land your first breakthrough in life. You may be a Jeff Bezos or another Elon Musk in the making. Irrespective of whatever trail paths you have blazed now or are still going to blaze in the future, always remember those who gave you the spark to ignite your fire.

As has been rightly observed, no one ever gets to the summit of Mount Everest alone. There are many unsung heroes that helped made every one of your lofty achievements possible. Remember, this is your perpetual debt, pay it forward.

3. An Attitude of gratitude will calm your heart.

I read about two young ladies who were being presented with new cars as their 18th birthday gifts. One of these two ‘born with silver spoons” American ladies was offered a BMW while the other received an Audi. The sad irony, as reported, was that the latter recipient instantly busted into tears on receiving her own car. The reason for this negative attitude is not lost on anyone of us now. She felt her Audi was inferior to the BMW. Unfortunately, that is how many of us behave.

Being grateful at all times for all of life’s joys will cure many hearts of depressions, at least to a very large extent.

Being grateful for what life has given you is a sure cure for being ensnared by the rat race of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Come to think of it, of what use is a Formula – 1 racing car to a cripple who desperately desires to walk?

Being grateful for what life has given you is a sure cure for being ensnared by the rat race of Keeping up with the Joneses. Come to think of it, of what use is a Formula - 1 racing car to a cripple who desperately desires to walk? Click To Tweet

A grateful attitude opens up brighter vistas to future opportunities. It also helps us to make time for those things that matter most in life – home, family, kids, and friends.

Gratitude makes us find the time to smell the flowers rather than just passing through this life dissatisfied, despite our having been spared thus far and given so much.

Being grateful for today will arm us with the fortitude to plan for tomorrow’s battles and for all the other tomorrows after tomorrow, despite all their uncertainties.

4. Applying the golden rule in the age of narcissism.

… do to others what you would want them to do to you. This is what is written in the Law and in the Prophets.~ Matthew 7:12

Most of the ills in our world are traceable to some narcissists who never extend the charity they have received to others.

Always remember, what is good for you and your brother and sisters is equally good for me and my brothers and sisters. Click To Tweet

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Now, go ahead, reboot your life with a daily dose of gratitude.

  • Get off the quicksand of learned self helplessness.
  • Now you know it, that no one owes you anything in this life.
  • In your life journey, many people have spurred you on to where you are today. Pay that debt forward.
  • A grateful heart will ward off discouragements and put some depressions at bay. Who won’t desire that invaluable elixir?
  • Always remember that whatever is good for you and your brothers and sisters is equally good for me and my brothers and my sisters.

And you’ll be fine.

I originally published another version of this story on Medium.

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  • Copyright 2004 by © Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice, Harper Perennial
  • Copyright 2002 by ©) Kenneth W. Christian, Your Own Worst Enemy, Harper Collins