Gratitude can quickly turn trite and cliche. Some people use it as an excuse to do nothing with their lives.
When you practice true gratitude, though — the combination of being thankful for what you have and continuing to improve your life — you develop a superpower.
You’re grounded in the fundamental understanding that your life is good.
Coming from the basic understanding that you’re relatively well off in the grand scheme of things keeps you from being negative, envious, and cynical.
Then, you use gratitude as a springboard to work even harder. You understand how lucky you are to even be able to do any of this, at all. Coming from that perspective, you’re honoring life by making even more of a contribution instead of just settling.
I want to share some of the things I’m grateful for, reflect, and even get a little bit personal and show you a window into my life.
I hope that my examples give you what you need to finish the year strong and start the next one with the proper perspective.
I’m Grateful For Life Itself
On the surface, being grateful for life is trite.
But if you think about it at a deep level, being alive, sentient, and conscious is insane. Often, I catch myself thinking about the nature of consciousness. When I do this, all of my anxiety melts away. All of my little problems seem trivial.
Your odds of existing at all are basically zero. You’re a sentient ape living a rock floating in the middle of a black ether created by an entity or energy that’s up for debate.
This is all pretty nuts.
I think about dying a lot. Maybe too much. But I do it to remember that every moment I spend on something insignificant, petty, or negative is time wasted.
When it’s all said and done, I’ll only care about a few things — my family and friends, my vocation, and the experiences that provide meaning. Focusing on gratitude for life helps me focus on those things instead of getting lost in distractions.
I’m Grateful for the Bullshit
I got divorced this year. A blood vessel exploded in my eye and I’m partially blind (for now). I found myself in a slight bout of depression after all this happened. Slight.
Not that I’m some perfect person, but my self-improvement skills came in handy when the circumstances in my life came crashing down. I used the b.s. in my life as fuel. I understood that many aspects of my life crumbling to the ground meant that I could rebuild my life as I saw fit.
I’d gotten into that marriage for the wrong reasons. Now, I had a chance to revaluate and be the type of person who’s actually ready for a relationship. My relationship with my daughter is infinitely better now that a toxic relationship is no longer a part of our lives.
The health issues I’ve had simply made me focus on my mission even more. I’ve never been as productive a writer as I’ve been since I realized how limited my time is.
I started new adventures. I’ve traveled more in the past six months than the previous few years. I’m meeting new people. Starting new projects. It’s almost as if I needed to be broken down again to hit a new level.
That’s exactly what happened. And I’m grateful.
I’m Grateful for the Internet
Most people simply don’t realize how powerful the internet is.
If you did, you wouldn’t be negative. You wouldn’t complain much. You’d be filled with excitement at the unlimited potential and opportunity the internet provides.
Thanks to the internet, I’ve been able to build my career as an indie writer without asking for anyone’s permission. Decades ago, if you didn’t get “picked” you were screwed.
I literally learned a tax tip via Twitter that will save me thousands of dollars. I follow some of the smartest people in the world who constantly drop nuggets of wisdom for free.
I bought a new fancy camera for my Youtube channel. When I wanted to learn how to use it…I went to Youtube. What did I find? More content on how to work my camera than I could ever consume.
You have access to everything you want in this life if you’re just willing to look. No, it won’t be a walk in the park, but with the internet, you no longer have the excuse that success is blocked off to you. It’s simply not true.
There are too many low cost and high upside opportunities on the internet for that to be true.
Whether or not you take advantage of them is up to you.
I’m Grateful for the Past
Are there some things about my past I’d like to change? Sure.
See, you never quite know how all the variables and dots connect. Sometimes bad things that happened to you lead to good things down the road. And vice versa.
Take me getting arrested for selling drugs. I often wonder my life would’ve been like had I not had a black mark on my record for five years while I was on probation. I could’ve easily got some cushy six-figure corporate gig and wasted my life away with “golden handcuffs.”
Instead, painting myself into a corner helped me become a better writer. I realized I’d need to make my own way, which is exactly what I did.
Also, my crazy life makes more great writing fodder. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know about my past — reckless renegade juvenile semi-sociopathic asshole. I think I needed to learn some of those lessons the hard way.
I’m better for it. I’m thankful that I have a past-self to compare my current self to.
I’m Grateful for the People Around Me
It’s funny, you try your whole adolescence and adulthood trying to not be like your parents, but then you end up like them in many ways and understand what they were trying to tell you.
I’m thankful for the lessons my folks taught me. Also, though, I’m thankful for their flaws and shortcomings. I needed the Yin and Yang of their characters to help shape me into the person I am.
This also helps me be less harsh on myself for my own parenting skills. And, of course, having a healthy, happy, extraordinarily cute, and demonic 3-year-old daughter gives me enough gratitude to last an eternity.
The same thing I said about my parents goes for friends, colleagues, romantic partners, the whole nine.
The people in your life can help you a great deal. Making sure to have the right people in your circle should be one of your top priorities in life. People can also hurt and betray you. Sometimes this is good, too. Most people make the mistake of taking nothing away from bad situations.
If you’re smart, you’ll come to understand human nature in its entirety. You need to understand the dark aspects of human nature perhaps even more than the positive ones. Not to become jaded and cynical, but to have an accurate picture of reality.
Often, I’ll understand that when people treat me a certain way, they couldn’t help themselves. You develop compassion for others, but you also don’t let people walk all over you.
You love and care for others, but understand the risks. You’re neither overly trusting and optimistic or negative and pessimistic. You’re realistic.
Appreciate the good and bad from everyone around you so that you can become your full self.
I’m Grateful for This Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy
Again, being alive is nuts.
This may sound like the point above, but it’s a little different. Not only am I grateful to be alive, but I’m also grateful to really play the game of life and understand its nature, both negative and positive.
Would I like less turmoil, tragedy, and senseless cruelty in the world? Of course.
But I’d never want to live in a utopia.
The tension of life gives it more flavor. If everything worked out the way I wanted it to on the first try, success wouldn’t be any fun. If we all agreed on everything all the time, life would be boring.
Countless philosophers have tried to get to the core of exactly what we’re doing here and nobody has a fully verifiable answer. I love that.
I love that situations in my life — both negative and positive — cause me to course correct all the time. I feel like I’m this self-improvement robot who’s constantly trying to update his software. Just when I think I have everything figured out, life throws me a massive curveball, which, of course, I don’t appreciate right away. But retrospectively, I almost always do.
The duality of life is present in so many symbols and myths because that’s what life is.
Sometimes you’re up. Sometimes you’re down. But you’re never out until it’s over. I plan on playing as many new hands as possible until I no longer can.
I’m Thankful For You
The fact that anyone reads my writing boggles my mind. People send me emails telling me how I’ve changed their life, helped them see things in a different way, inspired them and lifted them out of darkness, all sorts of stories.
I can’t even keep up with the emails I get any more, but I try to at least read them all. I’m grateful for people like you who make me feel like I’m doing something important and making some sort of contribution.
I feel like I was designed to write. I’ve always known that this is what I wanted to do with my life.
And because of people like you, I’m able to do just that.
So thank you.
We’re just getting started, too.
I have a new book coming out in January. I’m deeply focused on creating as much as I possibly can to help you in any way that I can. I’m not taking my foot off the gas, ever.
I’m in this with you for the long haul.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.