Your Life Is What You Appreciate

Centuries ago, the Pilgrims set foot in North America, a land where they had never been, a land that seemed to them very foreign and wild.  They definitely didn’t have all the answers, heck they didn’t even have a good idea of how to grow their own food in this new land.  Yet, in the fall of 1621, they had their first harvest.  So, they gave thanks that they were alive and free.

A joyful way to honor this part of history might be to recognize that what we appreciate creates a meaningful and abundant life for those around us and ourselves.

A hundred-dollar bill is a perfect example of the power of appreciation.  If we fail to appreciate that a hundred-dollar bill has value, it could appear to us as merely a small scrap of virtually worthless paper.

You might say, “Now Jason this is an absurd example.  People just know to appreciate that hundred-dollar bills have value.”

And I completely agree; most adults in the United States know how to appreciate the value of a hundred-dollar bill.

So we understand how to appreciate the value of a little piece of paper.  Now how can we give this same confident appreciation that we have for a hundred-dollar bill, to ourselves, the people around us and our communities?

What if every time we looked at our family members, we felt the same excitement as when we happen to notice a hundred-dollar bill on a street?

What if every time we looked at the people ahead of us in the checkout line at the grocery store, we felt the same excitement as when we happen to notice a hundred-dollar bill on a street?

What if every time we looked in the mirror, we felt the same excitement as when we happen to notice a hundred-dollar bill on a street?

 Game Of The Day

How can you increase your ability to appreciate yourself?

How can you increase your ability to appreciate all the people that you truly want to appreciate?

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Appreciation Monday

We feel exhilaration when we see someone’s face light up as we genuinely appreciate him or her.

For the last few months, one of my intentions has been to voice appreciation for everyone I come in contact with.  Sometimes I simply smile, sometimes I acknowledge something I admire about a person, and sometimes I thank the person for what they contribute to the world.

This intention was put to the test recently when I was walking in a park.  I was about to pass by a man unloading portable toilets from a truck.  Instead, I stopped for a minute and thought about all this man does.  Because of his work people are spared pain and suffering and possibly embarrassment.  With this realization, I thanked him for the work that he was doing.  Then possibly a little stunned, he thanked me for what I said.

I find that by appreciating other people, we give them a gift, naturally make new friends and develop community around us.

Dale Carnegie once observed, “You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world’s happiness now.  How?  By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone…Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.” *

I have also found another great benefit of this exercise.  As we develop more ability to appreciate the people around us, we tend to gain ability to appreciate ourselves.

* Quote from ThinkExist.com

Game of the Day

For one hour or for the whole day, find a way to appreciate everyone that you come in contact with.

The Abundance of Giving and Receiving

Wouldn’t birthdays be duller if we had to give each other the exact same thing?  In that world, we would sit down with each of our friends and family members at the beginning of each year and figure out the thing we were going to get each other.  Then when our friend’s birthday came, we would wrap the present out of tradition, but they would already know exactly what was in the box, how much it cost and where to buy it.  Then on our birthday, our friend would wrap our present, but we would already know what was in the box, how much it cost and where to buy it.

There would be a strict equality in this system and at the same time it would be utterly predictable and boring.  This system would lack much because birthday presents would become more of transaction than an experience of the joy of giving and receiving.

A huge part of the excitement of opening gifts is to be surprised, to not know what is in the box, to shake the box, to guess what’s in the box and then finally to open the box to see if your guesses were even close to the real deal.

The gifts we receive can be much more amazing than what we expected.  And the experience of giving a gift from a place of joy is one of the most rewarding experiences of being human.

Both giver and receiver are free.  The giver is free to give.  The receiver is free to receive.

The world of gift giving often doesn’t run as smoothly as it might because we are often uncomfortable receiving gifts or feel we have to give an equivalent gift in return.  As mothers and fathers know, gift giving is not equal.  They give their small children life and their small children give them scribbles to hang on the wall.

In our minds, we can go through our day appreciating the priceless nature of the gifts we give and receive.   Even in the checkout line at the grocery store, what we are giving the cashier goes beyond mere money.  We are giving our love and support to a complex system of producing and selling food that keeps countless people alive.  In return, we are getting the gift of groceries that we keep use alive.

You and I can start thinking about all the gifts we give and receive each day.    Many gifts will involve money, and many will not. Wealth as a giver and receiver of gifts may well be a wealth that is far more extravagant than having untold millions of dollars in some bank account.

Game Of The Day

Appreciate and celebrate all the gifts that you give and receive today.  Gifts can include time, money, support, love, beauty, food and much more. Be creative and think outside the usual boxes presents come in as you recognize the gifts that you give and receive.

Developing A Keen Grasp Of The Obvious

Yesterday in this blog, I wrote about how transformative appreciation can be.  Right now, little more than twenty-four hours later, I’m faced with a dilemma in which I want to be frustrated and ungrateful instead of appreciative.

This is a bit of a bizarre story.  You see, I was eating lunch at my computer and a bit of bean fell in between the keys on my keyboard and got stuck.  The thought of a sliver of green bean rotting in my keyboard grossed me out; so on impulse, I took a butter knife, wedged it under the key and flipped the ALT key off my keyboard, so I could liberate the bit of bean.  But now I can’t get the ALT key to reattach to my keyboard.

I’m inclined to focus exclusively on the missing ALT instead of being grateful that I still have all the keys of the alphabet and numbers zero thru nine on my keyboard.

This is so life isn’t it?  Sometimes it is easy to focus on the metaphorical missing ALT key rather than to appreciate the abundance of what works in our lives.

Back in high school, my friend Chris Moneke came up with the phrase, “A keen grasp of the obvious” to describe common sense.  Having a “keen grasp of the obvious” sounds so easy, but I have found the obvious goodness of life is amazingly hard to see when we are focused on problems.  Find a missing ALT key to worry about, and the rest of our keyboard that is in fine working order can seem to disappear.

I find that we not only have the opportunity to continually ask ourselves questions that call for a response of appreciation, but also to take the time to practice noticing and appreciating the whole keyboard of our lives.  A missing ALT key is only a huge deal if it is all we see.  While it is natural to feel and even mourn the loss of our missing ALT keys, we can, at the same time, teach ourselves to develop a keen grasp of the obvious beauty and wonder around us.

Game of the Day

Take fifteen or twenty minutes to engage in an activity that opens you up to appreciating beauty in the world.  For example, walking slowly around your neighborhood and really noticing the architecture, plants and trees is a wonderful way to become more appreciative of the place you live and life in general.

Living on a Foundation of Appreciation

A few years ago, I had the privilege of being coached by Carol Draper, an excellent life coach.  One of the homework assignments that she repeatedly suggested I do was keep a Gratitude Journal.  This assignment was really simple; each day for the two weeks between our meetings I was to write down three to five things that I was grateful for in my Gratitude Journal.

So did I do the homework? Well kind of…. I would write in my Gratitude Journal for three or four days and then I would stop for one reason or another.

I have a confession to make….I still don’t keep a Gratitude Journal, but now I do see its benefits.

In the last few years, I have come to realize that being appreciative is more than a way of being polite to the people who give me things and the world that gives us life.  Being appreciative is a foundation that can allow us to build a thriving life.

I realize this from personal experience.  For much of my life I considered myself disabled, but in retrospect I think I was more disappreciative.  (If you are scratching you head on whether disappreciative is a word, it’s not.  I just coined it this morning at 7:38 AM.  I italicize the word to celebrate this very tiny event in the history of the English Language.)

When I rested my life on a foundation of disability and being disappreciative, my life was always wrong.  I didn’t speak right.  I wrote too slowly.  I caught basketballs with my glasses instead of my hands. And on a global scale too….the world appeared full of things that didn’t work and things to be afraid of.

Now that I build my life on the foundation of appreciation, I not only notice what is good about the world and myself, but base my actions upon that.  This might sound somewhat lofty, so I will give you a concrete example of employing disappreciation and appreciation in regards to the sound of my voice and how each of these views impacted my life.

When I was constructing my views about my voice based on the foundation of disability and disappreciation, I wouldn’t have dreamt of becoming an inspirational speaker because I was ashamed of my voice, upset that I had a speech impediment and thought that groups would never want to hear me speak.

Whereas, from a foundation of appreciation, I am grateful I can be understood the vast majority of the time, that I have a unique story to tell, a sense of humor, a love for people and a love expressing my creativity through the spoken word.  Upon this foundation of appreciation, I built my career as an inspirational speaker.

How does the shift from disappreciation to appreciation happen?  This is a complex question.  Many factors accumulated to cause this shift in my life.  One thing that has helped me greatly and I think might be useful to you is simply asking myself questions that call for a response of appreciation such as in the morning, “What am I grateful that I get to do today?”  Or during the day when a challenging situation arises ask, “What can I appreciate about this challenging situation?”  And at night of course reflecting back on the day and asking the classic gratitude journal question, “What am I grateful for today?”

Game of the Day

Today- When a challenging situation arises ask, “What can I appreciate about this challenging situation?”

Tonight- Reflecting back on the day and ask “What am I grateful for today?”

Tomorrow morning-  Ask, “What am I grateful that I get to do today?”

 ***These questions are simple to ask.  The fun and challenging part of this game is to ask one of these questions every time you feel yourself slipping into disappreciation mode and then to focus on the power and joy of your answer.

I admit that at first I was a bit skeptical of things like gratitude journals, but I have found living a life of appreciation to be life transforming and a pathway to achieving extraordinary results.

The Abundance of Knowing We Have Enough

 

I recently started reflecting upon a very short story that my Grandfather Francis Schellinger read long ago in a newspaper and has shared with me.  I have asked him to repeat it to many times over the years because I find it fascinating.  The story goes something like this:

Steve and Wally are sitting waiting for the bus.  Steve says to Wally, “I’m richer than Harrison.”

Wally stares at Steve in utter disbelief and finally declares, “But that is impossible!  Harrison owns three houses and is a MILLIONAIRE many times over.”

Steve pauses for a minute, smiles at Wally and says confidently, “But I know I have enough and Harrison does not.”

This bit of conversation moves me every time I think about it because of Wally’s insight into life.  Wally realized he could declare that he had enough money, just like he could say when he was full from eating dinner.

On the other hand, even though Harrison had assets a thousand times in excess of Wally’s bank account, Harrison never gave himself the gift of declaring that he had enough money.  Instead, he was always fretting about finances and probably spending nights tossing and turning as he worried over how he would make his next million.

Harrison’s amazing financial abundance did not afford him Wally’s peace of mind and joy.

For my grandfather, realizing that he had enough changed everything for him and his family.  Grandpa Francis was a contractor and retired from that stressful career when he was fifty.  He moved with his family from the city to the country.  Grandpa then was free to spend his time loving his wife, kids and grand kids.  He also gardened extensively and became an expert craftsman, making countless beautiful objects out of wood.

Recognizing that he had enough, Grandpa gave himself the freedom to live a life he was passionate about.  Sure, grandpa could have made a great deal more money if he worked until he was seventy.   But he chose a path that he found far more rewarding.  A few weeks ago, I had the honor of visiting my grandfather in Minnesota.  Now at age eighty-eight, grandpa told me he was so grateful that he retired when he did.

Was my grandpa extremely fortunate to have made enough money to retire at age fifty?  Of course he was.   But more importantly, he had the wisdom to declare that he had enough at age fifty and then use his resources to live exactly the life he wanted.

There will always be more money we could make, more hours we could work, more stuff we could buy and on and on.

Realizing we have enough is an extraordinary result that has the potential of transforming our lives.

Game of the Day

  1. How will you know when you have enough?
  2. How would recognizing that you have enough change how you live your life?

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Jason Freeman is a professional writer, and a one-of-a-kind public speaker.  He is the founder and CEO of Heroic Yes! Productions. Jason has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nebraska.  He knows the pain of perceiving one’s life through a lens of limitation and also the thrill of moving beyond that mindset.  For more information on Jason’s powerful message, go to www.HeroicYesProductions.com.