The more you become a connoisseur of gratitude, the less you are a victim of resentment, depression, and despair. Gratitude will act as an elixir that will gradually dissolve the hard shell of your ego–your need to possess and control–and transform you into generous being. The sense of gratitude produces true spiritual alchemy; makes us magnanimous, large-souled.Sam Keen
Amazingly, it has been nearly sixteen months since my mental health ‘awakening’ last fall. I now find myself in a much healthier, happier, and productive mental space. Perhaps the cherry on top may be the fact that I have quite literally landed into what may be my dream job in public education. As our school district looks to amp up its online learning presence in the province, the newly created online teacher coordinator position offers nothing but opportunity: to learn and exercise new digital skills; to design and create the role and its related work flow; to further leadership responsibilities; to work collaboratively on projects; and to support both my colleagues and their learners. This is the work that I need to be doing at this point in my professional life.
While I do subscribe to the power of serendipity, it is not the only rationale for how we arrive at the moments in our lives that we inhabit. There are other factors at play. One obvious element I connect directly to my wonderful professional fortune, for me, is part heart-led value, part regular exercise. It is a way of being that has helped to guide, mentor, support, and deliver me to this professional setting: a daily gratitude practice.
For more than five years, I have benefited immensely from the beauty and power of an attitude of gratitude. For me, this perspective of conscious living has become a superpower, of sorts. The regular practice of gratitude has not only had a profound effect on my mental and physical health, but popular figures in our culture from Steve Harvey to Tony Robbins to Denzel Washington feel similarly. Whether it is spending as little as five minutes scribbling in my Gratitude Journal (365 Questions One Page Per Day), the twice daily gratitude (morning and evening) ritual, the Five Minute Gratitude Journal app, or simply deciding to smile more, these tools have all conspired to increase my levels of gratitude and appreciation.
A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.Cicero
And like any muscle we wish to strengthen, gratitude requires a robust exercise regiment; it demands a regular, conscious, daily practice. Opportunities to flex our gratitude muscle abound. The sweat and effort in the small and frequent expressions of gratitude pay off quite handsomely: looking my server in the eye while thanking them for the coffee refill; offering a genuine wave of thanks to someone for letting me jump into the queue at a traffic light; writing a quick thank you to a colleague for taking time out of their busy schedule to help me figure out how to use the new office printer; praising the sun for shining its light on a -26 degree morning; and using the email signature ‘with gratitude and appreciation‘. These actions of gratitude represent our everyday, run-of-the-mill opportunities to express our thanks and appreciation. Other such gracious acknowledgements may be more ‘existential’ in nature (i.e., a rejuvenating nap; overcoming a period of deep grief; landing the perfect job; witnessing the birth of a child; recovering from a physical ailment or illness; etc.).
Rewinding to this past fall…
I began the school year in September where I left off: in a fantastic position supporting parents with their students in a home schooling (learning) teacher role. Indeed, I was gleefully enjoying the change (and different set of challenges) from the traditional brick and mortar schools of which I became so accustomed. I began to relish (and appreciate) the immense freedom and flexibility that came with the responsibilities of working in a hybrid online learning model (not sure what else to call it). But then, as if out of the blue, there it was…the job posting that I knew was mine. It felt as though it was a personalized job description that required only a specific skill set (mine) and passion (mine again): school administrative experience, teaching online experience (a strong familiarity with online world), and a chance to lead and support colleagues. If memory serves, my first reaction was probably something like “Holy sh@$!” and my immediate second reaction would have been akin to “Thank you for posting this job for me!” (I hadn’t even yet applied!).
I refuse to deny that the fact that my attitude of gratitude was at some level responsible for where I am right now. At least practicing it didn’t hurt.