Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
A strategy that is second nature to people who live life effectively is the use of paradigm shifts. It’s also called reframing or altered perception. Mary Ann Williamson in Return To Love defines a miracle as a change in perception. Sometimes we can’t change a situation or circumstance, but we can change how we view and perceive it. Always question the challenges in life by asking, “Is there a better interpretation? Is there a way that I can look at this that’s good for me rather than bad?” It’s a strategy that helps you be a more positive thinking person and see possibilities rather than limitations.
My favorite example of a paradigm shift occurred in Milwaukee at that city’s best German restaurant. The joint was jumping and the waitresses had to hustle to keep up. We had ordered dessert and when mine arrived, it wasn’t what I anticipated and I asked the waitress if I could change my dessert order. She said with a big smile, “No problem,” and I almost felt that I was doing her a favor. This really puzzled me because I knew how busy she was and that the waitresses were responsible for making the desserts. Most waitresses would be annoyed and resentful at a customer changing his mind at the last moment and creating additional work during their rush period.
When we were served our coffee, I asked why she wasn’t upset when I requested a different dessert. She smiled again and said, “All the busboys that work here are overworked and underpaid. Whenever there is a mistake on a dessert order, I get to give it to one of the busboys and that makes me feel good.” She had found a way to feel good about a problem that would be very upsetting to most waitresses.
I used to drive a 1984 Honda Prelude. I had two ways to view my ownership of an old car. I was driving a rusted out junker or I was the proud owner of an unrestored classic.
When Kathy and I started dating, we inadvertently walked through some wet cement and left footprints. Kathy was concerned that we were going to get into trouble. I said in my terribly witty and sometimes obnoxious way “Don’t worry. They will be looking for two men.” Kathy is a big gal and wears size 10 shoes. Instead of being shamed and becoming indignant, she chose to see the humor in the situation and laughed heartily. Kathy gives presentations to groups of large size women on body image issues. She tells this story comfortably and never fails to get a laugh.
Kathy not only has a large physical presence, but also projects a “larger than life” image with her high energy, desire to do everything quickly and passionate zest for living life fully. She is an Ethel Merman type who frequently bursts into song, singing some Broadway show tune that she has lovingly committed to memory. When I get up in the morning I love my quiet time and solitude. When Kathy gets up she is doing all those noisy, necessary things (blow drying her hair, doing a load of laundry or starting up the dish washer) that need to be done before she is off to work. This used to irritate me even though I knew it was temporary and I would get my solitude once she left for work. Now when I was a kid, I owned a St. Bernard dog. It was the most impractical pet imaginable for a family living in suburbia in a small house with a tiny yard. Bernie would howl at nighttime and leave the house in shambles with overturned furniture, broken vases and scratched up wallpaper. I loved that dog so much that his “minor shortcomings” just didn’t matter to me. (Mom and dad saw it slightly differently.) Whenever Kathy is noisily clunking around the house in the morning, I think of Bernie and realize that I love Kathy so much that it really doesn’t matter. It’s a small, small problem in the big, big scheme of things. We can learn to view things differently and in a way that makes us feel good rather than bad.