24 December, 2015
When my daughters were young, we had an evening ritual when they would tell me the best and worst things about their day.
This allowed me to gauge how they were feeling and deal with any issues before they became problematic. More importantly, it forced the girls to think about good things that had happened; in so doing, they experienced gratitude.
As we head into the Christmas season, a lot of us will experience more gratitude in a matter of weeks than we have throughout the year. My nightly ritual had a lot going for it and it's sad, as we get older and busier, we are less inclined to pause and be grateful.
The American Thanksgiving tradition is a good start. Despite the commercial temptations to shop and eat too much, Americans stop for one day and give thanks for all that is good in their lives. To be truly effective, it needs to be extended beyond one day. Otherwise, the implication is that on every other day it is okay to be dissatisfied or disappointed or take for granted the good things we have.
I read the other day that "feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it". Very apt for the Christmas season.
Another writer suggested, to really experience gratitude, we should recall the last time we narrowly avoided a bad consequence — braking just in time to avoid a car accident; getting the all-clear from a medical test; stopping ourselves before tripping on the stairs. In these instances we have an immediate sense of how fortunate we are, we exclaim "thank goodness" or similar, and feel profoundly grateful, even if only momentarily.
This Christmas, I say thank goodness, or just plain thank you, for:
- A year during which more investors made money than lost money. That is, we didn't have a financial crisis or rampant inflation or theft or fraud on a grand scale.
- A banking system allowing us to sleep at night. We might think banks make too much money at our expense, and begrudge the Australian owners of our big banks, but we're not going to wake one morning to find that our money has disappeared.
- A political arena with people whose aspirations for New Zealand are fundamentally sound. Sure, we have all sorts of contrary views and opinions as to how those goals will be achieved but at least those at the extremes of the political divide are still reasonable people.
- The opportunity to live in such a beautiful country growing nicely and attracting attention from investors and would-be citizens who can see New Zealand's many virtues from afar. Sometimes it is easy to overlook what is right under your nose.
- Cows, sheep, fish, forests, kiwifruit, tourism and transport, IT, films, education and other services. I'm grateful we are not dependent on any one product or service for future growth.
- Being relatively insignificant in the scheme of things. I like the fact we can go about our business and our lives, away from the glare of international lights, without worrying someone is watching us and wants us to change.
- Having things to feel optimistic about in 2016. The economic, political and financial outlook is positive and there will be opportunities next year for people, businesses and investors to succeed.
Gratitude is not dependent on having achieved certain things and it doesn't involve comparison. It is simply being thankful. And I am.