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“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” – Brene Brown
I made a big oversight during last week’s blog. I never defined what a habit is. Well, I am ready to write my wrong. Simply put, a habit is doing an action repeatedly to the point it is seamlessly woven into the fabric of your life. For example, when I am in deep thought or reading a book, I find myself biting deep into my nails. For some, it might be that humming a song when trying to figure out a problem. While for others it might be smoking or drinking when under tremendous stress. This is what makes them powerful. Automaticity. They can make or break us depending on which ones we adopt.
Now that you have forgiven me (I hope you have) let me ask, “Are habits coerced or chosen?” I believe we chose them through daily action, then they make us into who we are or want to be. If we are to sustain gratitude, then there must be habits that we practice daily. I shared two last week. Here are the final two. I believe they can keep you grateful even when life’s circumstances attempt to coerce you to think or see differently.
They remain humble
Humility staves off pride and welcomes gratitude. As you grow in humility, pride is evicted from your life. This is difficult although not impossible to do. There are triggers all around us waiting to inflate our hubris. But remember, humility is a worthwhile habit and pride is gratitude’s kryptonite. We can all agree that prideful people are unattractive. We tend to resist them at all costs.
In terms of mindsets, pride shows up as entitlement while humility manifests as an entrusted mindset. Humble people see life as a privilege, not a right and live in a manner that reflects it. They remain teachable, always looking for learning moments to foster greater growth. Think of how different our political landscape would be if humility and gratitude were prevalent.
Without gratitude and humility, pride deepens its stronghold in our hearts and resentment becomes our default setting. Like concrete on the ground, resentment hardens our hearts, numbing us to anything positive or hopeful. Resentful people draw from the noxious well of blaming others. They view life as one big conspiracy to prevent progress. They seldom celebrate other people’s successes because they are too busy criticizing instead of learning from them. Meanwhile, the best of relationships thrive on the sap of humility.
With that being said, are there ways to cultivate humility? Let me suggest a handful:
- Reveal your weaknesses. This is easier said than done. We all have a default to impress people. But I have learned that while people may be impressed with my strengths, my weaknesses, contrary to popular thinking, deepen my connection with others.
- Remember you are not in control. I cannot tell you how much weight will fall off your shoulders when you come to this realization. Too many people are stressed and frustrated because of what they cannot control.
- Reference others when you describe your successes. Last week, I completed my first marathon. I prepared and trained all summer, but I could not have done it without my friend Samson riding a bicycle alongside me and cheering me on. Thank you, my friend. You reminded me of the importance of finishing when the dark cloud of quitting hovered over me.
- Retain a heart of service. Service is a currency that never loses its value. Those who serve will always have an appreciating position in people’s hearts. Want to make a difference? Shed the crown of entitlement and the robe of expectations of what others should do for you. Put on the apron of service instead.
- Refrain from comparison. Joy and contentment walk out the door the moment comparison knocks and is invited in. Measuring ourselves with others is the wrong standard. We end up focusing on our deficiencies and inadequacies instead of our uniqueness and God-given purpose. One way to never give comparison a seat in your life is to celebrate other people’s accomplishments.
As humility takes front and center in our hearts and gratitude grows, we adopt a hopeful disposition towards life.
Maintain a hopeful disposition
Without beating around the bush, there is a buffet of things in the world that can siphon our hope and joy. Just tap on the latest news notification you get. Most of the time, it’s another reason to steal your hope. So how do the faithful few maintain hope? Is it that they live in an alternate universe totally ignorant of the world and its problems? I don’t think so.
It’s not that the hopeful are oblivious to the negativity in the world, they have just chosen to approach life saturated with these two qualities:
- Endurance: In 1983, something unprecedented happened in Australia. Cliff Young, a 61-year-old potato farmer won the grueling 7-day 544-mile Ultramarathon competition. The burning question was how did he defeat athletes who were younger, and bore sponsorships from well-known brands? Endurance. While other athletes slept, which is allowed during the race, especially at night, Young just kept on going! Those who endure can never be counted out, despite age or stage in life. They are like the Energizer battery or Cliff Young. They just keep going no matter what! And their stories inspire and encourage us to do the same.
- Encouragement: In his hard-to-put-down book, How Happiness Happens, best selling author and Pastor Max Lucado says, “With the skill of rock masons, encouragers stack stones of affirmation and inspiration.” I wholeheartedly agree. But it is virtually impossible to build others up when hope itself has escaped you. My wife is a perfect example of an encourager in my life. Her words constantly supercharge me. I call her my Chief Encouragement Officer (CEO).
Encouragement calls out the best in people. It’s seeing the best in others when they cannot. Our words of encouragement can carve out of others what they never thought was in them to begin with. Encouragement is a gift that you can give to anyone, anywhere, and at any time with no cost to you but with immense benefit to the receiver. Never hesitate where encouragement is needed. Hope is never far behind.
We live in a hope parched world. But with endurance and encouragement, we can be refreshing wells that quench those who are thirsty for hope. In this way, gratitude will not just be an occasion but a lifestyle.
Final thought: Just as muscles are strengthened through repetition of exercise, gratitude is strengthened in our lives when we choose to repeatedly take nothing for granted, value people more than possessions, remain humble, and maintain a hopeful disposition. If you are looking for a sweet spot in life, gratitude is it.
Keep on keeping on!
Normal blog posting will resume on December 5th with the introduction of, “Measuring Your Life.”