Gotta keep on top of those suckers or they’ll take over a perfectly nice garden. Or life.
And when it comes to sustaining an optimistic and grateful outlook on life, your built-in bias is of no help.
Because it’ll lead you to ignore and take for granted the blessings of your life.
Gratitude researcher Robert Emmons speculated that the problem is fundamentally about motivation and entrenched thought patterns.
“My scientific study of gratitude, since about 2000, has led me to conclude that a key factor is a fundamental lack of skill in managing our mental and emotional states and feelings,” Emmons said.
He’s saying that we don’t actively infuse our daily experience with gratefulness because we just don’t know how to.
Though we all have the tools to do it.
If we want to, we could practically turn every moment into a practice of gratitude.
Yet, too often, we allow those tools to become dull from disuse. Or we misplace them and forget about them.
And that’s what leads to a divide between knowing what you ought to do and what you actually do.
Psychologists call this the knowledge-to-performance gap.
The depressing reality is that people will often fail to live up to what they should do – or even want to do!
I mean, at some point, we all fail to live up to our own ideals. It happens. Certainly to me.
I may profess gratitude, yet keep a tally (even unconsciously) of the things in life I feel aren’t fair.
I can champion empathy all day long and then get irritated and snap at my husband when he comes home from work grumpy and hangry (that’s when you’re so hungry you’re angry).
But gratitude really makes a difference.
And we should all be making the effort to have more of it in our life. To practice it even – and especially – when we don’t feel like it.
The good news is, that those old tools are still in the shed.
You just have to go find them, give them a bit of a clean, sharpen and polish them, and they’ll be as good as new!
Investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, believed that if you look at adversity as a blessing and an opportunity to overcome barriers, hard times can become a source of enduring joy.
In his 1962 Christmas letter, he wrote that the mind is like a garden. And that you should consider yourself the gardener in charge of cultivating it.
“If you exercise no control, it will become a weed patch and a source of shame and misery. If you exercise wise control, then it will be filled with God’s miracles and become a place of indescribable beauty. You are free to choose which.
How can you do it? Simply for example, develop a habit of looking at each thought as you would a plant. If it is worthy, if it fits the plan you desire for your mind, cultivate it. If not, replace it.
How do you get it out of your mind? Simply by putting in its place two or three thoughts of love or worship, for no mind can dwell on more than two or three thoughts at one time.
Circumstances outside the garden of your mind do not shape you. You shape them.
For example, if you expect treachery, allowing those thoughts to dwell in your mind, you will get it. If you fill your mind with thoughts of love, you will give love and get it.
If you think little of God, He will be far from you. If you think often of God, the Holy Spirit will dwell more in you.
The glory of the universe is open to every man. Some look and see. Some look and see not. Gardens are not made in a day. God gave you one lifetime for the job.
Control of your garden or your mind grows with practice and study of the wisdom other minds have bequeathed to you. He who produces an item of unique beauty in his garden or his mind may have a duty to give that seed to others.
As your body is the dwelling place of your mind, so is your mind the dwelling place of your soul.
The mind you develop is your dwelling place for all your days on earth, and the soul you develop on earth may be the soul you are stuck with for eternity. God has given you the choice.”
– Sir John Templeton, letter ‘Are You In Control Of Your Mind?’, 1962
So, even when life gives you shit (and especially then) plant a garden.
- What thoughts do you have in the garden of your mind that support and sustain you?
- What thoughts do you have that diminish and disparage you?
- What do you want your garden to look like a year from now?