Do you ever think about where you’d be if big life events were handled differently? When I was in high school. I almost changed my acceptance at Penn State from the main campus to a branch (I’m sorry, satellite) campus. My mother told me I was insane and I’m glad I listened to her. Then, during my first semester, I was so close to transferring to Pitt or a school closer to home.
I’m still proud to say I was accepted at the UPark campus as an incoming freshman and graduated with two degrees in three and a half years. But I never would have gotten the chance to say that if I changed campuses.
Going even further back, what if I pursued my desire to attend Boston College for no other reason than I just wanted to be somewhere other than Pittsburgh? What if my parents hadn’t moved back to Pennsylvania from Texas? I could have an adorable southern accent.
What about things that I didn’t choose, like what if my mom didn’t move out of town or my father didn’t get sick? Or I wasn’t prey of a mentally manipulative person that made years of my life a living hell?
All of these things can shape you as a person.
I don’t think that’s dwelling on the past to ask these what-if questions. If you fantasize about them and lose touch with what’s happening around you because you’re so wrapped up in these thoughts, then that’s a bad thing. But I think it’s good to reflect on experiences that you have and appreciate where you’ve come from and where you’re going.
The keyword is appreciate. Even bad things, like being late. They give you strength, grace, understanding, compassion. Maybe even happiness.
The other night at our Levo meeting, Britt Reints talked about the importance of practicing gratuity. Being grateful is something we actively have to practice in order to find happiness, to appreciate life, to see how much you’ve grown.
Did you know that your happiness has a ripple effect? There are three degrees of separation between you and the people who can feel the positive vibes of you being happy.
Did you also know that people who practice gratitude are 25% happier than people who don’t?
With all of this happy research to persuade me, I started my gratitude practice again. I was doing for a while with Emily Levenson’s Project Miracles but lost it when I lost the accountability of doing it in a group setting. But the fantastic thing is that you can pick it back up any time you want.
Sure, it’s hard to say, “I’m grateful for this shitty situation that I’m in,” but the more you do it, the easier it is. And those thoughts are just as valid and relevant to your happiness as a positive thought.
What I love is that it serves as a guide for you to say, “This is what makes me happy.” It’s there in black and white. And it forces you to use your gut. I’m horrible at making decisions; consciously thinking about what you are grateful for strengthens your intuitive powers.
So I challenge you to start practicing gratitude. What’s something for which you’re grateful? It can be something that shaped you into the person you are now or just something good that happened today.