Sue Thompson on the serendipity of gratitude.
I’m not one to make resolutions. I think we set ourselves up for defeat, particularly if we make a bunch of them. It seems we’re always resolving to fix things we think are wrong with us, and this can be hard to stay focused on consistently.
If I have a resolution for 2013, it is to live gratefully. Gratitude is a character strength, and character is something I care about deeply. I have a website called YourCharacterIsShowing.com, in which I interview business people on the character strengths that have guided them. I ask my guests to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, a validated tool created by researchers in the field of positive psychology, and I receive a full ranking of their 24 strengths. (You can take a free VIA Survey of Character Strengths here (click in the red box on the right) and receive a brief list of your top 5 strengths.)
Here’s the thing about character strengths: it’s not that we have some and not others. It’s that we’re strong in some but not others. (Although I certainly know some people who I feel have no character.) Because of our upbringing, influences, traumas, friendships, beliefs—many factors that feed into our lives—we develop strongly in some areas and are weak in others. We can nurture and fortify these weak character traits if we wish to. Character is not hardwired; it is learned and practiced.
“I’m not kidding when I say I’m grateful for my Trikke.”
I find that the majority of those I’ve interviewed are strong in gratitude, and perhaps it is because it is one of my strengths as well. I can’t tell you why, exactly, I am strong in this trait, but it has always been very important to me, and since I first took the VIA survey years ago and discovered this was one of my top strengths, I’ve focused on it more, staying mindful of the things that fill me with gratitude.
Researchers tell us we can develop this area of character with a simple exercise: at the end of every day, think of 3 or 4 things from the day for which you are thankful. Write them down if it’s helpful. I talk out loud before I fall asleep. They don’t have to be big things. I have lifted my spirits by reminding myself of how grateful I am that I have a warm bed to sleep in, a house that’s cool in summer and warm in winter, and that I don’t have to take public transportation. (If I didn’t have a car, I’d be thankful for public transportation. See how it works?) Gratitude opens up the heart and mind to all the simple things of beauty that surround us. Gratitude is a regulator. It gives perspective to dark situations and brings peace in the worst of moments. So 2013 is my year of gratitude—and I expect every year to be a year of gratitude.
I’m not kidding when I say I’m grateful for my Trikke. I’m grateful I didn’t give up trying to figure out how to ride it. I’m grateful that even though I was trying to learn with my wheel on backwards and my handlebars set in the wrong position, I still found it fun. I’m grateful something in me didn’t give up! I’m super grateful that [TrikkeWorld publisher] Randy Boyd contacted me to ask me to write a guest blog, and that I wrote about my experience, and that people could see in the attached photo that my wheel was not in place properly, and that they wrote me and told me what to do. I’m grateful for that bit of unexpectedness, that correction that had me stepping on my Trikke and feeling it move forward without the struggle I’d been experiencing. I’m grateful for this wonderful little vehicle!
Make 2013 a year of focusing on what’s good about you. Be grateful you’re one of the many who know what a Trikke is and how much fun it is to ride!