A Quick Guide to Being Grateful

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." Epicurus

by Travis Hellstrom

It's so easy to get caught up in want. It's also easy to forget to enjoy what we have.

Whether it's getting a new computer, moving into a new apartment, or simply going to a pizza place for dinner, it's easy to get super excited about something and then forget to enjoy it once we have it.

Gratitude is a way through this.

I love how Epicurus says, "remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."

Things I Only Hoped For

There was a time not too long ago when I dreamed of Advance Humanity becoming something great that would outlive me. I wrote it in a makeshift will during Peace Corps because I felt so strongly about it. In only a few short years, it has started to take shape.

Advance Humanity is a now registered benefit corporation in Vermont, on it's way to becoming a certified benefit corporation, and we just launched a new website this month. We have a long way to go, but I can honestly say this is one of those things that I could have only hoped for years ago. Add on top of that getting married, getting through my first year of graduate school and helping run an amazing organization in Mongolia and the list of things I'm grateful for really takes off.

Appreciating Where We Are

One exercise I like to do with my wife is to ask a series of questions:

  • Do you remember where we were one week ago?
  • One month ago?
  • One year ago?

When you remember each time, think about:

  • The place you were physically and emotionally.
  • What you were thinking about on a daily basis.
  • What you were worrying about at that time.
  • What your dreams were at that time.

This takes several minutes for each time period and it's important to step through each of them.

In our case recently it was easy to forget that it was only a week ago that we moved into our new apartment, a month ago we had just come back to Vermont, and that a year ago we had just landed in America.

The point of the exercise is reflection, but I always feel grateful after I do it (without even intending to).

Give it a shot yourself, either alone or with someone you love, and see what happens.