We’re naturally more grateful this time of year (and maybe especially this year). Steve Cook explains why gratefulness is so important in our pursuit of joy—and offers a simple exercise to help you get intentional about shifting your focus.
As the sun comes out, the flowers bloom, the trees green up, and the pandemic shows signs of improvement (at least in some places), the conditions are right for feeling, expressing, and expanding our gratefulness. Don’t let this moment pass. Steve Cook says now is the time for a gratefulness revival.
“A life devoid of gratefulness robs us of joy, and joy is what we all need more of, especially here at the end of a long, tough winter,” says Cook, author of Lifeonaire: An Uncommon Approach to Wealth, Success, and Prosperity (Lifeonaire Promotions, LLC, 2018, ISBN: 978-0-9863228-7-7, $14.99).
Is Cook talking about literal winter, pandemic winter, or spiritual winter? It could be any or all of them. Regardless, says Cook, it’s easier to feel grateful right now when things are looking up a bit. That’s why we need to seize the feeling, focus on it, and intentionally do the things that cause it to grow.
“If you want more joy in your life, focus on gratitude,” he says. “They go hand in hand.”
Cook—a life and business coach, speaker, trainer, and author who helps people opt out of the American Dream culture that glorifies “busy, the grind, and the hustle”—says gratefulness is easier to embrace once you see its benefits. A few “great truths” about gratefulness:
GREAT TRUTH #1: First and foremost, gratefulness is a choice. “When we don’t intentionally choose gratefulness, we’re automatically ungrateful,” says Cook. “There’s no way around it. You can’t be stuck in the middle. Too often the default is to be ungrateful simply because you’re not intentionally focusing on gratitude.”
Each day, you must commit to feeling gratitude—even on those days you’re feeling crabby, uninspired, or generally negative. When you catch yourself being negative, redirect your focus to something you feel grateful for. It can be something large, such as the ability to go to work, or small, such as your favorite dessert. Either way, choosing gratitude is a deliberate decision you have to make over and over. This a practice, but it becomes easier with time and repetition.
GREAT TRUTH #2: Gratefulness changes the atmosphere around you. It allows you to see everything differently. In a spiritual sense, when you’re grateful, it’s hard for anything that would steal your joy to exist or to remain in your presence. If you’re overflowing with something, how could you possibly run out?
“Challenge yourself to feel so full of joy and gratitude that there’s less room for anything else,” says Cook. “Once you witness the powerful shift this makes on your outlook, you will be eager to turn to gratefulness as a way of life.”
GREAT TRUTH # 3: Expressing gratefulness redirects your focus. It takes your mind off your problems and places it on more meaningful things. Ideally, says Cook, we would express our gratefulness to God or our Higher Power. But we can also express it to those around us, or to ourselves (perhaps in a gratitude journal). Why suffer by focusing only on what is wrong in your life when you could spend time exploring spirituality and seeking guidance that helps you learn and grow?
GREAT TRUTH # 4: You can’t wallow in self-pity or have a victim mentality when you’re feeling grateful. This is an important reason to work on your gratitude levels. Being grateful changes your attitude about the tough things you experience and helps to drown them out and put them into the right perspective.
GREAT TRUTH # 5: Finally, with the right perspective, you can even become grateful for your trials. Why? Because you start to see your experiences as opportunities to learn valuable lessons, grow stronger, and rely more on faith.
“When approached from a place of gratefulness, your struggles take on a whole new meaning,” says Cook.
Now that the benefits of gratefulness are clear, try this gratitude exercise for experiencing what Cook calls “indescribable joy.” It’s the perfect pick-me-up for those times you fall into a self-pity trap or when you’re just plain feeling ungrateful and want to reset your attitude.
An Exercise for Harvesting Gratitude and Joy
Set aside some time every day to stop and express what you’re thankful for. Speak it out verbally or write it down in a gratitude journal. Commit to doing this every day—and if you are struggling a lot to feel grateful, you might need to do this exercise even more often. It’s a simple process, so if you commit to making it happen, it will pay off.
To get you started, here is a sample list. (When Cook does this exercise, he thanks God, but there are other ways to express gratitude.)
I am grateful for:
• My faith (If you like, you can add specifics like God’s mercy, forgiveness, or unfailing love.)
• My wife or husband or partner
• My children
• The arrival of spring
• The flowers outside my window
• A new day
• My home
• A mind that can think
• My health
• My livelihood
• Good food to eat
• A good vehicle
• The ability to give
• The ability to serve
• My rich friendships
• The ability to be generous
“Once you begin seeking out things to be grateful for, you will see there’s no end to them,” concludes Cook. “And the more you express, the more everything around you will begin to change. Joy is the emergent. It’s the perfect attitude for welcoming spring.”
Steve Cook is the founder of Lifeonaire, an author, coach, real estate investor, speaker, father, and husband. He has a passion for teaching, giving, and his faith. After two failed restaurant ventures in 1998, Steve hit rock bottom and lost everything. With no money and nothing but a strong will to succeed, Steve turned to real estate investing, and his efforts were met with an uncommon success.