I often wonder what I would or could do if things were different in some way.
It's in these moments of introspection that I'm learning to discipline myself to be thankful, instead of wishing for something more or something else. It's alright to crave something deeper, but when the craving for more (consumption) overshadows current reality (perspective)...you run into the proverbial dead end internally and feel like you are hitting a wall that cannot be overcome...and the vicious circle continues unless you can system shock your way out of it.
Here are three things that are necessary for me to initiate system shock:
1. Pursue Simplicity. I define simplicity for myself and my family as an intentionality behind who we are and what we do. When it's hard to be thankful, it's usually because we've allowed the intentionality behind who we are and what we do to become less of a priority for us. For example, if my hope is to be a great dad to my kids but I don't take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with them while on vacation or during a down moment in our schedule, I may struggle with the fractured relational connection I experience with my kids due to the lack of intentionality in my pursuit of them. When I choose to keep life simple (ahem...when I'm intentional about what I pursue), I maintain a grateful and thankful perspective on life.
2. Pursue Relationship. Much of introspection occurs in an isolated state; meaning that the person who is introspective is often alone during the moment of reflection (and yes you can be alone even if there are others in the same room as you!!). When it's hard to be thankful I find great value in taking the time to connect relationally with others so I can share some of the difficulties I may be experiencing, but also so I can simply listen to how their life story is unfolding and find things to be grateful for from observing their lives from a distance. This observation isn't a state of comparison, but one of hopefulness as I begin to trace the theme of thankfulness and gratitude in another person's story...and hopefully can begin to translate this same perspective into my own.
3. Pursue Generosity. Sometimes I find it hard to be thankful because I have too much stuff. We've all heard the line, "what do you get someone who has everything?" To be honest, live in North America (regardless of your current financial status), is a life of luxury and want...not one of need. I find that when I choose to live generously with my time, stuff and skill set, I'm not only disciplining myself to be thankful but I'm also alleviating some of the burden that my consumeristic nature brings (ie, more is enough).
When it's hard to be thankful, take the time to stop, listen, examine and respond accordingly to the space you are presently occupying. Life isn't easy, but it can be full in a non-materialistic way...which is the best kind of life to live! I'm grateful for learning yet again that I've got more to learn, and I'm thankful that I've got a perfect example of someone to follow who knew how to be thankful in all things...thank you Jesus!