Firstly, let me get this off my chest. Thank you, thank you, and finally thank you! Thank you to everyone who made the 2010 world cup a success for South Africa. Thank you to the guys who collected our recycling this morning, and thank you to all the people who write to me and say “thank you.”
The reason I’m starting off in this happy tone is simply because I’m reminding myself that wherever I look I can find something to appreciate. No matter what my day turns out like, I know there are things and people I can be grateful for, and I don’t ever want to overlook that. I look at gratitude like a gift. We can choose to give it, and sometimes we receive it. You don’t have to wait for a special occasion for this gift. It’s something you can dish out whenever you want. So why is it I wonder that some people always appear to be ungrateful, unappreciative and blatantly selfish? The answer I think lies between fear and an overinflated ego. The fear part is simply that people are scared of losing things all the time.
You can be scared of losing your job, your home, your partner. It all seems so normal but in truth, we were not born to be scared and in fear of losing out. We were born to be happy. At the risk of quoting a Chinese philosopher who you think I might have just made up to sound clever, let me share a quick line that I use often to remind myself that being comfortable with your life is not dependent on having the biggest bank balance. Cheng Yen apparently said, “Happiness does not come from having much, but from being attached to little.” You see, attachment is about fear and ego. If you start out thinking you will only be okay if you have the best of everything, you’re already on the wrong path. If you also believe that not being okay is when you lose things, it’s kind of the same problem. In truth, joy and happiness comes from realising your full potential. It is not something you buy or get. So whether you have it all or not, you can still be okay.
So what has this really got to do with appreciation, gratitude and importantly your career? Everything really. You’re only going to be at your best when you realise that you are not defined by things. You define yourself through your thoughts, beliefs and actions. You should be grateful firstly that you have potential. Secondly you must learn to appreciate opportunities that you get to shine. The world cup final was a great example of this. Only one team got to lift the trophy, but in truth both teams on the field were great. The players on the losing team don’t suddenly become useless because they didn’t win. And despite the fact that they will experience momentary sadness, they will remain great players because of their potential. The less they attach themselves to the trophy the more they can stay happy within themselves.
Now please don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying you must not strive for things. You should always aim for your best. And if that means getting your hands on the first prize, fantastic! But that’s when you should be grateful. Show appreciation for your talent. Let that be the thing that you celebrate. And when you see others giving of their best, be appreciative too. Give them the gift of gratitude. That’s actually our natural state. Rather be happy, appreciative and giving. Rumi the Persian poet wrote:
You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.
The problem is that when you think you have to hold onto everything in case you lose out, you can get stuck. Being worried about losing can hold you back from reaching your potential. But when you are grateful for your own ability and talent, you are more likely to want to give more of that. And that’s where it can benefit your career. So instead of building your entire career path on material gain, start with finding ways to reach your full potential. The prizes will come. The bank balance will take care of itself when you are at your best. And most importantly you will understand what it means to be grateful for the chance to shine.
One of the greatest gifts is giving of your best. Gratitude is also a gift. Now start giving!