By Coach Delisa Deavenport, MBA, CPC
Everyone in this world seems to be focusing on one thing and one thing only – themselves! What a selfish world we live in. Right? Sometimes, (or maybe even most of the time), you feel alone even when you are in a crowded room. Do people really care about those challenges you are going through? Not unless there is something in it for them – whether it is the opportunity to give you their personal opinion on the matter or charge you for their expert solutions that may or may not work. How can life be so unfair? Most people would rather talk about themselves, than listen with compassion, to others in need of a listening ear.
You do all you can to get ahead in life but then something or somebody comes along and kicks you where it hurts. “Can’t they see I was already down?” What about that significant other in your life that barely knows you are alive or just plain takes you for granted? How unfair is that? You try to start a side business to make extra money but why isn’t your family and friends supporting you? It would really help if they would tell their friends and share your social media posts. Heck, is it asking too much for them to buy just one sample of your product? After all, your product is the best product ever made in the whole world – EVER!
People like to invent moral authority. Folks love the challenge of convincing you of how the world should be in their eyes because they are unquestionably the greatest authority on everything ever in the entire world! You see it everywhere. The boss points out that you did not do the job correctly despite obtaining the same exact results. Your mother criticizes the casserole because you did not make it exactly like she does even though your version tastes WAY better. That best friend, whose opinion you so value, insists that the weight loss plan you follow is an unhealthy plan with hidden dangers. With all these opinions flying at you like bullets, it is no wonder that you grow to feel insignificant and defeated in life.
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“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” – PHILIPPIANS 2:3
“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” COLOSSIANS 3:14 – 16
When I was going through my darkest hours, before I learned to live life on life’s terms, I focused on me and me only. I was hurting and wanted people to listen to me pour out my emotional pain while talking in circles. “Life is unfair, people are jerks and life will not give me a break”, I cried out to anyone who would listen. On those days that agony wasn’t gripping my gut, I generously, and with passion, gave you my expert opinion on life, whether you solicited it or not. Of course, I had no idea what I was talking about back then. I once remember “counseling” someone to get sober, get a job and work on getting her kids back – all while wasted myself. It doesn’t make sense, and yet, we witness this kind of behavior from the vast majority of emotionally, unhealthy people every day.
Sincerely valuing other people and what they are going through, more than worrying about yourself, your problems and giving your personal judgments about everything, is the very point at which change begins. God tells us that when you put aside your selfish, vain ways and focus on the love for others, it makes our differences compatible and we all come together in unity, which is pleasing to God. Letting peace rule in your hearts, rather than chaos and drama, cultivates a heart of thankfulness and gratitude. As a coach, I am a constant witness to the phenomenon, that when you focus on helping others and less on your problems, and opinions, gratitude comes more easily. When you begin to have a heart of appreciation for all your blessings, joy comes into your life and does not leave. You find purpose. Life begins to make sense.
Gratitude is defined by Robert Emmons, “as an emotion, a virtue, a moral sentiment, a motive, a coping response, a skill, and an attitude. It is all of these and more. Minimally, gratitude is an emotional response to a gift. It is the appreciation felt after one has been the beneficiary of an altruistic act”. The feeling associated with gratitude is satisfaction and encouragement to both, the person giving the appreciation and the person receiving the acknowledgment. This practice builds strong relationships. It makes sense. Human beings crave acceptance and connection to others and having gratitude fulfills those needs. Gratitude is healing in that it carries with it a sense of forgiveness, acceptance, genuine observation and approval. Having a practice of feeling and expressing gratitude creates a healthy lifestyle.
Sometimes we feel as if there is nothing in our life to be grateful for. When that happens, it is the result of an unhealthy mind, not necessarily an ungrateful heart. The change toward gratefulness is twofold. First, is to focus on others. Let people, who help or inspire you, know how much you appreciate them. Observe others and acknowledge things they do, especially when those tasks are not easy for them. Secondly, look at what you have in your life and be thankful. Change your perspective if you are struggling to identify these blessings. You have a job you really do not like; however, the blessing is that your job gets your bills paid. You have a mother-in-law that constantly finds fault with you, yet, thankfully is always there to help with the kids when you are in a bind. Keep a gratitude journal.
Life creates seemingly unbearable challenges. It is easy to get caught up in the chaos and pain of it all. When you realize there is a way out of this frustrating way of life and you transition into a life of loving others and being grateful for all your blessings, life is fulfilling, joyful and purposeful. It can start with baby steps; give the person handing you your coffee in the morning a sincere greeting. Rather than saying, “Have a nice day” like every other single person they wait on today, say “I truly hope that your day is filled with many blessings as you just became one of mine. Thank you for serving me today”. Is it corny? Maybe, but it works. It works so well that they tell their co-workers, spouses, and friends to keep that “awesome” feeling going for a while.
“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame with us.” – Albert Schweitzer
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Ackerman, Courtney E., “What is Gratitude and Why Is It So Important?”, PositivePsychology.com, Aug. 11, 2019, Positive Psychology, https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-appreciation/
Chowdhury, Madhuleena Roy, “The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief”, PositivePsychology.com, Nov. 19, 2019, Positive Psychology, , https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/
Emberton, Oliver, “The problem isn’t that life is unfair – it’s your broken idea of fairness”, Oliver Emberton blog, Nov. 24, 2014, Oliver Emberton, https://oliveremberton.com/2014/the-problem-isnt-that-life-is-unfair-its-your-broken-idea-of-fairness/
Greenberg, Melanie, “How Gratitude Leads to a Happier Life”, psychologytoday.com, Nov. 22, 2015, Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201511/how-gratitude-leads-happier-life