“Life is what you make it.” I’m sure that the first person who said this was giving a sincere effort to uplift whomever he said it to. On a philosophical level this lines up directly with one of my core beliefs. But if I’m being honest, when I was younger and I happened to hear this common cliché uttered to cheer me up, everything in me would want to somewhat sarcastically raise my hand and say ‘How’? How is it exactly that one goes about the ‘making of life’? If the unknown philosopher could elaborate on the actual application of the phrase I believe the foundation of it all would be perspective.
How we see the world has a lot to do with a lot! The lens through which we see life informs how we approach it. You’ve heard people say, ‘I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.’ Why? When you think about it a lot of us make a ton of self-destructive statements like this throughout the day. Or you have people when confronted with optimism they might say ‘I’m a realist’. Ok what’s unrealistic about striving to maintain a positive outlook? What I’m getting at is, that unbeknownst to us society has somewhat preprogrammed us all to lean more toward the attitude of glass half empty. The progression is slow but by the time we’re adults that childlike hope and wonder we approached life with in our youth, fades for most of us. If you’re still reading you probably agree with me that the reality of that sucks. Further there’s something in you that says ‘I don’t have to be predisposed to a dim outlook’.
To that I say you are correct, Life Is What You Make It. ‘Hold on Christian. If life is what I make it, I wouldn’t have filed bankruptcy, gotten a divorce, lost my job, totaled my car, or the mess of other things that make life, well LIFE!’ To this I say you are correct, there are things (few but they exist) that take place in our lives that we have little to no control over which is why an amendment to the great nugget of wisdom must be made. Life is what you make, but more importantly quality of life is how you respond to what’s been made.
There is a tremendous amount of responses most of us would deem appropriate to loss, tragedy, stress, financial instability, and the like. I’d like to offer one attitude of response that is seldom top of mind in times of trial. Gratitude. Gratitude is a jack of all trades. It’s been categorized as an emotion, attitude, behavior, mindset, that can be felt or experienced for past, present and future-things, place, events, acts, and people. (And that’s just the tip of the iceberg) My college English professor would cringe at that sentence but I’m trying to express to you the magnitude of gratitude. Simply put, gratitude can inform our way of life and by allowing it to do so, improve our quality of life. Helping us keep perspective is one its many attributes.
There are two main ways gratitude can help us keep life in perspective. The first is the easiest to utilize and the most common. Due to gratitude’s inherently reflective nature it’s extremely beneficial if during a storm in our lives we can take time to pause. When we do we allow gratitude to work its magic. If we step away from whatever we are currently going through and look back to what we’ve overcome already the flood of emotion is almost unstoppable. If at any time in your life you’ve ever completed or made it through something difficult, the memory of the struggle and triumph can sometimes bring comfort. A bonus effect of gratitude that keeps the current down time from overwhelming us, is that if we are far enough removed from the moment we’re reflecting on we may even be able to see how it was to our benefit. I personally hold a core belief that everything happens for my good. Even if you don’t hold the same belief, almost everyone can recall a time where if it were up to you, you wouldn’t have gone through a certain situation but in the end, you’re glad you did. You’re grateful because you learned something, you grew, you became better. This situation you find yourself in now is no different.
The second way gratitude helps us keep perspective may be the most powerful of the two. It also requires you to pause but instead of reflect this form urges us to observe. The people around us are incredible assets in our walk-through life. If we allow it by being in relationship with others we can see that no matter what we are going through we are not alone and there might someone dealing with something that may remind us it’s not as bad as it feels. People say ‘It could be worse’ but no one when they are in the dumps can actually feel that. What you can feel is hearing of someone’s story first or secondhand that is dealing with something that comparatively may be heavier than your situation. Now what you don’t hear me saying is that some people have big problems and some people have little ones. Not at all. What I am saying is that I thinks it’s safe to assume if you approached a friend with your news of losing your job and they informed you they had just lost their son; you would be most willing to be their shoulder and not the other way around. In some cases, you become grateful for the current situation, appreciating what you do have. Perspective instantly achieved.
The rollercoaster of life has plenty of twist and turns your attitude determines how well you hold it together. Gratitude grants us some unique tools that when utilized effectively change our perception. Perception is reality I truly believe that. An attitude of gratitude allows you to open your lens. In times of trouble as human being we get so inward, isolated, and our world becomes very small and our memory very short. Don’t rob gratitude of its transformative power use it as often as you can and if you need a good laugh just whisper to yourself Life Is What You Make It!
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Keep Grinding. Keep Loving. #BeGrate