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Ep. 51 AJ Jacobs: The Power of Gratitude

Our experience of life is very much defined by our perspective. This then influences the way we interact with the world, which influences what happens to us, which influences the quality of our life experience. Many of us are programmed to look for the worst-case scenario. In the jungle this might have kept us alert to strange noise that might be venomous snakes or sabre tooth tigers, or other beasts that want to eat, trample on us, or skewer us with their tusks. But today this attention bias makes us focus on what could go wrong, instead of what might go right. And this, in turn, limits the quality of our life. But we are reprogrammable. The brain is incredibly plastic, and if we choose to put in the work, we can shift to a much more positive perspective. We can see opportunities. We can see possibilities. We can start to recognise the beauty of the world instead of just its ugliness, see how much we’ve got instead of what we’re lacking, and we can change the way that we interact with the world, and therefore change the results that we get back. We can start to focus on our successes rather than our failures One of the most powerful ways that we can do this is by adopting an attitude of gratitude. By simply looking out for things that we can be grateful for – even on the darkest of days – we can literally tune in to a different world view. And in doing so our world can become much more detailed, textured, colourful and wonderful. And we can become happier, more fulfilled people. The great Roman statesman Marucs Tullius Cicero said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Author AJ Jacobs decided to explore the power of gratitude when he set out to thank everyone involved in the making of his morning coffee. As he met with the farmers who grow the beans, the truck drivers who transport them, the designer who made the logo for the coffee shop and many hundreds more people all involved in the creation of something most of take for granted, not only did his cup of coffee take on a new level of depth and detail, but so did his life. Gratitude reminds us that we are all connected. That a thousand things work out for us every day, even though we always focus on the one thing that didn’t. It shows us that there are a multitude of intents, efforts, process and textures in everything from the grass we walk on to the cutlery we use to the chairs we sit on. And that by being grateful, the world begins to open up to us, revealing itself to be deep and amazing. Useful links:

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Exploring the human experience, Conversations On Living is about how to find peace, happiness and contentment for a successful and fulfilling life. “Filled with personal wisdoms and tokens of positive energy”.