Updated: Jul 24, 2020
My role as an employment attorney might be described as “busy.” Mornings begin at sunrise with the dings of email notifications and emergency text messages.
Lunch, if eaten at all, is a snack grabbed during a short break – a “power meal” of cookies, crackers or chips on the fly. Evenings find me exhausted from a long day of client service, promising my young daughter once again that I will play with her “tomorrow,” after I’ve “had a chance to rest.” Weekends become a much-needed opportunity to catch up on what I haven’t yet completed on my task list, as I promise myself that if I can “just get through this week,” everything will surely calm down again.
As I complain to my co-worker about our endless workload, she casually responds with “I know, but at least we have jobs, right?” Guilt washes over me as I realize that I’m feeling sorry for myself instead of appreciating my good fortune. Shouldn’t I be exceedingly grateful for what I have? I have a continuing source of income in a reasonably secure position, and I can take care of my family. How can I possibly justify wanting more than I already have when so many people have so little?
Gratitude is important, to be sure. Our ability to remain present, stay grounded, and appreciate this beautiful life depends upon our ability to feel grateful for everything we have been given and all that we have experienced. We are taught that if we consistently dwell on what we don’t have, we will never find satisfaction in what we do have. We will then spend our lives constantly wishing for more, without ever noticing the abundance right in front of us.
That said, blind insistence that we should always be satisfied with what we already have may prevent us from recognizing when we don’t yet have what we want or need in our lives. Refusing to acknowledge feelings of dissatisfaction may cause us to miss critical messages about where we truly want to be. Without an awareness of where changes are needed, we can’t take the necessary steps forward to ensure that we fulfill our soul’s purpose.
How do we find a balance between our gratitude for what we already have and our discontent with the status quo? When gratitude feels elusive, start by asking yourself why you aren’t satisfied with what you already have. Is it because you are comparing yourself to others? Are you stagnating in your current circumstances because making a change feels like an insurmountable endeavor? Is it because you have devoted your time to meeting the needs of others, without remembering to honor your own soul?
Or, is it because something stirring inside of you is telling you that you were meant for more than this? That you would choose a different path, if you allowed yourself to consider the possibility? What would you do if you knew you could not fail? How would you live if it was your last day on earth? What would you choose for your life if your priorities flowed from your heart, instead of from your to-do list?
I certainly do feel blessed that I have a secure job position, particularly when so many others are struggling. I am thankful that I have the ability and the opportunity to help people in crisis, giving them tools and options that may keep them afloat or provide peace of mind. I’m grateful that I feel valuable and needed when clients call to ask for my guidance.
At the same time, I am all too aware that I have consistently sacrificed my physical and mental health while putting the needs of others above my own. I have inadvertently neglected my husband and children while I answered just one more email, even though I would list them as my top priorities in life without a moment’s hesitation. I can’t even remember what I like to do in my free time, because I leave myself no free time to fill with activities that make my heart sing.
My frustration with the manner in which I have allowed my work to take over my life is an important red flag that must not be brushed aside in the pursuit of gratitude. It tells me that I won’t be truly satisfied until I find a way to bring some balance to my life. It teaches me that devoting all of my time and attention to my work prevents me from devoting my energy and love to my family, which is where I really want to be. It warns me that continuously setting aside my own needs will lead to burnout and compromise my health. It reminds me that I need to find a way to serve my clients while also ensuring that I am finding ways to fill my soul.
Gratitude fills us with positive emotions, allows us to appreciate good experiences, improves our health and enhances our relationships. As we explore areas in which we might want to make changes in our lives, we can still express our gratitude with where we are and what we have, while simultaneously reaching for what we want to experience in the future. As author James Rohn said, “Learn how to be happy with what you already have while you pursue all that you want.”
Count your blessings, and fill your heart with gratitude for what has already come into your life. Then, listen to the voice inside that says, “this is not enough.” Encourage your soul to rise within you, and ask yourself what it is you truly want. Imagine the life you wish to live, and contemplate how you would feel if you actually lived it. When you have allowed yourself to acknowledge your inner yearnings, you can take the first step on your path to your desired life, while expressing heartfelt gratitude for everything you’ve received and achieved along the way.