Imagine a person who never expresses gratitude. You most probably will be thinking of someone who either sees life similar to a board game where everything is determined by the roll of the dice, or someone who believes that whatever good there is in his life is entirely the result of his own intellect and efforts. If we see life as coincidence or something that we somehow deserve and are entitled to, we will have difficulty in understanding gratitude and its place in our lives. Imagine a world with only self-absorbed, arrogant and cynical people. Can it be a world of true joy, abundance, goodwill and meaning?
The consensus, it seems today, is that everybody only wants to be happy. People should therefore do whatever they feel will make them happy. Self-actualisation, success, comfort, fun and financial independence are some of the boxes one should be able to tick for happiness. However, in spite of the focus on happiness and the infinite amount of help and advice that is available in all forms, research statistics tell us a sorry tale. People on average are not happier and more satisfied than what they were before – they are more depressed! Some commentators, studying the research statistics, conclude that ‘meaning want’ has replaced ‘material want’. The worldwide rise in living standards did not lead to more, but less happiness.
Viktor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, cautioned: ‘For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.’ In other words, first seek what is meaningful and of greater importance in life than your self-interest, and the rest will follow.
The break of a new day comes as a gift. It invites us to reflect on the best of the past and the present with gratitude, and to become creative once again with everything to our disposal.
We are so easily deceived by the colourful, happy and beautiful images of people we see, for example, in television commercials. It is as if they are telling us ‘you are in the wrong place; come and join us where everything is perfect’. Happiness and fulfillment, according to the subliminal message, is something ‘out there’ to pursue. It is clearly an illusion. Happiness can only come from within, and anything else we do in the hope of becoming happier, are merely distractions from the inner journey we know we need to take. Reflection and meditation about life as a gift for a general and personal purpose, bring us not only closer to the deeper meaning of our personal existence, but also to that what is common to all. In doing so we become more grounded, more stable, more present, more secure and more open – and happier as a result.