While I try to practice gratitude all year long, something about the autumn weather and the march toward the holidays reminds me to be thankful. For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Not because of the food, although I sure do like turkey and dressing, but rather for the sentiment. We set aside an entire day to ponder all the things for which we are grateful, and spend time with loved ones to do it! With yummy food! What could be better in a holiday?
I have always felt that Thanksgiving was all that was “right” about celebrating holidays, while Christmas, with its reckless slide into consumerism, had become much of what was wrong. But let’s be honest here – what has happened to the real Thanksgiving? All too often now, we’ve turned it into a hurried meal as a prelude to a shopping blowout right before a big football weekend. Sigh.
What happened to the real Thanksgiving? I feel certain that in many homes, the original intent of the holiday (and likely the holidays that follow) still stands. But those holding on to that intent surely seem to be a dying breed, and for that, I am sad.
I encourage you to spend some time this holiday season digging deep and finding the gratitude. Surely some days it is harder to find than others, but even on our worst days in this country, we are much better off than many people elsewhere in the world.
You may be wondering why this column about money is waxing all sentimental about gratitude and Thanksgiving. And here is where I might cross the line into too much “woo” for some of you, but that is a risk I am willing to take. I feel passionately that gratitude is inextricably linked to wealth and abundance. Simply put, if you want to be wealthy and experience the abundance of life, you cannot, in my opinion, achieve either state without gratitude.
Over the years, I have certainly fallen into funks about money, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Starting a business is hard, and there were many, many lean years. So, I understand the tendency to slide into self-pity about how hard life is now, and how utterly unfair it seems to be!
But here is the thing: I might have indulged in the pity party for a brief time, but I would catch myself and slap myself around a bit to “wake up.” I would then put my own problems into perspective based on what was going on in the big, bad world around me. No matter how bummed I felt about my issues, a minute’s reflection made me realize how many people were suffering far more than I was.
This realization would lead me right to where I needed to be – a place of gratitude. I would realize that I was truly the recipient of a multitude of blessings. Spending some quality time meditating on how rich and abundant my life was, regardless of how little was in my bank account got my head screwed back on straight.
And that’s my suggestion to you. When your financial life is out of control and you feel like throwing in the towel on your carefully crafted budget, your over-worked, under-paid work status, or the “bad luck” that seems to follow you and your money, sit yourself down for a pep talk. Begin with a loving slap session (metaphorically speaking, of course), then find a way to get to a place of gratitude.
These days, I can do this much more easily and frequently. The moment I start to grouse inside my own head about circumstances I find to be less than awesome, I catch myself and tell myself a more colorful version of, “Starksy, straighten yourself up.”
I’m sure to some, relating gratitude to wealth and abundance seems like the worst sort of magical thinking. But as it turns out, I believe in real magic, and gratitude is one of three magical keys to building wealth. Never lose touch with gratitude and the humility it brings, for that is a requirement for lasting, meaningful wealth.
But I mentioned three keys, so I’ll spill the beans on the other two, since we’re here.
Magical key number two is all about respect. You must respect money if you expect money to respect you and bless you by showing up in your life. I don’t remember my parents or any relatives teaching me this lesson as a child, but somewhere along the line, I developed the notion that money required the utmost respect. I will come to a full halt crossing a street to pick up a penny on the pavement. Coins don’t just accumulate on counters or in pockets for me – I will make the special trip into another room to put those coins where they belong, in my wallet with all their coin friends. Perhaps you have encountered a scene at the grocery store where someone is paying for their groceries and they accidentally drop coins on the floor. When I witness this, I suck in my breath. The person is either going to dive down to rescue the poor coins, or more often, they’ll conclude that it’s not worth it and leave them on the floor. I’m convinced that this disrespect will not go unanswered in their life.
Not treating money as disposable is only one example. Treating money with respect also refers to how you use money. Money is a valuable tool, and it works best if you are thoughtful and careful about how you spend and save it. This is why financial planners encourage people to develop a spending plan. Know how much money you have coming in, and then assign jobs to it – how much will you save and in what savings vehicle, and how much will you spend, and on what will you spend it? If you are cavalier with your money and don’t afford it the proper respect, I assure you it will escape your grasp at its earliest opportunity.
Gratitude and respect – both are mandatory if you plan to enjoy a life of lasting abundance and wealth. But there is one more key. The third key is your thoughts. Napoleon Hill, in his classic book, Think and Grow Rich,* said, “You become what you think about all day long.” So, if you constantly think about how broke you are and how miserable it is to be poor, guess what? That condition will continue for you. If instead you focus on and tell yourself that you are wealthy, that you have all you need, that you are rich already, you will be well on your way to bettering your current circumstances. Focus on the positive. Focus on the situation you want to achieve, and act and think as if it is already your circumstance. Do not give in to the negative thinking.
*(I highly advise that everyone read Think and Grow Rich. But if you are a female, you will need to disable your eye-roll mechanism and just accept the fact that this book was written in a different age. Overlook the blatant male-dominated worldview and look for the nuggets of wisdom. It’s difficult, but worth it.)
I know, I know. Sounds too good to be true. Perhaps my philosophy is too absurd or weird for you. But take it from someone who knows – this stuff works. I’m living proof … a success story, if you will. Keep your thoughts in line with your goals, keep gratitude at the forefront of your attention, and respect all money. Even the lowly penny on the street is a penny more than you had a moment ago. Magic.
This article was previously published in WNC Woman Magazine.