For some reason the natural human tendency leans toward reflecting on our negative experiences rather than our positive ones. At the end of the day, what stands out in your mind?
Isn’t it true that we can easily recall the things that went wrong during the day, but have to think about it if we want to remember what touched us with gratitude.
This tendency has to do with the way we mentally organize our experiences based on the two very powerful forces in life. What are those forces?
1) Moving away from pain
2) Moving toward pleasure
Of these two, moving away from pain is the more powerful. For this reason, painful experiences are stored in our memories in a way that makes them easier to recall. Our mind sorts and organizes our experiences primarily according to the priorities and emotional significance that we place on them. So, unless we make a conscious effort to change our pain and pleasure paradigms, our first priority will be avoiding pain rather than moving toward pleasure. This is a spin-off program related to our survival instinct.
We encounter expressions of this tendency all the time. How many people do you know who continually talk about their problems? Is it because problems are the only thing in their lives? No, although it might feel that way to them because that is what they are focusing on. Sadly, it’s rare to hear conversations that center on gratitude.
Reorganizing our priority program
We all experience challenges and blessings, that’s the way life is. Thankfully, we have the ability to organize our memories of those experiences in a way that places a higher priority on our blessings. Yes, we will need to work at it, but doing so can completely change the way we experience life.
Would you like to rearrange your mental file cabinet so that your positive experiences are given a higher priority than your problems? Would you like you feelings of gratitude to override your challenges? Imagine how good that would feel.
Think about the way you organize your kitchen cupboards. The items that you use most frequently are in front where you can easily access them. The items that are used less often have a lower priority and are stored toward the back.
When you open a cupboard what’s the 1st thing you see?
You see whatever is stored in the front, and this serves as a reminder to you of what is contained in the cabinet. The items that are stored in the back can be easily forgotten. In fact, when you need one of them, you may have to go searching for it.
If you have a file cabinet, you are probably familiar with the files that are closest to the front. Those are the first ones you see, and they are probably the ones you access most often.
It’s all about organization
Whatever we focus on the most expands. At the same time, it moves up in priority compared of the things we focus on less often. How can we make practical application of this information? One of the most effective ways I know of to rearrange your mental file cabinet is to do a daily gratitude review. This simple routine moves gratitude to the front of your mental file cabinet. Here’s how it works…
At the end of each day, take a piece of paper and make two entries. On the left side, write down all the things that happened that day that you are grateful for. On the right side, briefly write down one or two challenges that you faced, and the value of each. That’s all there is too it. Here’s how this simple process will help you prioritize gratitude in your mental priority program.
On the “daily gratitude” side
As you sort through your day’s experiences, you will be searching for things deserving of gratitude. This means that your mind will be focused on, and moved to prioritize, all of the positive experiences you’ve had during the course of the day. Remember, what you focus on expands. After a week or two, you will begin to form a new habit, the habit of finding and focusing on reasons for gratitude.
Once your mind becomes accustomed to this new habit, it will change the way you experience your day. Because your mind realizes that you are going to ask it to provide you with a gratitude list when the day is over, it will be gathering that information throughout the day. With each passing day, it will be easier, and easier to recall your positive experiences because writing your gratitude review has become a new, empowering habit.
You can focus in only one direction at a time
The mind does not like multitasking; it prefers to focus in one direction at a time. This means that you cannot give the same priority to positive experiences and problems simultaneously. Training your mind to focus on your gratitude first means you will be shoving your problems to the back of your mental file cabinet. As your mental files become filled with reasons to be grateful, problems will seem increasingly further away.
On the “daily challenges” side
Why are we going to write down our challenges if we are trying to focus on gratitude? So we can change our perception of those experiences. The key here is to briefly describe the challenge, and then to write down how you benefited from it. There is value in all challenges, but we don’t always see it. What you write on the right hand side of your daily gratitude review will train your mind to recognize the hidden value of every challenge you face.
This approach will create a quantum shift in the way you view challenges. It will help you develop the habit of asking, “what can I learn from this?” If your mind is searching for the hidden value in each challenge, you will no longer view your challenges as problems. If something has value, then it must be worthy of gratitude.
A simple strategy for positive change
The incredible benefits that result from doing this exercise require minimal effort. This is a perfect example of a simple step that anyone can take to transform the way they experience their life. Are you willing to spend a few short minutes at the end of each day to bring gratitude to the front of your mental file cabinet and drastically improve the quality of your life?
How do you feel about this simple exercise? Would you like to make gratitude a top priority?
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