Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Be Grateful for the Good and the Bad

Grandpa and Greg Thanksgiving 67

Grandpa and Greg, Thanksgiving 67

It was easy for me to be grateful last Thanksgiving.  There was good food, a nap, football, and time with family and dear friends.

But as a viral Facebook post showed, the holidays can be particularly difficult for some people. It read: “Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness.”

Is there a place for gratitude in those situations where the glass is only a quarter full? My spiritual practice has taught me to be grateful even for the bad things. Sometimes it takes work, but I have yet to find something I could not be grateful for.

Someone close to me once said – “How can I be grateful after all the tough things that have happened to me in my life?” And he did have many challenges in his life, like an unwanted divorce. My answer:

If those things had not happened, you would not be married to the person you are today.

I was met by stunned silence. He is happier in his second marriage than he ever was in his first.

The practice of gratitude was and is new to me.  And it is a practice – every day I try to remind myself of something that I am grateful for, even on the crappy days. It isn’t always easy, but when I do it often points to a way out of the mess.

And how about those times when the glass is 3/4 full – does that guarantee happiness, or even gratitude?

In his book “Everyday Holiness, Alan Morinis points out that the world is full of an infinite number of things we’ll never have.  The question is, where do we focus our attention, on what we have, or what we don’t have?  Morinis doubts that all those rich celebrities in drug rehab are feeling like money and fame have solved their life’s problems.

A friend of mine, a VP in Silicon Valley told me how stressful it is to live in a big house in a wealthy neighborhood   It takes a lot of work to keep up on the clothing fashions, to be seen at the right places, and to keep the car ultra clean.  He has recently downsized to a smaller home in a quiet neighborhood and is loving life.  It’s not the small house per se, it is the attitude of appreciating what he has.  Once he started thinking about what was important to him, it became obvious that he had more house than he needed.

Being grateful for what you have is a guarantee to make you feel at least a little better.  This does not mean that you have to be satisfied with a bad situation, but looking to what makes you grateful is a clue to where to spend your energy to make things better.  One popular approach is a gratitude journal, to write down things you are grateful for every day to help turn your consciousness to the good that is already in your life.

Gratitude is a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it will become.  If things are going well for you, practice gratitude to  strengthen the muscle to help you through the tough times.  And if you’re in the tough times now, a dose of gratitude can be that ray of hope.

My model for gratitude is my late grandfather.  He graduated high school in 1932 – the height of the Great Depression, and he was not able to go to college.  Grandpa was a brilliant man, who knew as much history as some college professors I’ve met.  But never once did he complain to me about not being able to go to college.  He worked for the toll system of Connecticut, and I was always waiting form him to lament the missed opportunities in his life.  It never happened.

“As long as I get to be here with your grandmother, I’ll be happy Greg.”

Grandpa died two weeks after my first child was born thirteen years ago. In our last conversation , he said to me “Lots of people live to be grandparents, but very few get to be great-grandparents.”  Not a peep about his failing health.

I miss my grandfather, but I am so very grateful he was and is such a big part of my life.

Inspired To Change, I Left The Corporate World

Chapter 1: My Corporate Idolatry Part 10 

A few months after I left the corporate world, two former colleagues independently told me that I looked ten years younger.  Frankly, I was shocked to hear that.  Being in my early forties didn’t bother me, but if I had recently looked like I was in my fifties, that was disturbing, dismaying, horrifying.  I never thought of myself as one of those people who was prematurely aged by the hardship of the job.  But I was.  Best not to dwell on it.  Be thankful it is behind you, and make sure you don’t end up there again. 

I heard something else from former colleagues, especially the men.  “I’m jealous.  I wish I could do what you did and spend more time with my kids.” A few people told me they were inspired to make a change.  And I was inspired by them to write a book.

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Thanks to everyone who has given me such wonderful (and sometimes frank) feedback these first two weeks as I have been blogging Busting Your Corporate Idol: How To Reconnect With Values and Regain Control Of Your Life.  You are part of something.  Traffic through the site has been through the roof.  If you missed any part of the chapter, or haven’t yet shared it with a spouse or friend, you can find the whole thing here.  This book sparks conversation and debate, and the format is very amenable to discussion.

Let me start to answer a common question: “Where is this book going?  What if I don’t want to leave the corporate world?”

If you want a book that will tell you how to be successful in business, how to do more with less, or to blame corporations for all the ills of the world, then this is not the book for you.  But if you want a book that will help you see the world in a different way and empower you to make changes in your life, then read on!  And YES, there are absolutely changes that you can make to have a more balanced life without leaving the corporate world.

Next week’s posts will wrap up Chapter 1 with a preview of the rest of the book.  If you are interested in a look ahead, you can see the Table Of Contents for Busting Your Corporate Idol: How To Reconnect With Values and Regain Control Of Your Life here.

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