Have You Woken Up With An Attitude Of Gratitude?
One of the most inspiring conversations that I have ever had occurred whilst I was in Afghanistan working as a consultant with the United Nations in early 2010.
Having been involved with the UN for the last few years, I have been privileged enough to visit various stations and peace missions around the world. Witnessing first-hand some of the amazing work that the organisation and the people within it do is truly life affirming.
I have to say was especially curious and excited about visiting Afghanistan. Watching the news and hearing so many stories filled me with some trepidation, and as my plane flew down over the breathtakingly beautiful snow-peaked mountains surrounding Kabul, I could feel the tremors of anticipation.
I am not sure that anything could have prepared me for what I was about to encounter, and as my armoured vehicle transported me to my accommodation, I tried to absorb the sights along the way. On arrival at my “guest house” which was heavily guarded and surrounded by barbed wire and sand bags, I was somewhat in awe of the very basic conditions.
Despite the underlying tension, the obvious poverty, the guns, the guards and the grime, the one thing that was most apparent to me was the raw beauty of the country and, most of all, the people. The strength and generosity of spirit was almost palpable. Every moment I stayed in Kabul was an education. Every person I spoke to held a fascinating story and I spent my time enthralled by a cast of extraordinary individuals.
The most interesting conversation, however , occurred when I was speaking with one of the delegates on my workshop. He was a “Mullah” which is the term for a Muslim man, educated in Islamic Theology and Sacred law. He had been working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for some years.
I shared with him my intention of writing a book about gratitude and we discussed at length the concept of appreciation and happiness. Having been absorbed in research on this subject for many years, I have developed an insatiable curiosity for people’s opinions on the subject, so I was eager to hear yet another perspective.
As you can imagine the situation and circumstances in Afghanistan are incredibly challenging and, from a Western perspective, it can be difficult to comprehend what people would have to be grateful for or happy about.
However, as I shared this somewhat narrow view, I was immediately challenged by the Mullah who looked at me quite calmly and said: “Being happy in life isn’t as complicated as you think. My belief is that as long as you have something to love, something to do and something to hope for then you will always have something to live for and be grateful for.” And, as he smiled at me I noticed a glow in his eyes that spoke volumes.
Nothing in my life has humbled me more or made me appreciate the importance of the simplification of our existence.
I returned from Afghanistan a richer person. Certainly not for any material gain and, as I returned in transit via Dubai, I pondered the expressions on the people’s faces as they roamed the Duty Free shops greedily clutching bags full of stuff. Dull expressions eyeing up designer goodies in the hope that some void could be filled that would help them to appreciate their lives more perhaps?
I am sure that it suits the consumer band wagon that we remain in some kind of dissatisfied state so that we are constantly dipping into our pockets and battering our credit cards in the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction.
However, in my humble opinion, I have come to the resounding conclusion that happiness is not out there! We seek it here, we seek it there, in fact we seek it everywhere and, all along, it’s inside us. If you don’t feel it right now it’s because you haven’t woken it up. Looking within and appreciating what we have and making the best and most of it is the most empowering ability we possess.
By taking more personal responsibility we can achieve some amazing things. We are incredible creatures and appreciating ourselves, other people and everything that the world has to offer is an ability that is totally within our control.
We are very fortunate as human beings because we have choice. Certainly, we may not be able to change certain situations and circumstances; however, we can choose how we perceive and process them.
My new book Thank You is about the concept of gratitude and how we can appreciate and enjoy our lives more. How we can use the behaviour and mind set of gratitude to alleviate stress and depression, develop better relationships with ourselves and others and ultimately to improve the quality of our lives.
There is some very interesting research now on the subject with an increasing recognition that people who learn how to appreciate life are happier and healthier.
Over the next few months I will be serialising the book in The Cheltonian.
Thank You by Liggy Webb.
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