It doesn’t matter whether you’re vowing to lose weight, earn more money or find a vocation if life that you love, the core value of these hopes is that you want to be happier. David Steindl-Rast insists the key to happiness is to first learn to be grateful.
“What is the connection between happiness and gratefulness?” he asks in his inspiring TedTalk ‘Want to be happy? Be grateful’.
“Many people would say, well, that’s very easy. When you are happy, you are grateful. But think again. Is it really the happy people that are grateful?
“We all know quite a number of people who have everything that it would take to be happy, and they are not happy, because they want something else or they want more of the same. And we all know people who have lots of misfortune and they are deeply happy. Because they are grateful. So it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.”
David says that to be happy we need to be grateful for the moment given to us within every opportunity.
“Actually, when you look at it and experience it, you find that most of the time, what is given to us is the opportunity to enjoy, and we only miss it because we are rushing through life and we are not stopping to see the opportunity.”
He says there is a very easy way to be grateful.
“It’s a very simple method. It’s so simple that it’s actually what we were told as children when we learned to cross the street. Stop. Look. Go. That’s all.”
The problem he admits is that we rarely do stop. “We miss the opportunity because we don’t stop,” David explains. “We have to stop. We have to get quiet and we have to build stop signs into our lives.”
David says we become complacent with our lives and stop being grateful for the things around us. As an example he relived a time he returned home after a visit to Africa where he didn’t have drinking water.
To begin with he was “overwhelmed” every time he turned on the tap or switched on the lights, but it soon wore off.
Rather than accept this he put sticky notes on the switches and on the sink so that he would stop, look and be thankful for these things once again.
“When you stop, then the next thing is to look. You look. You open your eyes. You open your ears. You open your nose. You open all your senses for this wonderful richness that is given to us.There is no end to it, and that is what life is all about, to enjoy, to enjoy what is given to us.”
Finally, he advises that it’s time to ‘go’ and do something with that opportunity. It could just mean being grateful for the moment or you could chose to do much more.
“If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share” he says. “If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people, and you are respectful to everybody, and that changes this power pyramid under which we live. And it doesn’t make for equality, but it makes for equal respect, and that is the important thing.”