What are you grateful for today? I ask this of almost every person who I meet with who claims to suffer from depression, the most common response is either a blank stare or simply “Nothing, I have nothing to be grateful for”. Let’s try again, look at the picture to the left and tell me, what could you be grateful for if you wanted to be grateful for something?
Everything in Life is a Matter of Perspective
I would love to have the opportunity to meet this child who lives in Santo Domingo and see what he is playing with because he seems to be enthralled with it… I imagine that he’s playing with a small marble and that it seems magical to his young mind. I imagine that he is rolling it around the courtyard behind his house. Or perhaps he is merely holding a small stick and playing with an army of ants… either way, he seems fascinated by whatever he is playing with.
When I look at this picture, I am also humbled by the perception of abject poverty that it creates in my mind. I have witnessed these type of living conditions many times on my travels throughout Mexico and my initial reaction was to wonder how people can survive in these conditions… but then when I got out of the jeep which I had rented and just walked around the barrio to take some pictures and grab something to drink, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the people and what I discovered is that most of them are actually quite happy. In fact, most of the people who I meet in what we commonly refer to as “third world countries” are quite grateful for their lifestyle and merely for being alive.
Our Belief Structure is Framed by Perception
Growing up in “middle class America” has afforded me with many privileges and opportunities which are not readily available for many people in this world. However it has also shaped my perception of reality, my expectations of what life is supposed to be like and what will make me happy is largely influenced by the media and advertising. For instance, watch this commercial for the iPad 3 from Apple:
It is an inspiring story which paints a picture in my mind that I can achieve practically anything which I can imagine if only I walk around with my iPad3 in my hand all day. It is a completely different perception of reality than that which was created by the image presented at the beginning of this article. The stories which we tell ourselves shape our perception of reality and this in turn affects our ability to be grateful for the people and things which are present in our lives.
Likewise the stories which we allow other people and advertising agencies to bombard our senses with also shape our perception of reality. For instance, when I asked Caesar, the poolside waiter at a five star resort in Mexico, how much he earned a month, he enthusiastically informed me that he makes about $300.00 U.S. Dollars per month! I almost blew the margarita which I was drinking straight out my nose, but think that I did a fairly good job of hiding my disbelief and shock as I replied “Wow that is wonderful, is that fairly normal for this area?” to which he told me that most people earn less but that this is a very nice hotel. I wonder whether Caesar was aware that the “very nice hotel” where he worked was charging me just a little less than his monthly salary per night and no, it was not all inclusive.
I wonder what he’d think of me if I suggested that he spend more than two months of his salary to buy this Apple iPad with Retina Display. No doubt that he might think that I was insane for even suggesting such a thing… but hey if you want to click on that affiliate link and buy it from Amazon, I’ll gladly use the money to buy more margaritas on my next trip to Mexico and give the affiliate commission to him in the form of tips for his great service, which in turn will help him to feed his family and keep a roof over their heads.
Like it or not, this is the world that we live in… there will always be the have’s and the have-nots. Life is not fair. And after watching that commercial, I’m kind of convinced that I need to buy the latest, greatest Apple iPad just so that I can feel at one with the universe. My life is going to be ruined if I don’t run out and buy one for myself immediately… In fact, I’m not so sure that I’m not underprivileged because I don’t already own one, I’d better run down to social services and find an acquisition form to fill out.
Is this what depression feels like?
As a matter of fact, part of the contributing factors for the state of depression which plagues modern society were contained in that last paragraph even if I was making a joke out of it. We are bombarded by messages and stories in the form of advertisements which lead us to believe that something is missing from our lives if we don’t own the latest and greatest products which they are trying to sell… of course they don’t say that, they can’t come right out and say “Hey loser, you’re life sucks, buy our product and you’ll feel better…” they have to convince you to reach that conclusion on your own. It’s a wonder that I’m not working in advertising.
If I wanted to push Caesar down the rabbit hole of depression, all I would have to do is flip through the pictures on my phone and say this is what life is like in America… the odds are that it would drastically alter his perception of reality and shatter the foundation of his belief structure. By the way, would you like to know why Caesar was willing to talk so openly with me? It was because I actually ate all of the food that I ordered poolside, when I ordered a fruit plate that cost $14.00 I didn’t throw half of it away like the guests who were staying under the all-inclusive packages did all the time (this is actually what he told me).
Caesar’s perception was that most American’s are privileged rude and wasteful… that they had no appreciation for all of the blessings which they had in life; that they didn’t even understand how blessed they were for having been born in the United States; that they didn’t know how to be grateful for what they already have.
Interestingly enough, when I asked Caesar whether he owned a television, he told me that he wanted one, but that he couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t agree more, I hope that Caesar never has the disposable income to purchase a television with because owning a television will most likely result in Caesar having to spend all of his tip money on anti-depressants because he’ll quickly learn that he is living in a state of delusion and that he should be clinically depressed about the conditions which he lives in. Thankfully we have a pill for that and it is already readily available in Mexico for the people who could afford to buy televisions.
Thankfully Learning to Be Grateful is Easy to do…
Expressing gratitude is as easy as saying something like… I am grateful for this beautiful day and for all of the opportunity which it provides.
I am grateful for the inspiration which seeing the photograph of the little boy playing in the street of Santo Domingo created in my mind so that I could write this article on Gratitude and Perception. I am grateful for all of the people who take the time to read it and hope that it changes their perspective in a way that positively impacts their lives.
I am grateful for my three year old laptop and for the knowledge that my life will be wonderful with or without the newest iPad. I’m also grateful for the people who create jobs and fertilize the economy of this great nation by spending their disposable income on such wonderful advances in technology.
I’m also grateful for the advertising executives at Apple for continually teaching us that stories are the most wonderful way to create change. If you want to sell something whether that something is a product or inspiration, you have to create a story that compels your audience to take action.
I am grateful that a young couple fell in love with my house as they walked through it recently and that they decided to purchase it. I am grateful for the opportunity which it presents me with to move back to California at the beginning of March 2013.
I am grateful for the time which I’ve spent living in Oregon and for all of the wonderful memories, the friends who stood by my side during some very difficult times… the same friends who now support my desire to move because they recognize that it is the best thing that I can do for my life right now…
I am grateful for the adventure which stands before me, for the universal energy which exists to help me move forward and which guides me successfully through life.
I am grateful for all of the challenges which life has placed before me and for all of the lessons which I have learned, even though some of them really sucked at the time. Losing a daughter to a rare bone marrow disease in 2004 and my wife to suicide in 2005 is not a life lesson which I would have chosen for myself in a million years. However without those experiences, I would not be the person I am today, I might not have discovered Strategic Intervention Coaching and I might not have enjoyed the lifestyle which I enjoy today.
I am grateful for all of the money and possessions which I lost during the extensive litigation which was filed by Robin’s family after her death, because that experience taught me the true value of money and to recognize that money is an illusion, it is merely something created by man to control the actions and beliefs of other people. And to be able to tell people with all honesty that I understand the pain which they are experiencing as they face the financial challenges which are present in their lives… there is light at the end of the tunnel if you look for it.
I am also grateful for much simpler things, like running water, grocery stores, Farmer’s markets, organic fruits and vegetables, my car, my dog who is my constant friend and companion… so many things, things which I used to take for granted.
So now I ask you again my friend, what could you be grateful for if you wanted to be grateful for something?
You can always start out by being grateful that I felt inspired to write this article about Gratitude this morning and you can thank me by taking a second to sign up for my newsletter and like my page on Facebook because that will enable us to stay in touch.
I would also be grateful if you would share this article and web site with your friends. Feel free to comment below and contact me if you’d like to schedule some time to talk.