Playing professional football taught me a lot about life. I know its cliche, but it’s true. The principles that top performers use to win games are the same ones we can apply to help us be the best version of ourselves. And even though Thanksgiving as a holiday is great (who doesn’t love football, free-time, and food-comas!?) It’s much more powerful AS A LIFESTYLE. If you’ve already moved on from Thanksgiving to Christmas, you’re wrong.
After losing Super Bowl XLIX to the Patriots, we filed into our exit meetings the following Tuesday. If there was ever a time to feel sorry for ourselves, it was then. As the grumblings slowed and our head coach began to address the room of disgruntled men, many of us found ourselves glazed over in anger.
In intense/traumatic moments that we don’t know how to process, anger fills us. We either get angry at ourselves, or someone else. That anger actually releases feel good chemicals like dopamine. In addition to the “high” we feel when we are angry, the message we send to others about the situation communicates, “I really care about this…so please let me stay in this family a little longer.” Anger can becomes an addiction. And just like any other addiction, anger will mold your worldview to be expectant of negativity.
After a few quick words from coach, our focus was quickly directed to a ten minute long highlight film from the game…
A highlight film?! REALLY? We lost! Why on earth would we try and find something to be positive about?
BECAUSE GRATITUDE IS POWERFUL
After ten minutes of watching how well we played, suddenly, the “sting” of loss wasn’t so tender. Confidence was given a place to incubate, and pain was de-throned. The reason for that is because…
- Gratitude frees you from emotional pain (including childhood wounds.)
- Makes you happier, more self disciplined, more able to achieve your goals.
- Re-wires your brain- You tap into neuroplasticity. Meaning you make better brain cells.
However, the only reason gratitude worked, is because it was practiced. It isn’t enough to know it’s good for you. But just like any other skill, it can be developed.
The thing about giving thanks though, is that it’s SO un-natural! For many, pain can become our identity and the lens in which we interpret the world around us. The reason, is that our brains are hardwired to search out for the negative, but also because the corporate machine responsible for pumping out marketing to the masses does NOT want you to be grateful for what you have! Gratitude simply does not bode well for sales (Why on earth would Apple want you to be happy with your iPhone 4 you have had for three years?)
Furthermore, we operate on something called a “hedonic treadmill.” Meaning we tend to stabilize at a certain level of happiness no matter what it is we are doing. While going on your favorite roller coaster may spike your happiness for a moment, it will inevitably fall back to your baseline. So if your baseline has you in the blues, and you find yourself carrying around a sense of victimhood that is limiting your personal and professional success, it’s time to develop a new habit.
By practicing gratitude, it trains your subconscious mind to actively look for things to be happy about, thus changing your filter. The expectation of good coming towards you, makes you more aware and responsive when good offers itself to you. It doesn’t make “more good” happen, it just makes your awareness of it increase to “spidey-sense” levels.
So if you want to change your “happiness base-line,” you need to be uncommon with your gratitude! And if you are like me and you have a tendency to focus on whats wrong, commit to writing down ONE thing you are grateful for every day.
i.e. I’m thankful for how there always seem to be birds at the park for Bear, my German Shorthair Pointer, to chase. Or, I’m thankful my socks keep my feet warm. Get as basic as you can.
At the end of the day, the individual with the most consistent application of principles, will find the greatest measure of joy and success.
Here’s to Loving the Process