No matter what you do or have done in life, you didn't jump from A to Z in one go, you would have worked your way through each letter of the alphabet.
Think about riding a bike. Did you hop on your bike and immediately peddle off into the sunset?
If you did, you were a wonder-kid, one of a kind.
Most of us started out on a tricycle because learning to ride a 2-wheeler takes balance and skill, something we need to acquire. From the tricycle may have come a big-kid's bike with two wheels... and some stabilisers on either side of the back wheel for balance.
As we became more accomplished, the stabilisers came off and the strong hand of a parent stepped in to support us a little through our wobbles...
Until, we could ride two wheels on our own.
It's the same with everything in life. You start small and build from there.
Just like riding a bike, creating a new, good habit, such as gratitude, is actually easier said than done in practice. I want to remind you of that because, if you don't appreciate that creating a new good habit is tough and not for the faint-hearted, you'll simply end up berating and beating yourself up every time you fall off the bandwagon.
And if you keep beating yourself up, how likely are you to keep climbing onboard? Before long you'll find, if you haven't already, that it's easier to sit in the dirt road than to stand up and face another beating.
Similarly, imagine if your parents hadn’t understood that it would take practice and progressing in stages from tricycle up to a big kid’s bike, for you to learn how to ride a bike. What if they’d simply bought you a big kid’s two-wheeler bike (no stabilisers) popped you on it, gave you a little push and wished you luck? Do you think, left to your own devices, you’d be able to cycle today? Most likely not, as cycling, when learned correctly, is something that we learn easiest when young and something that, once we accomplish it, we never forget – even if you haven’t cycled for years and get on a bike, whilst you may be a bit wobbly you’ll know what to do.
Staying put on the gratitude bandwagon, finding a comfortable spot there to sit, has a lot to do with practising regularly until gratitude becomes a habit and feels natural and normal – just like riding a bike.
Another common adage we could use to describe gratitude is that, like so many achievements in life, it's a marathon and not a sprint.
I was reminder of this recently as I was flicking through some photos and came across ones I took of the Salzburg Marathon.
Now, before you get the wrong impression of me and my athletic prowess, let me be direct ad honest - I'm not a runner. I'm a walker and hiker. And on the day I chose to follow the Salzburg marathon, in person, I had the luxury of cycling around, trying to catch the runners at different pretty locations (it's easier said than done, trying to track down a group of runners, let me tell you!)
Not being a runner, I don't fully understand the joy of 'pounding the pavement'. I've always preferred the “hike high, enjoy the view” kinda of life. However, being a hiker I can fully appreciate that you can't simply waken up one day and decide to run the Salzburg marathon or, in my case, hike up to Watzmannhaus in the steep German Alps. It takes training, effort, dedication, commitment; not just for the body, also for the mind.
And so it is with gratitude also. You can't waken up one day fully, totally, utterly devoted to gratitude and living a life filled-to-overflowing with gratitude. It takes practice, time, effort, dedication, devotion to gradually build your gratitude practice until it becomes a gratitude habit.
Yet, I think that's a good thing. If creating a habit of gratitude was an easy sprint that you could easily waken up and do, do you think you'd appreciate and, indeed, practice it as often as you could and should? Of course not. You'd let it slide.
However, on the other side, it makes creating a gratitude practice all the more challenging because you don't always see and appreciate how much your life changes as a result of gratitude, how much fitter and healthier you become emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, because those changes are incremental, small, gradual. In saying that, when you stick with it every day, even if on some days you practice for a mere few moments, someday, after putting one proverbial foot in front of the other, you'll realise you've reached the mountain top and can enjoy a most beautiful view or you're walking away with a medal round your neck having completed a marathon.