Tips On How To Count Your Blessings
How To Count Your Blessings
October 21, 2013
Winston Wayne Wilson
Growing up, whenever even an ounce of ingratitude would slip from my tongue, my mother would always admonish me with the following words from a hymn: “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” I always thought, “OK. Well, how exactly do I count my blessings?” Besides, what exactly is a blessing? To this day, my mother seems to be very content with little and I always figured that her list of blessings would always put mine to shame. It all seemed like such a very subjective task – and therein lies the challenge with counting blessings, I thought. There simply is no published checklist of blessings that we can use to benchmark how blessed we really are. With the passage of time, however, I experienced some of the sobering undulations of life and counting my blessings became a necessary ritual that I quickly learned. So, to make all of our lives easier, I have created a starter checklist for this article. You can add to it in creating your own checklist.
In determining what constitutes a blessing, I have used one simple criterion: if our lives would be impaired or less functional from not having something, then the presence of that thing in our lives is a blessing, irrespective of how many other people receive the same blessing. As we count our blessings and name them one by one, here are a few checklist items to consider giving thanks for:
- Breath. Breath, the essence of life, is the greatest blessing of all; yet, most of us take waking up for granted, particularly when we are focused on our laundry list of “wants”. However, to wake up every day is an incredible blessing because every minute over 100 people die around the globe. That translates into over 6,000 people every hour; over 144,000 people every day; and almost 53 million people every year. To put it starkly, our probability of dying on any given day is greater than our probability of winning the lottery. So, even if none of our wishes come true, we should still count ourselves as big winners each day that we wake up. Remember that breath is priceless fuel and each day that we are alive is a great opportunity to do something greater than we did the day before – learn something new, eliminate something old, forgive something unforgiveable, love the unlovable and be inspired by the wisdom of simplicity. Our challenge is to leverage the blessing of breath to achieve our personal best. We do this when we “carpe diem” (seize the day) rather than just squander this precious fuel.
- Friends. It is said that if we have three good friends in our lives, who we can eat, drink and be merry with, then we are blessed. It is, therefore, very important to choose our friends wisely because they are the ones who will help to define the level of fulfillment we attain in life. Friendship is a classic example of quality being far more important than quantity. Like breath, however, we tend to squander the opportunity to delve meaningfully into the lives of our true friends. Also, in a “social-media gone wild” culture, we can be easily fooled about who our real friends are. Worse yet, we tend to waste a tremendous amount of time worried about what strangers or unimportant people think about us. We should be careful not to merely fill our lives with acquaintances in our search to feel connected. We should be grateful for the friends we do have and deepen those relationships. The blessing that a true friendship brings will only be clear to us when we invest the requisite time to deepen that friendship. Start with three friends. Three friends might sound like a small number of friends to have; however, deepening a relationship takes a lot of time and tremendous commitment. It is really difficult, outside of our family and significant others, to properly nurture and maintain too many friendships. Therefore, three is just the right number of friends to make us feel connected, loved and blessed.
- Family. Having family who love and support us is a blessing because there is something special about our blood connections. We are introduced to the world and given our values vis-à-vis our family. Just like friendship, however, family is about quality not quantity. In other words, we do not have to have a maxed out relationship with every single person in our family in order for us to be blessed. If we can’t connect to everyone in the family, that is perfectly fine. The key is to find at least a few family members who we can deepen our relationship with. Also, bear in mind that a family member does not have to be alive for us to be blessed by the relationship. The bonds that we create with our loved ones cannot be destroyed by death. I still see the faces and hear the wisdom of family members who have passed on. I would do anything to see them again; however, their physical absence cannot obliterate my memory of them or their wisdom that still taps me on the shoulders, whispers in my ears or visits me in dreams. The blessing is the bond, not the physical presence of a family member. So, as long as you have a family member, dead or alive, who you were able to connect to and who you can continue to live off the royalties of your familial bond, then you are blessed.
- Shelter. Shelter is another blessing that some of us tend to disregard because we are always enviously eyeballing bigger and grander housing accommodations. With 100 million homeless people around the world, having shelter is a blessing. We might want to change our kitchens, bathrooms, furniture, add a deck, change the view, add square footage, or have better landscaping; however, we are still blessed to have a home to complain and fret about. The reality is that we can turn any shelter into a perfect sanctuary of peace and joy because it is more about what we bring to our shelter and not about what our shelter brings to us. In other words, we should work on ourselves before we work on our shelter. When our hearts, minds, souls and spirits are clear and unfettered then we will do the work required to bring that energy into our physical space. It is the right energy in our space that makes it a sanctuary – not the presence of material things. Also, the presence of love, respect and care are the things that make a space healthy to live in. So, if life provides us with shelter then we are blessed. It is up to us to add the right energy to turn our shelter into a sanctuary.
- Resources. We can mismanage our resources (time, money and energy) to the point where it feels like we have nothing. However, it does not mean that we are not blessed when our resources are limited – it just means that we have not managed them as well as we should. The resources that life blesses us with have no universal point value. In other words, a blessing of resources is binary - we either have it or we don’t. Once we have it, it is priceless. Also, resources should not be compared because life blesses each of us with exactly the resources we need during the different stages of our lives. Hence, a person with $75,000 is not $25,000 more blessed than a person with $50,000. Both are equally blessed to have money, period. The same goes for time and energy – we all have enough time and energy to do something magical. Again, having endless resources does not make us more blessed. Even a poor person has the potential to do something magical with his or her resources.
- Health. If we can see, smell, feel, hear, taste, walk, talk and so on, then we are very blessed. As we get older we tend to lose many of the faculties that we take for granted because we assume that we will always have them. Some people were born without some of these faculties or lose them as a result of illnesses or accidents. It is estimated that over 650 million people around the world are disabled. Ironically, the people who don’t have all their faculties sometimes tend to display a greater sense of being blessed and gratitude than those who are healthy and blessed with fully functional faculties. While it is ideal to have everything working like clockwork every single day of our lives, we should still be grateful for whatever functional faculties that we do have. Like resources, faculties should not be compared. One person who greatly inspires me is Nick Vujicic, a 30-year old Australian man who was born without arms or legs. His life was far from easy or gracious; however, after he stopped feeling sorry for himself, and started to count his blessings, his life flourished. He was able to graduate from college with a double degree, get married, have a son and is now a very successful world-renowned motivational speaker. We might not always be dealt the hand we want in terms of health, but when we count our blessings we will be less consumed by our physical condition and be more able to live our lives with purpose.
My challenge for you is to get into the habit of counting your blessings at least once a week. Remember that a blessing is not just having the things that you dream about but having the things that you simply need to function on a daily basis, like the items in the checklist above. We will never be able to enjoy what we consider to be the big things in life if we are incapable of truly appreciating the things that so many others take for granted. Don’t forget to add to the list above.