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The Role of Gratitude in Becoming Who We are

In reflecting upon gratitude at Thanksgiving, I am reminded of a question I often receive.

After a recent keynote speech, a gentleman approached me and asked, “How does someone who does not go through a near-death, life-changing experience, such as your experience with cancer, gain some similar wisdom, benefit or enlightenment without going through the experience themselves?”

At Thanksgiving, I thought it would be appropriate to share my answer to the question, as the answer boils down to gratitude.

The fortunes and misfortunes of others can be sufficient to inspire us and make us feel grateful for what we have.  When I see someone who is less physically able than me, I often find myself saying, “there but for the grace of God go I”.

While a life/death experience like the one I had can be a game-changer, it often isn’t. Many people have had similar experiences and didn’t come to the same conclusion or commitments that I did. On the other hand, consider my story and my book.  Reportedly, it has inspired others to stop hating their parents, forgive ex-spouses, become a man of the cloth and even prevented someone from following through on their planned suicide.

So, the answer to the question is simple.  It’s not what happens to you that determines what you decide to do, and who you become. It’s simply a matter of you deciding what your life means to you.  Each and every day we are becoming. Some of us are simply becoming with a bit more purpose, with a bit more direction, and an awareness of our direction, than others.  It doesn’t require a life-threatening disease to choose or change the direction and inertia of your becoming process.  It merely requires awareness, gratitude and will.


So this Thanksgiving, as you reflect on those people and things you are thankful for, think about your gratitude in the context of your becoming process, regardless of whether you draw your inspiration from your own experiences, or from the experiences of others.

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