To be healthy, wealthy, and wise we need more than to gain some knowledge and learn some skills. We also need to release some attitudes or approaches to life that interfere with our becoming all we can possibly be. For starters, we need to release a sense of entitlement and adopt an attitude of gratitude. Being gracious is a key to true success.
I’ve spent the past week basking on the porches, taking in the lectures, listening to the concerts, and enjoying the grounds of The Chautauqua Institution: a 130-year-old community on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in western New York State which annually hosts a 9-week summer season of inspiration, education, recreation, and the arts that is unique beyond description.
My family and I have gone regularly to Chautauqua, for one week each summer, since 1994. It is a week we look forward to with great anticipation. (If you want to learn more about Chautauqua, visit them online at http://www.ciweb.org.)
On the last day of the week, my wife was painting a picture while I was reading a book on one of those Chautauqua porches when Shirley, a wise woman we had gotten to know over the course of the week, suddenly looked up and said to me: “When you first met your wife, what was the first thing you noticed?”
Now I first met my wife a long time ago, almost 30 years ago to be exact, but without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, “Her eyes.” “Good,” Shirley shot back, “I just wanted to be sure you remembered. Because your wife has some of the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.”
And indeed she has. Many a person over the years has noted my wife’s eyes. And I can remember, just as clearly as if it happened yesterday, standing in Hoos Drug store in Evanston, Illinois back in 1974 looking into those beautiful blue eyes and feeling my heart go pitter-pat.
It’s been said that the eyes are not really a separate organ from the brain. They are, in fact, so integrally connected to the brain and so close to the surface that they can well be viewed as outcroppings of the brain itself. No wonder we say that eyes are windows to the soul and that looking into someone’s eyes establishes a spiritual connection. The longer we look the stronger the connection.
Our friend on the porch was picking up not only on this remarkable feature of my wife’s anatomy; she was also making sure that almost 30 years of relationship and marriage had not led me to take those eyes for granted. My quick, definitive reply was the assurance she sought. And as someone who gets to look into those eyes a lot, I can testify to the fact that they continue to bless my life and make my heart grow fonder.
This, it seems to me, is not only a critical component of a happy relationship or marriage (when was the last time you spent any significant length of time looking into someone’s eyes?), it is also a critical component of health, wealth, and wisdom. We need to recognize and celebrate all that makes life good, if we hope to attract and enjoy all that makes for the good life.
Last month I wrote about the many things we need to learn if we want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. We need to learn the what, the how, the when, and the why of what goes in to health and wealth. These things are not secret mysteries made known to only a select few. These things have a body of knowledge that can be learned, tested, and mastered by one and all.
But it would be a mistake to get the idea that all we have to do is to gain some knowledge or learn some skills in order to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Remember my earlier mention of a Zen saying: “Knowledge is learning something new everyday; wisdom is letting something go every day.”
For the next month, we are going to conclude this extended series and precursor to my book by focusing on the things we need to let go of in order to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. I started this shift last week when I wrote about the importance of knowing little, or of reaching the “not knowing that we know stage” of personal mastery.
When we reach that stage, we let go of knowing that we know. There is no semblance of being puffed up with pride or impressed with our physical or financial prowess. There is only the doing of what we do and the being of who we are as we move forward on the trek of life.
One of the ways to describe this condition is to speak in terms of our having released entitlement. People who know that they know how to be healthy, wealthy, and wise expect things to go right because they are doing, saying, and thinking all the right things. That is why, according to Robert Farrar Capon, people don’t enjoy health, money, and love. These sought-after conditions come with a quid pro quo that ultimately proves unsustainable and oppressive.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. And one of the best antidotes is simple gratitude. Instead of feeling entitled to health, wealth, and wisdom, we can feel thankful for whatever comes our way. And in the spirit of what goes around comes around, the more thankfulness we feel and express the more goodness comes our way.
This principle plays itself out in all areas of life. Take running as an example. Many a runner has ruined his or her enjoyment of the sport by demanding peak performance. Sooner or later injuries get in the way, which can interfere not only with enjoyment but even with the ability to run at all.
Better to treat every run as a gift than as a performance. A couple of years ago I suffered through a 9-month period of running with chronic soreness in my right gluteal muscles. With this soreness, I was unable to run fast, sought frequent therapeutic interventions, and would grumble about a condition that never did stop me from running.
How silly! It’s no coincidence that the soreness finally broke when I shifted to an attitude of gratitude for being able to run at all. And since that time, with every run, I find myself celebrating the opportunity to run pain free for another day. It is an incredible gift that puts the exertion of running into a totally different perspective. Instead of pushing myself in rigorous training for peak performance I find myself being pulled into peak condition by the attitude of gratitude itself.
That’s why it’s so important to release entitlement if we hope to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. A sense of entitlement turns us into demanding, impatient people — which is 180 degrees opposite of where we want to be. A sense of wonder and gratitude turns us into gracious, attractive people • which lies at the heart of all true success.
Unfortunately, a sense of entitlement lies at the heart of many cultural ills. Western cultures, with our notion of “inalienable human rights,” boast many people • at both ends of the economic spectrum • who act as though life owes them a living. It has become commonplace in the Western world.
But there are other ways to approach the concept of human rights. What works for society at large does not, necessarily, work for individual attitudes and approaches to life. In this case, the two move in opposite directions. Our demands in the political arena, made on behalf of society at large and, perhaps, of dispossessed peoples, do not sit well as expressions of personal self-interest.
Here we do well to follow the tack of gratitude and grace. Instead of demanding our individual entitlements, we do far better to recognize our individual blessings. Many find it helpful to write them down in a journal. I like to pause before each meal to give thanks. One of my clients has the habit on his walks of saying, “I’m so glad that…” for as many things as come to mind.
However we do it, finding ways to feel and express gratitude both amplifies our enjoyment of the good life and mitigates the impact of difficult circumstances. No wonder it forms the basis for health, wealth, and wisdom in life.
Coaching Inquiries: Do you come more from a position of entitlement or gratitude? How could you nurture a gracious spirit? What fills your heart with joy?
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
I met you last year at the Baltimore Marathon. You were a real inspiration that day. You continue to be an inspiration in your LifeTrek emails. I always pick up a tip or two. The best one so far is how to swallow lots of big vitamin pills at one time. So simple!! I’ll let you know how I do at my next marathon. We are on track with our training.
In the final time trial of the Tour de France, Tyler Hamilton finished 2nd which boosted him up into 4th place overall at the end of the tour!! 4th place in the Tour de France is a great finish. Doing it on a broken collarbone is an incredible achievement… doing it on top of finishing a race in Italy (the Gyro de Italia if memory serves) under similar circumstances points to a man of incredible grit, determination and pain tolerance.
I thoroughly enjoy your weekly Provisions. I find them enlightening and refreshing in this fast-paced world we live in. I couldn’t agree with you more on the importance of exploring alternatives when it comes to our finances. Thanks.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
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