David Steindl-Rast: Want to be happy? Be grateful

All of us want to be happy. In this, we are all together. How we imagine our happiness, that differs from one another, but it’s already a lot that we have all in common, that we want to be happy.

What is the connection between happiness and gratefulness? Many people would say: when you are happy, you are grateful. But think again. Is it really the happy people that are grateful? We all know quite a number of people who have everything that it would take to be happy, and they are not happy, because they want something else or they want more of the same. And we all know people who have lots of misfortune, misfortune that we ourselves would not want to have, and they are deeply happy. They radiate happiness. You are surprised. Why? Because they are grateful. So it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy. If you think it’s happiness that makes you grateful, think again. It’s gratefulness that makes you happy.

How can each one of us find a method for living gratefully, not just once in a while being grateful, but moment by moment to be grateful. How can we do it? It’s a very simple method. It’s so simple that it’s actually what we were told as children when we learned to cross the street. Stop. Look. Go. That’s all. But how often do we stop? We rush through life. We don’t stop. We miss the opportunity because we don’t stop. We have to stop. We have to get quiet. And we have to build stop signs into our lives.

When I was in Africa some years ago and then came back, I noticed water. In Africa where I was, I didn’t have drinkable water. Every time I turned on the faucet, I was overwhelmed. Every time I clicked on the light, I was so grateful. It made me so happy. But after a while, this wears off.

There is a wave of gratefulness because people are becoming aware how important this is and how this can change our world. It can change our world in immensely important ways, because if you’re grateful, you’re not fearful, and if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people, and you are respectful to everybody, and that changes this power pyramid under which we live.

A grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful people, and joyful people — the more and more joyful people there are, the more and more we’ll have a joyful world.

People are becoming aware that a grateful world is a happy world, and we all have the opportunity by the simple stop, look, go, to transform the world, to make it a happy place. And that is what I hope for us, and if this has contributed a little to making you want to do the same, stop, look, go.

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