Most of us wake up thinking about how we are going to meet obligations and fulfill promises to other people. We begin our day in response mode and remain that way until it’s time to go to bed. This is a hard way to live.
For twelve years I have chosen another way. I begin each day with the same positive ritual: a daily dose of awe and gratitude.The First Step: Experiencing Awe
No matter where I am, I start my day with a moment of awe. I wake up and head for the nearest window. I open the curtain and look outside. When I’m at home, I look at the ocean. When I’m at a hotel, I look at tall buildings. When I’m in Maine, I look at trees. Wherever I am there is always something interesting to draw my attention. Each time I look out my window I appreciate the fact that the universe does not revolve around me; it includes me.
Immersed in the wonder and awe of something that I cannot explain, this first step in my morning ritual reminds me that the world is much bigger than my life and my concerns.
My Mom grew up in Maine and often reflects on the beauty of nature. She once said to me, “Think of the beauty of maple trees. The same force that makes sap run up a tree from its roots to its trunk, against gravity, is the same force that resides inside of you.”
Mom made her point by gently poking me in the gut and saying, “It’s right there; connect to it.”Profound Outcomes
University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of the Happiness Hypothesis, and Dacher Keltner, University of California-Berkeley psychology professor, wrote about awe in Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman’s book, Character Strengths and Virtues: “People consistently report that experiences of awe and elevation have profound outcomes, motivating self-improvement, personal change, altruistic intentions and actions, and the devotion to others and the larger community.”The Second Step: Verbalizing Gratitude
The second step of my morning ritual focuses on gratitude. I say everything for which I am grateful.
Philosophers, religious leaders, and teachers have taught us for thousands of years to begin our day by expressing and feeling gratitude for everything and everyone we have in our lives.
My list includes being grateful for a new day, the sleep I had the night before, my health, my family (by name), my close friends (by name), my key supporters in business (by name), and important opportunities professionally and personally. I make it a habit of visualizing the people and things as I say them; I want to keep these images fresh in my mind.
“Grateful individuals have a sense of abundance,” according to research by psychology professor Phillip Watkins and his colleagues at Eastern Washington University. “Grateful individuals appreciate the common everyday pleasures of life...grateful individuals appreciate the contribution of others to their well-being.”Rewards of a Ritual
“A ritual can smooth life’s transition as can perhaps nothing else," wrote Huston Smith, professor of Religion and Philosophy at Syracuse University, in his book The Religions of Man.
Gratitude and awe in my morning ritual helps me transition from a night of sleep to a new day of possibility.
Rituals also serve another function, says Smith, "namely to intensify appreciation and crown man’s joy with celebration.”
Every day is a new opportunity. What would happen if you started each day with a little awe and gratitude? This positive ritual could change your life.David J. Pollay is the author of “Beware of Garbage Trucks!™ - The Law of the Garbage Truck™ (www.bewareofgarbagetrucks.com).” His book, The Law of the Garbage Truck™, is due out this Fall, and you can read his blog each week. Mr. Pollay is a syndicated columnist with the North Star Writers Group, creator and host of The Happiness Answer™ television program and DVD, and an internationally sought after speaker. He is the founder and president of The Momentum Project.