Two things are hard to find inside a culture of materialism: financial freedom and gratitude. And often, people who are working toward paying off all their debt and/or an early retirement are just as ungrateful as those who unwittingly spend themselves into debt. They are so focused on their financial goals that they worry over every little setback – or potential setback – and forget to appreciate all the good things in their lives.
In this post where I talk about grief and the holidays, I imply that one of my problems with the whole Christmas thing is how it brings out the greed in people, especially in children. No matter how much adults push the concept of Christmas as being a time of sharing and caring, Madison Avenue sabotages those attempts at every turn.
For many – most? – Christmas brings on an entitlement attitude and consumerist mentality. Instead of being grateful for what they have, people hope for – even demand – more of what they don’t need.
There’s an old song that comes from (I think) a children’s Christmas musical. The title of the song is “Presents.” It goes like this:
All I think about are presents.
Lots and lots of pretty presents.
Dream and dream about my presents.
Give me, give me, give me presents.
The lyrics could, unfortunately, define what many people are thinking the whole year through.
I need this year’s style of clothing.
I want the latest iPhone.
This house is too small.
I wish I could afford a BMW.
I want to vacation in a resort, not stay in a Motel 6.
I could go on and on and on and on.
But I won’t, because you get my drift.
We think that financial freedom will bring us happiness. We think that buying the latest trend will bring us happiness.
Let me tell you what – my husband and I achieved financial independence in our early forties. And we still sometimes are tempted with the idea that more would be better.
And I shouldn’t have to tell you that the more material wealth you accumulate, the more you want. You’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced it. Getting is the easiest path to greed.
The solution? Intentional gratitude.
Every morning before your day starts, sit down and think about five things you are grateful for. If you have been struggling with gratitude and contentment, you might want to start a gratitude journal and write down your list.
Every night before bed, think of five specific things that happened during the day for which you are grateful. Write them down, if you find it helpful.
After you get into the habit of intentional gratitude twice a day, challenge yourself to find things to be grateful for throughout the day. Even the smallest things count!
“I’m grateful my boss smiled at me this morning.”
“I’m thankful my spouse helped me with the housework yesterday.”
“I’m grateful for these pants not wearing out while I save up enough money to buy some new ones.”
“I’m grateful for this manicure scissors so I can cut off the broken fingernail before I accidentally rip it down to the quick.”
“I’m thankful that my friend wrote an encouraging message to me on my Facebook wall.”
People bemoan the loss of the true spirit of Christmas, and much of it has to do with our having forgotten to be grateful for everything good. When we’re not grateful, we’re not content. And when we’re not content, we get greedy.
Whether you’re striving for financial freedom or not, you will be happier and healthier if you cultivate a habit of intentional gratitude.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas season, during which you realize how blessed you are. Because when you do, your life will feel much more abundant without any external circumstance having changed.