A Life of Gratitude

  • Gratitude
Jennifer Gravlee

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstein

There are two things in this world that we all have in common: 1) Everyone will have a final chapter and 2) Everyone wants to be happy. We are surrounded by books, quotes, podcasts, articles and studies on how to live a happy and meaningful life, but it is when we train our mind that all of those words become reality. The debate is whether happy people are grateful or grateful people are happy. I believe it is the last one. I have known many people that were provided all the things in the world that we are told will make you happy, yet they wanted more or different things. Gratitude is a popular topic this time of the year, but I am hoping after this message you will better understand how to practice it daily. Our minds are like everything else and must be trained and we must put the work into doing that. Just signing up for the gym will not make you healthier, you must be disciplined and put in the effort needed to reach your goals. Just talking about your dreams and passions will not make them come true, you must create a growth plan and stick with it. Just knowing what gratitude is or going around the dinner table one day a year and listing all you are thankful for will not make you grateful everyday. Life does not owe us anything, it will never be fair and bad things will happen to good people, it is our job to make gratitude instinctive so when the hard things come, the thoughts of poor me, jealousy, defeat or negativity approach our trained mind will find gratitude in that moment and strength to get through it. It takes a conscious effort to learn who we are, what we want, and find peace in happiness in the moment. Below you will find some thoughts and ways to increase your gratitude skills. 



  • Being grateful does not mean ignoring what you are going through. It means acknowledge it, process it, do any tangible thing you can to solve it and be grateful for the light that will eventually come.
  • Be grateful for the past. I am able to find gratitude in so many situations because I am thankful they are not chapters I have experienced in my past. Because, it can ALWAYS be worse. 
  • Find a way to change the challenge that is bringing you down. Work hard and don't give up until you get out of it. This does not mean "I will be happy when...." Sometimes you are doing all that you can and it will just take time for it to pass, you can still find gratitude in the days on the journey. Try to focus on the moments while keeping your eye on the goal, versus just looking at the goal not appreciating the moments that are getting you there.
  • It is wonderful to be grateful and it is easy to list the main things in your life you are thankful for (family, health, friends...) We need to also be grateful for things that may seem small, but we have at this moment. ( The sun on your skin, the sky on the drive in, the food in front of you, the sound of laughter, the lesson you are teaching, the vehicle you are driving.....) 
  • Don't live in regret the past is done, just learn from it.
  • Do not wait on others to show you gratitude to start showing them gratitude
  • We will not be grateful for everything that happens in our life, but we can and should practice gratitude daily. 


Make time to train your mind daily:

  • Spend time daily in meditation and practice gratitude meditations
  • List three things in life that you could not imagine living without, write them on a post- it and place it on your bathroom mirror, by your bed and by your computer.
  • Journal every night and list what you are most thankful for from the day(the day could have really sucked, but you can find things that were good about it) Everyday will not be good, but everyday something good will happen to you. 
  • Let  people know why you are thankful for them. Write a note, send an email or tell them in person why you are grateful for them. Give them exact details, name what they did and how it made you feel. We teach our students to tell peers what they did and how it hurt them, but we forget to tell people the acts that helped you in life.( I am a box checker and a goal setter, so I make a note to reach out to 5 people a week to let them know why I am so thankful for them) 
  • Say thank you to strangers with eye contact ( I have been working on looking at my cashier or waiter in the eye and saying thank you so they understand it is genuine) 
  • Make it a practice in your family and in your class( replace how was today with what is one thing you are grateful for from today) Use it as an exit ticket or car conversation. 
  • Pause the news and social for a bit. (Media can remind us of all the terrible things in the world making it even more challenging to see the good especially if we are not in a good place at the time.) 
  • Be grateful for the lessons tough situations teach us, don't focus on blaming or the mistakes that were made, just be thankful that you added that lesson to your tool box. 
  • Do not accept what you can't change, change what you can't accept( life will happen and with grit, hard work, optimism and gratitude you can move forward) 
  • Take advantage of what will help you find a place of gratitude( therapy to let go of the past, a mentor to help coach you with your future goals, a friend to process with, time with nature, family traditions, looking at photos, reading a book, an ear to listen......) 
  • Watch your words, on my drive home I think back to my day and ask "did I spend more time complaining or speaking words of kindness and love?"( I have days of both and am working on not beating myself up when I felt like negative words or complaints played a bigger role than positive) :) Find gratitude for the good things and try harder the next day. 


Lastly, I have seen two documentaries in the past about wrongly convicted citizens that were released from prison and both mentioned the first thing they were going to do is take their shoes off to feel the grass under their bare feet. Don't wait until you don't have it to be grateful for it, feel the grass daily. 

I am truly thankful that each and every one of you is in my life, enjoy this moment and this last week before some much deserved rest and time off next week. 


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About the Author

Jennifer Gravlee, Aspen Leadership Institute Coach

Jennifer was born and raised in Bartlett, Tennessee and graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in Elementary Education. She brings 7 years of teaching experience to Aspen and loves helping children grow and learn. She can best be described as energetic, outgoing, passionate and optimistic.



B.S., Elementary Education & Special Education, University of Memphis