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  • Writer's pictureLaura Burke - Coach

Smell the roses

A while back, my husband found a website called Omaze.* They describe themselves as a “fundraising platform for a new generation of donors.” The concept is that you donate money for the chance of winning high-end prizes like a Lamborghini or a weekend with Arnold (Schwarzenegger, or course). The concept is that they attract substantially more people with the prizes, and thus more funds can be raised for organizations doing good around the world. Giving these organizations more visibility, bigger platforms than they would have access to with their own budget which is typically pretty small for legit non-profits. In the end, they argue, a smaller percentage of a much bigger pie is still bigger than a bigger percentage of a much smaller pie.

I was curious – how much of the donation actually goes to the organization? It’s explained very clearly that for experiences with celebrities, 60% of your donation goes to the charity; and for non-celebrity prizes (like cash or cars), 15% is guaranteed to go to the charity. Now, the difference in this case is largely because the celebrity is donating their time, the premier tickets, etc., whereas Omaze has to cover the cost of a non-celebrity prize.

Nevertheless, it got me thinking about the value of experiences as compared to things and I tend to agree that in most cases an experience has a higher value. Often, when we get a thing, it is shiny and new and exciting. In the beginning. But then we get used to it. New models become available that tug at our brain’s desire centers and our thing is a little less shiny. And let’s face it: society places such an emphasis on things – the fancy car, the expensive jewelry, the giant house with a funky-shaped pool. So eventually, that thing that was once so shiny and exciting is just a staple part of our existence. And it takes more effort to notice it, to feel that warmth of gratitude for it.

However, when we fully partake in the experiences of life, memories can keep bringing us joy, over and over! It’s like a gift that keeps on giving. Remembering the feeling that first time riding a ‘big’ roller coaster. Being able to practically taste some dessert your grandmother always used to make. Recently I feel like I’ve seen more of an emphasis on lifestyle – which I would equate with experience. Is there an actual shift in what’s out there or just a shift in how I see it? For example, it’s not so much about the yacht, per se – it’s about the experience of being on it, enjoying the time with family and friends.

I would never suggest that you shouldn’t be grateful for things. Be grateful for all the things! Just also remember to be grateful for the experiences. And look for the experience that goes along with the things rather than thinking about them as ‘just’ things. Take time to stop and smell the roses. It can be in those tiny moments of catching a beautiful sunset, of cuddling up with a little one reading a book (for the 459th time). It can be in grand adventures, and everything in between. The point is that being thankful for experiences gives you an infinite source of gratitude from which to draw.

If you have kids, I highly recommend the book Frederick by Leo Lionni which gently teaches this concept with beautiful illustrations. Perhaps everyone should just go to their local library, sit in the children’s section and read it. One of my childhood faves!

Be grateful AND acknowledge what is not good

There are two dangers with overly applying gratitude: ignoring things that are legitimately not OK, and restricting your emotional spectrum.

Being grateful for your spouse does not mean overlooking abuse. Being grateful for your job does not mean accepting a toxic work environment or unfair pay. Being grateful for some portions of a situation does not require gratitude for the entirety. If something is not right – call it what it is, and do something about it if you are moved to do so.

Being grateful for your car doesn’t mean you don’t get frustrated when it breaks down or the windshield cracks. Being grateful to ‘have loved and lost, rather than to have never loved at all’ doesn’t mean you aren’t sad when a relationship falls apart. We are humans, and we are meant to feel a broad array of emotions. Choosing gratitude helps to not blow things out of proportion, to stay grounded. But gratitude should not be used to sugar coat those moments in life when other feelings may also be present, to pretend there are no weeds in the garden.

Be grateful AND strive for more

Being grateful and striving for more are often considered opposites. Like, if you are grateful for something you ‘shouldn’t’ yearn for something more or something else. Or, if you are seeking something bigger or better that ‘means’ you are not grateful for what you have. This is only true if you choose it to be so. It is entirely possible for gratitude and continual growth to be best buddies, continually feeding each other. As you grow and achieve more, as you learn from failures and mistakes, you appreciate more from the journey. That greater appreciation fuels more growth, which fuels more appreciation, and on and on.

Be grateful and mean it

It is wonderful that there is such a broad awareness of gratitude these days. The only risk in this is that gratitude becomes background noise, and going through the motion of gratitude doesn’t have as much power as really feeling the emotion. Remember when that video of Jessica’s daily affirmations went viral? Your gratitude may not always have that flavor of excitement – it may be more reflective, or quiet. I hope you agree, though, that the intensity of any emotion does take it to another level, and there is no exception with gratitude. Truly feeling thankful, expressing it takes it to another level compared to just going through the motions, ticking off the list of things you ‘should’ be grateful for.

Will you stop and smell the roses?

Will you slow down enough to enjoy – and feel grateful for – experiences? Know their value, and never trivialize it!

You are unique and you deserve to absolutely love your life! This is why I love working 1-on-1 and in small groups to help you find ways to create beautiful, dynamic balance in your life! If you are interested in a discovery session to learn about working together, please contact me.

* Some people love Omaze, others think it’s a scam. I give them credit for trying to do good in a creative way they think is effective, for being transparent about where the money goes, and for having raised over $150M for the actual charities at the time of this blog. Please draw your own conclusions and support whatever missions resonate with you in the way that feels right.

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