Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Gratitude Attitude

People who know me well know that I love cars, and I always have. I once had a really sweet car. It was a silver convertible – quick, smooth and sporty, and heads turned as it zipped by. Neighborhood kids would give me the “thumbs up” sign and shout, “Nice car, mister!” as I drove by. My wife and I would plan entire weekends around where we would ride. Boy, I sure was proud of that car. That was many years ago.
I still have that car, but it is getting old. It has dulled headlights, rust bubbles, scratches and dents. On rainy days, the drive belts squeal loudly in protest until the engine warms up.  It is not as quick or smooth, and heads are not turning so much anymore. It needs some work. But I still love it. 
I love it because buying it made a dream come true. I love it because after many years it is part of the family. But the main reason I love it is because I have replaced pride with gratitude. 

Not Good Enough?
There was a time years ago when I would have believed that this car was no longer good enough for me. I would have been preoccupied with replacing it.  How can I show the world how successful I am in an 11-year-old car? I need to impress! I need to look like I’m winning! That is an expensive way to think. I no longer think that way and I am better off for it.

Ready for the road trip – a decade ago.
I choose to love my old car in part because doing so saves me a fortune. If I replaced my old convertible with a shiny new one, it would cost me about $35,000 plus $2,450 in sales tax, plus around $2,000 in annual excise taxes. My car insurance would go up, too. Yikes! Choosing to be grateful for the car I have means I save at least $40,000. The money I’m not spending on a new car can be saved and invested. My old car might not impress anyone; but it’s mine, it’s paid for, and it’s good enough. It will remain good enough until the day it is no longer safe to drive, because I have learned that an attitude of gratitude builds wealth.
Are you with me so far? I hope so, because we can apply this philosophy of gratitude to the rest of life. Consider all the things that you might think you need to replace or improve: your car, home, clothes, furniture, appliances, electronics, and on and on. How many of these things might actually be good enough?  If you can change the way you perceive your possessions from “not good enough” to “good enough and I’m grateful for it,” you will almost certainly find greater peace in your life, and you will probably save a fortune.  You have the power to make this decision!

Write a New Story
I believe that the Western world is very bad at gratitude. It seems like almost everybody wants more than they’ve got. We see the commercials for luxury cars, watch the nouveau-riche Mc-Mansion tours on MTV Cribs, buy our lottery tickets, and think, “If only!”  
In our collective culture, there is so much anxiety born of the idea that what we have, where we live, what we drive, and by extension who we are is not good enough.  We live in one of the most affluent, most coddled societies in the history of the world, and yet many of us are a stressed-out mess, and deeply in debt, because we lack gratitude and perspective. 
Have you been telling yourself that you don’t have enough or that what you have is not good enough?  If so, question your assumptions and write a new story. Cultivate gratitude, and you might discover that what you already have is exactly what you need. You'll be richer for it.


  1. Great story and advice....but for me, i believe if you worked hard and saved all your life, and you have no children, i believe in splurging for yourself...What do you save for all these years? Nursing home bills? Have you ever seen a Brinks Truck in a funeral procession...? I am going to spend & enjoy..Why should we leave it for others to enjoy after we are gone!

    1. I agree. Since you’ve already “worked and saved”, go ahead and enjoy your money. Savings is just delayed consumption, so eventually it is okay to spend. That said, there are many people who spend, but haven’t saved. For example, 40% of US citizens save nothing for retirement, but many of them are keeping up appearances with new cars and fine homes, and going deeply into debt to do so. That’s crazy. This post is for them.


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