Jonathan Huie is one of my heroes I never met in person. Like Norman Vincent Peale, Stephen Covey, Richard Carlson, Sarah Ban Breathnach, and many more. And Daniel Gottlieb who I finally got to meet, last night! All of these people work or have worked to help better the lives of others.
I am deeply inspired by all of them and their brilliant work and lives.
Jonathan Lockwood Huie explains in an Ezine article here:
What Zero-based Gratitude is.
He explains this by first contrasting zero-based budgeting and incremental budgeting, which are techniques often used by businesses, governments, and sometimes individual people. In incremental budgeting, which is traditionally employed, the entity starts with the budget for the last year or previous instance and prepares the subsequent budget based on the previous one. Incorporating whatever increases or more seldom, decreases, is considered to be appropriate.
In contrast, zero-based budgeting begins with a baseline of no expenditures as opposed to the baseline of last year’s expenditures. Instead of looking at some previous year, they just look at now. Right now. As Mr. Huie explains, every single proposed expense must be justified on its own merit as opposed to resorting to the argument that it was in last year’s budget and that everyone is expecting and demanding it.
For most people, their gratitude is incremental gratitude instead of zero based.
When they have a baby, get a new car, get a promotion, more money, a new house, a new love…they’re all thankful. If they lose their job, are forced to get a smaller house or less of something, experience a breakup, get into an argument with someone, become ill or have a sick family member or friend, they get disappointed and angry, lose touch with the gratitude they felt when great things were happening. They haven’t been as blessed today with all they had yesterday.
But still blessed. They just don’t know it. Or feel it. It’s ok to feel sad but we can still be grateful.
There are people who say if the quality of life they have now was greatly reduced by illness or injury, they would choose not to live. Not to be resuscitated. Not to be kept alive with a feeding tube if that means they cannot walk or take care of themselves, if it means they cannot talk like they can now or express themselves in most ways they now can, if it means being a “burden” to others. If basically all they can do is sit up with support and look around a room, being fed with a tube.
But you know what? Many people like this can feel. They feel the touch of others, they feel the care of those who show it to them. They’re alive and conscious. No longer like they used to be. They can’t hold ordinary conversations. They may not be able to speak words, maybe not even completely understand language always.
But they understand touch. They understand smiles. Their hearts understand love.
They see and feel. They see flowers, balloons, smiles, faces. They’re not always suffering even when they re all shriveled up looking, in a chair with a feeding tube. They may look like they’re in an “unfortunate” state to some people but they can be very happy in their own context, just as happy as a walking, mostly independent person who can feed herself.
Some are even born this way and are some of the happiest people! They’re not “vegetables” or “retards” or “burdens” or “brain dead,” they’re people!!
If I all of a sudden tomorrow found myself very unlike the way I am today, my abilities dramatically reduced, my body damaged, with a feeding tube in me but I could still feel, both physically and emotionally, I would choose life even if I couldn’t consciously say or even think it in words.
My life would be just as valuable as the life I live now. Nothing can reduce my value.
I would see balloons and flowers and smiling faces. I would feel the sweet, loving touch of a friend on my arm or the healing, compassionate touch of a doctor, a hand on mine, eyes looking into my own eyes. Feel the warmth of caring people, the beauty of daylight, the beams of golden sun, the sweetness of a gentle breeze, the vibrancy of the colors around me, the life that would still breathe in me. And that would be enough for me.
Even if I couldn’t see or hear, I would still FEEL, most important of all!
Yes I would choose to be a “burden” and I know I wouldn’t really be a burden. Someone somewhere would be happy to have me. BLESSED to have me. Blessed with my smile, my love, my will to carry on. Maybe a family member or a friend, another kind person or kind and loving health professionals who choose to care for people with extra needs who aren’t suffering but are not as independent as people who can walk and talk and feed and change themselves. Someone would have me. And I would gladly have that someone.
And someone would gladly have you and anyone else.
In a state like that I would have so much less than now but I would still choose gratitude. Still choose life.
What I have now are luxuries, beautiful luxuries. If I lose them, this life will still be beautiful. I will still be beautiful.
Today I have a house to live in, a bed to sleep in, blankets, heat, air, material objects like furniture, books, my phone….but if tomorrow my house burns to the ground taking everything I know with it, as long as I’m alive, I will give thanks. Even if I have to live out on the streets for a while. It would be devastating, shocking, depressing, but I would STILL have things to give thanks for, my life, the sky above me, kindness and love….LOVE.
On many occasions I would probably have to force myself to see the goodness, the greatness. But it’s there and I’m capable.
I have a chronic physical pain disorder and it gets so horrifying that sometimes I wish I were dead when it flares up to that degree but I learned more and more to remember GRATITUDE for all that IS right even when it’s flaring up badly. And lots of things are right. Even when it seems my world is crumbling on top of me.
This also goes for my depressive disorder. When I have a severe flare up, I think about dying but not nearly as often and usually not as deeply as I used to. I learned to often appreciate this life and give thanks even when it hurts. No matter how lifeless I feel or how agonizing my emotional pain is. I learned to live in the present and not compare it to what I previously had or to what someone else may have.
Depression and physical pain have been my teachers, teaching me how one moment, everything can crumble and it seems like I have so much less than what I had just very recently. When a disorder flares up out of nowhere or is triggered by an environmental issue or a thought, it can be traumatic and it makes me see all the little things I had to be grateful for before the flare up. I become painfully aware of all I was ignoring. My emotional or physical anguish makes the simple joys of life jump out at me and it’s painful to now notice them and know I was taking them for granted so frequently. Painfully beautiful. Beautifully painful.
But these disorders show me how not to do that so much. I developed an ingrained habit to notice and look for the joys of living whether I’m in any kind of pain or not. When I’m in extreme physical or emotional pain, I usually can’t take as much pleasure in things as I can without the pain but I can experience some joy and pleasure. And with practice I can even learn to increase my joy even when it hurts.
These are some examples of zero based gratitude. It’s true that we can wake up one morning with significantly less than we just had the night before but instead of using last night as a reference, we can focus on the NOW and what we currently have. Let us give thanks for this present moment.
In some cultures, like the U.S. Culture for example, this is our way, to be very ungrateful for the most part. Not always though. We often give thanks for friends and family when the topic comes up, and like some other countries, we even have a whole holiday dedicated to gratitude. But as a culture, we don’t seem to make gratitude and expressing it, our general way of life. We compare what we have to what others have and to what we previously had if it was more. We can think of a long list, when asked or when it’s a holiday, what we’re thankful for but then we soon forget.
The more we have and get, the more we demand and if we lose some things we previously had, our lives “suck” or “FML!.”
I’m guilty of this myself. And probably will be guilty again. But I have learned to mostly be conscious of when I’m doing this, to be conscious of what I’m grateful for, and for it to become an unconscious way or “second nature” to automatically give thanks.
There are blessings all around and within. A whole abundance of gifts and goodness.
Even when our blessings are reduced and we lose what we have, there is still an abundance of greatness.
Let’s give zero-based gratitude a try.