We have a saying in our house: “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.” It was a common theme when the kids were little, but even with the youngest now at 10, we’ll repeat it here and there. Reminders can help. I’m sure you can sympathize with the “I want more” sentiment if you have or have had young children. At our unfiltered, natural core, that’s us, too. I think it’s healthy to admit that. Hopefully, we grow out of it, or more realistically grow away from it, and find that we can supersede discontentment with gratitude.

Back in 2008 when the world was in financial chaos, I found it interesting how perspectives varied among my clients. In some, you could visibly see the emotion (whether fear or anger) radiating off their faces like the wavy air above a hot grill. In others, it was as if nothing was going on. It’s not that they were unaware, but simple conversations about the long-term nature of their financial plan addressed any concerns. Although the crisis of 2008 was an extreme time, I can still see this dichotomy in reactions played out in an economic environment today with low unemployment and growing investments — there can always be something to scare or compare.

In 2010 after the huge earthquake in Haiti, I spoke with the wife of a pastor of a local Haitian church. After the earthquake, she and the people of her Church worshiped God and gave thanks to Him. She told me they were thankful that it did not happen at night and that it was not raining. Wow, she just had family die in a horrible natural disaster! She went on to say, “It could have been far worse” and “God is always good even when we might not see it.” Gratitude was deep inside her bones. She didn’t have to summon it up. It seemed obvious it was a choice she made a long time before. I learned something invaluable from her that day and I’m writing about it nine years later.

So how can I get so frustrated when this incredibly advanced device in my pocket malfunctions or clean drinking water flows too slowly from my refrigerator? Comparison. Expectation. Entitlement. Frustrations like these might be minor, but prosperity can have a way of killing gratitude to unsuspecting people.

J. Oswald Sanders summarized, “Not every man can carry a full cup. Sudden elevation frequently leads to pride and a fall. The most exacting test of all to survive is prosperity.”

We don’t need to denounce the prosperity we enjoy — at whatever level — but rather we should be remembering where it comes from and be thankful. Contentment, fulfillment, and purpose are primary elements of real financial success and gratitude is the foundation. These are worthy pursuits.

For most of us, thankfulness does not come naturally but it can be developed. The following are a few suggestions that I have collected from others to cultivate gratitude in myself and my family:

  • Recount things for which you are thankful on a regular basis. There is power in remembering. Write it, pray it, tell your spouse or best friend, but do it often.

Being grateful is so much more than just being nice or simply the right thing to do. It can be the foundation of contentment, fulfillment and purpose. This is true prosperity.

More Reading: Money Smart Families Begin at Home

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