A few years ago, I was at my kitchen sink looking out of the window as I did another round of dishes. My eyes focused in on the bottlebrush tree directly in line with the window.
It suddenly struck me how much it had grown in the previous year. We had planted it a few years before. It hadn’t died but it hadn’t thrived either. It had remained a short, spindly plant with very few flowers. And yet, here it was almost double its size in less than a year. What had made the difference? Our neighbour had cut back the tree that used to overshadow that section of garden, keeping our bottlebrush in dappled light at best. Now it could see the sun, grow in fullness and in new directions.
In a moment of clarity (you know the ones that catch you in the most mundane moments?), I saw myself as that bottlebrush tree. Once just surviving and now thriving. The early years of parenting had left me merely surviving. Lack of sleep, battling my daughter’s reflux, food intolerances, mountains of laundry and despair had been this tree overshadowing me. Little moments of sunshine would peek through; moments of joy and thankfulness would catch my attention and lift my spirit. I was alive, I had grown a little but I was not flourishing. My spark had ebbed and was barely a flicker.
I started to see a shift when I chose to get more intentional with what I focused on. I started looking for those moments of joy, those little things and big things that I was grateful for in my life. It’s amazing how much more jumps out at you when you are looking on purpose. Some days were harder to see than others. Some days it would be all I could do to acknowledge that I had food to eat and a place to sleep. There was no overnight transformation!
As I started to get more serious about tuning my mind into what was good in my life, I came across Ann Voskamp’s blog and her joy dare. Having unusual prompts each day forced me to look at my life through different eyes. As I shifted my focus from what was hard and disappointing to what I was grateful for, the spark in me was fanned. The circumstances in my life weren’t magically fixed. Some challenges lessened and others grew. The difference came within me and how I could cope and face the day. The difference came in a joy not dependent on what was happening around me as much.
As I continued to add fuel to the reignited spark, through regular gratitude recording and adding in other life-giving practices like prayer, I became more fully me. I was able to see a path beyond feeling “stuck” in motherhood. I was able to take brave steps into new roles. There was a fire in my belly once more. I was living out what research has found to be true of those who practise noticing goodness in their lives. It was one thing to read this research and know in my head that it was a helpful practice and another to experience it.
I would love to say that I never had a down moment again or that I have stayed committed to practising gratitude regularly in the years between then and now. I’m human. So are you. This isn’t about having some perfect gratitude journal filled out everyday or sticking to someone’s way of tracking the good in your life. This is about using tools and strategies to help us to be intentional with being thankful and seeing the joy and spark that it brings.
Why don’t you try it for yourself? Simply find 3-5 things that you are grateful for each day. Maybe text those to a friend or record them in your phone, planner or journal. Maybe find Ann Voskamp’s joy dare and have a go at committing to that for this year. Experience for yourself the change this can bring.
Jodi Koepke, Field Staff Manager
Jodi spends her days sharing words of encouragement for women in leadership, finding her way through the beautiful mess of parenting and relationships, and geeking out on technology. She is one of the managers for MOPS Australia, a support teacher at Alta-1 College, and a writer and speaker, with a book due out later this year. Find more inspiritment at jokoepke.com.