One of the best pieces of life advice I’ve ever received came from a mentor named Yusef White more than 32 years ago while standing outside the Harlem YMCA. As we prepared to go inside the building for a meeting Yusef, in his humble, sage-like manner, looked at me and said,
“The key to happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you already have.”
While the memory is too distant to recall what I might have been complaining about or expressing my disenchantment over at the time, it was crystal clear to me that Yusef was urging me to put some gratitude in my attitude.
As we enter into the Holiday Season when there are always increased intentions and expressions of gratitude and thankfulness, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that there are clear benefits to adopting a daily practice of gratitude rather than engaging in a seasonal expression of it. In fact, there is a growing body of research that has revealed the scientific benefits of gratitude on our health, healing, and well-being.
An active practice and attitude of gratitude actually boosts our immune systems, improves mental health, strengthens relationships, and increases optimism. I am sure most of you are like me and might need added ways to increase your optimism quotient with so many painful happenings in our world — including last weekend’s hateful, murderous attack on the LGBTQ+ community at Club Q in Colorado Springs; the horrific homicides of three University of Virginia football players by a former teammate; and the extremely tragic and disturbing death of Shanquella Robinson. Hitting even closer to home, the Corporation for Black Male Achievement family is mourning the tragic death of a Cities United team member, Kenneth Rhodes, a bright young man who perished from injuries sustained from a car wreck in Louisville a little over a week ago. Finding even the smallest of things to be grateful for in seasons like this can be life-changing.
A few years ago, my wife, Desere, created a family portrait entitled Dove Family Rules, which hangs on our living room wall. The last of the 10 Rules is “Count Your Blessings.” I have so many blessings to count, and invite you to take a moment to count yours and record them in your journal. This year I published a book, launched the I Too Am America Fellowship for young men, and most recently had the amazing opportunity to serve as Co-Curator of The Well, New Profit’s gathering of social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, cross-sector leaders, including a cohort of 40 phenomenal 21 – 24-year-old Emerging Leaders.
Over the years, during my leadership talks, I’ve challenged listeners to discover their G-Spot – their Gift-Spot, their Genius-Spot, their Great-Spot, their God-Spot (well, you get the picture). In this season, I what to challenge you to discover your Gratitude-Spot and remember the words of Yusef White: happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you already have. What are the blessings you have to count today?