My Grateful Dozen

My attitude of gratitude writing and reflection process is based on the simple idea that if you know what you love and what makes you feel grateful, you can look for those things in the present moment. You might be surprised at how often and how much the things you cherish are already in your life.

Learning what types of things push your gratitude button is an ongoing process. A good place to start is by looking at your life; by looking at the people, objects, and types of experiences you most cherish.

Then, I recommend following an inquiry process until you can boil each gratitude trigger down to its most essential quality or element. I will ask myself what is special about something I observed or follow up on an observation by asking myself what is its most important lesson until I arrive at a theme or quality I could contemplate being present in a wide range of situations.

Categories or themes that might be included in YOUR Grateful Dozen should only be a couple words. Remember, in these themes you are boiling things down to their most essential quality. As example, I noticed that I feel strong and frequent rushes of gratitude when I am visiting places.  After asking myself questions about why I loved the guitarist I saw playing in the subway in Madrid or watching Trick ‘r Treaters in the French Quarter, scenes I see regularly in my home town, I realized that I was most grateful for having tourist eyes.  I was grateful for the way being in an unfamiliar place made me more tuned in to what I saw and heard.  (I make some additional suggestions on ways you can identify things that spark feelings of gratitude in Tips of the Week.)

Here are my grateful dozen and some thoughts behind what each category means to me. You might have seven or ten themes in your grateful dozen.  The exact number doesn’t matter. What is important is that these themes (or categories) can be broadly applied in your life.

I can be at the grocery store and ask myself how any of my grateful dozen themes are present.  This exercise will often lead me to happy contemplations on things like what I have in common with other shoppers or what surprising item I found on the shelves, and I will find myself feeling grateful. This practice gives me an indispensable tool for bringing myself to an authentically grateful state in most circumstances.

Consider what would go into YOUR GRATEFUL DOZEN.  Share your grateful dozen list with other No Small Things readers.


1)      Belonging/Connection

Observations that make me feel like I belong – to a group of people or to the family of man, to something bigger than myself, are hugely important to me. When I recognize a “sameness” I might share with others, I am reminded of my humanity. I recognize feeling good when I feel connected with all of humanity but also when I identify myself as belonging to a group, maybe other artists, or writers, or music lovers, or a circle of friends.

2)      Free/Bargains/Upgrades/Winning/Luck

Anything that makes me feel like fate is smiling on me generates a sort of exuberance I can’t help but feel grateful for. These episodes of unexpected or bonus bounty can be triggered by small events (they usually are.) like catching a bus before it pulls away or finding a designer sweater in mint condition for $3.00 at a resale shop.  I take these things as signs that my good fortune is already present in concrete ways in my life.

3)      Something New

The simple infusion of energy from experiencing something for the first time makes it easy to become conscious of things to be grateful for. It seems only natural to examine what is unique, potentially beneficial or beautiful about something you were not even aware existed the day before. Remember your first kiss, your first plane ride, your first job interview, your first sip of good champagne? I am almost always grateful for experiencing something new because the experience always sharpens my sense for what I like.

 4)      Fresh Eyes/Tourist Mind

The principle of heightening your awareness for new things operates at exponential proportions when you’re a tourist. When you are navigating through a series of events and unfamiliar locations, when you’re spending time paying extra attention to EVERYTHING because everything is NEW, you can’t help but be touched by SOMETHING.

5)      Noticing Small Things

Noticing small things that touch you is a practice. It’s something you can do all the time. When you notice little things you feel a special kinship with, the best thing to do is pause for a moment and reflect on what it is exactly that touches you. The more you understand what pleases, inspires, or benefits you, the better your chance will be to put yourself in positions to experience those things.

6)      Beauty

Who’s to say what’s beautiful in a grand sense? Only you can determine what’s beautiful to you. And championing this privilege to identify what’s beautiful in your world is a wonderful gift. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and I find it grand that I can declare my unique experience of something as beautiful.

7)       Neighborhood Discoveries

The joy of recognizing the wonder within a small thing is magnified when you realize how accessible that thing is; when you know that an experience you cherish can be repeated at will or can be found only footsteps from your door.

 8)      People Who Touch Me

Sometimes people touch me because of their talents, generosity or humor, or because we have a shared history. Sometimes, it’s harder to put a finger on why certain people make me feel more alive or more loved, but few things spark a sense of gratitude like feeling blessed that someone’s path has crossed mine.

9)      Self-Appreciation

Without getting psychological or metaphysical about causes, I have found that when I am kind to myself, my experiences flow more pleasantly. Habits that reinforce a sense of lack are hard to break. Acknowledging yourself, even acknowledging your own good thoughts, and thanking yourself can stir positive changes. I am grateful whenever I can acknowledge something good in me.

10)  Musings and ‘Maginings

Sometimes my  greatest source of gratitude come, not from an experience or from another person, but from a thought. And the reality of being in control of my thoughts reminds me to be grateful for good ones; thoughts that inspire me, or thoughts that identify a curiosity and require only a little passion to pursue, or thoughts that help me change the lens with which I see the world.

11)  What’s so funny? Things That Make Me Laugh

I love to laugh, but sometimes I forget to laugh at myself or I get too serious about life and lose opportunities to be pleased or delighted. Knowing what makes you laugh and remembering to relish those moments represent cause for thanks.

12)   Surprise

Out of the blue experiences can make me feel closer to God. Things that don’t go according to plan can actually turn out better than any plan I could conceive. Being surprised, like feeling belonging, makes me feel like I am always supported by a greater force, a greater intelligence than my own. When I see moments of this, at first, I’m amazed. Then I’m usually humbled and overwhelmingly grateful.