Jen's story - A different lens

"I didn't change, nothing changed in my life, I still was unemployed, I still was struggling. But the way that I saw things changed, and as a result of that, my whole perspective changed."

Illustration of a hand presenting a camera

Aarushi: Hey Jen, welcome to your gratitude story. And I'm so excited to listen to you. Let's begin by first knowing about what place you were in emotionally before you intentionally started practicing gratitude.

Jen: So I was in a very I was in a winter season, it means a very difficult place before I started practicing gratitude. My mindset was one of scarcity and negative thinking due to other things that were happening in my life at the time.

Aarushi: And when you were in this mindset, how did you come to the point of finding gratitude and thinking that it could be something that would help you?

Jen: I've had a writing blog ever since I was in elementary school, but I knew that my mind, you know, I consider having a restless mind. So I knew my mind had many things in it.

And, I think I was laid off from my job at the time, this was two and a half decades ago. And I went to this workshop where a person mentioned, you know, every day, you have to do a mental flush, and I thought, "That's kind of weird."

But then I realized, he said, "You know, you have to take things out of your brain, and you put them onto paper because your brain is not meant for information." Because I'm curious so I wondered what that would mean.

And so, I gathered that information in my head and thought maybe I should just start writing this journey of being unemployed for so long, and how does that feel to me? What does that mean?

And so I started to just write down my journey of being unemployed. And that was again a long time ago. But it helped. It helped.

Aarushi: So this was how you started journaling, how you started writing about your thoughts. And, how did gratitude come into this?

Jen: It came during that time of unemployment. And I say that, because after that time of hearing this person say that, I don't know what happened. But I took on a different lens of looking at what I was going through.

It just dawned on me that - Wait a minute, I have this free time. And I was meeting a lot of different people, interesting people. And I started to get curious, I think that's when in my career shift because I saw a career coach at the time, and didn't know what I wanted to do at the time.

But then, when she started to do my strength base, she saw that coaching was part of my deal. I felt like, that's why I'm so curious. I sort of got a chance to reinvent myself during that time.

And as I started to get curious about people around me, and things that were happening in my life about myself, I started to feel grateful. And then I started to volunteer, which started my volunteer journey. And I was like, "I'm giving back, but I'm feeling better."

And it sort of came together when I started to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center where we would offer women the opportunity to give their kids up for adoption rather than abort.

And I said, "Wow, this is amazing." But even though I was giving of myself in my time, I started to feel better. And that I think, was the impetus for my gratitude journey.

Aarushi: Okay, and as you said, you started to feel better. What was that experience for you? Did you notice some changes in your mindset?

Jen: Oh, my goodness, totally. First of all, I felt like if I got a brand new lens, like a brand new set of eyes, it first started there. And I started to see things differently. I started to see the world differently, to see things differently.

Like this doesn't have to define me. Like, I started to question my mindset. Like, "Why should you feel sad? Now you have time to do this, this, this, and this, and you also have time to give back."

And as a result of me being curious about all of these things, giving back, and really spending time with myself, I'm learning about myself. It came to a place where I should be really grateful.

And, I grew up with a grateful mom, 100% grateful all the time. But just because you grew up with a grateful mom doesn't mean that you automatically become osmosis grateful, right? So I was grumpy, not grateful for many years.

And the shift happened when I started to give back, honestly. It shifted my mind in that it took my winter moment and brought it into a spring moment. I say that because my lens changed.

I didn't change, nothing changed in my life, I still was unemployed, and I still was struggling. But the way that I saw things changed, and as a result of that, my whole perspective changed.

And then a door of opportunity became open for me. I landed a brand new job that I never even thought I would have. And it pivoted me to a place where I recreated myself and redesigned my life.

And I say that because I believe the impetus of gratitude led to open doors of opportunity. My mindset had to change for my life to change. And though it wasn't, you know, "Voilà! It was magic!" But over time, I was able to become more self-aware.

Self Awareness was the first part because I was doing some research on gratitude and they said, a grateful person is emotionally mature. When I saw that research I'm like, "Oh, my goodness, that's amazing!"

Emotional immaturity is a fundamental framework for gratitude. I believe the first step is, is self-awareness, self-discovery, whatever you want to call it. That is the first step.

And once I became self-aware of thinking like, "Oh, my goodness, this happened to me, why is it so terrible?" I did that. And I said, this is not serving me, and I'm feeling so much worse.

So I had a spiritual mentor who told me when I was crying one day and saying how bad things were, "Why don't you just do that for two minutes, and then get back to others?" I'm like, "Well, that's dumb."

In my mind, I'm thinking that's dumb. But I didn't tell her that, she was a sweet person. But I started to do that I started to take her counsel. And can I just say that that was the turning point of my gratitude journey? And I have not stopped since then.

Aarushi: Yeah, tell me more about that. You said that was a turning point. What happened?

Jen: Turning Point because I started to do two things. I started to journal my feelings and just focus on the things I was grateful for. And it was hard because I was unemployed.

I had no job. I wasn't getting a job for a long time, I had to go to career centers. But I started to pick out the things that were positive and pleasing.

I had to force myself to say, "You know what, yes, I'm unemployed. 'Yes, and'... not, 'Yes, but'... 'Yes, and'..." And I started to use those words interchangeably.

I'm like, two things can happen at the same time. I could be unemployed, and I could be grateful. Like, how does that happen? So I started to go to career centers with a totally different lens.

And in the Career Center, some people were very grumpy, and I understand that. They were very angry, and I get it. But I started to have compassion inquiry, and I'm saying to myself, "Wow, that must be hard for them."

And I started to take interest in their lives, to ask them questions. And all of a sudden, I am contributing to society. Yes, I wasn't getting a paycheck. But I was being helpful right where I was.

There's a quote that I borrowed, it says, "Bloom where you're planted." And I took that, and I hid it in my heart. And every time someone came in that was grumpy, I would have this curiosity.

And I started to mull over in my mind, I can't imagine what they're going through, and at the same time, I offered some hope. Whether it was was a word of praise about thanking them for coming.

And I was not the facilitator, by the way. I was just a participant. I looked around the room and I saw people were very scared. And with that came anger, sadness, and all the negative emotions outside.

So we can make a choice. We can literally make choices in life. And, right up in front of me, I have a big poster board, huge 11 by 14, and it says, "What I can't control and What I can control."

What I can't control is bigger than what I can control, but I can control my attitude. And so I determined from that day that I will have an attitude of gratitude.

I'm not perfect by any means. But I pivot quicker now than I did 25 years ago, with my gratitude mindset, for many reasons. One is because I have an app that helps me to be grateful.

Because every day I have to do three things I'm grateful for. And before it was really difficult. But now it's so seamless because the app helps me do the affirmation and self-love and the discovery and all the things within the app.

That has been a more automated way than when I did with my journals. I love both. I love both the practical side of actually writing and the app as well. So yes, and yes, and. And I pivoted to a more seamless process. And it's like a habit now that I have, that I love.

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