Key Teachings

  • The word empowerment means “an act or fact of being given power or authority.” 
  • We often rush through life — both adversities and opportunities — to get to something different. Grateful living attunes you to the present moment and invites you to discover whatever treasures may be available to you right now.
  • Having a curious heart and mind opens you to the gifts that exist within life as it is, leading you to discover greater meaning, purpose, and aliveness.

When you practice grateful living you are empowered to move beyond the trappings of toxic positivity, unrealistic ideals that promote your desires, and telling others how they should think or feel. A wound does not heal by being told to heal. It requires ointments, just as life requires new experiences to make sense of the old ones. Through grateful living, you are empowered by deeply attuning to your life. 

Growing up in New England I had a complicated relationship with the weather, as many Bostonians do. In January I yearned for the warmth of July, and in July I manufactured the chill of winter by standing in front of the air conditioning and thinking about autumn. So much of life is like this — we ache for something different as we wait on tomorrow. But how much of our life is lost in waiting on tomorrow? It pains me to think of this in my own life, but I can see much of it in hindsight.

As I wrestle with the challenges of life and seek answers for myself, I’m more confident than ever that the multi-billion dollar self-help industry is leading us astray with all of its books, podcasts, and self-proclaimed experts. Under the guise of empowerment, they tell us that whatever we think, and especially whatever we feel, is the ultimate truth. Of course living in the confines of your own mind is comforting, but to believe your thoughts and feelings are finite is to close yourself off from your ever-changing life. Living gratefully reveals to you, by waking you up to your life, that there is always something more to be discovered in the moment — through relationships, experiences, encounters with awe, and even within your losses. You simply need an open and curious heart to find it. This is why practicing grateful living is so transformative.

When you commit to a grateful orientation and daily practice, you are given power to live differently.

When you are open to the unfolding of a day, you respond to it rather than react. This is possible because your baseline orientation to life understands and honors that, yes, you will suffer and many things will be difficult and seemingly impossible… and yet that’s not the headline of your life, how you see yourself, or how you choose to experience the world every day.

This is hard work, but it is not impossible, and it is more achievable through grateful living because you are empowered by its one foundational, fundamental truth from which all perspective flows: life is a gift. You were given a VIP experience that is jam-packed with mystery, awe, joy, possibility, beauty, and, yes, also profound hardship. To live gratefully is to navigate this experience in a way that honors all that life is while also leaning into its flow. What other reasonable response is there? Everything else is reaction — resistance. 

When you commit to a grateful orientation and daily practice, you are given power to live differently.

5 Ways Grateful Living Empowers You to Live a Meaningful Life

1. Grounds you in the present

Being fully attuned to the present moment is not always easy work. When you are attuned, you cannot run away from life. But when you arrive to your life with a fullness of presence you inevitably experience gratefulness because you recognize that you are you, this is your life, and you can choose how to live in this moment even if the circumstances are presently uncomfortable. 

2. Helps you see and live into the paradoxical realities of life

Life is seldom black or white, good or bad, joyful or sorrowful. The longer you are alive and the more experiences you have, you recognize that life is a smorgasbord with many varieties, contradictions, and emotions. The goal is not to live into one of the varieties, but to learn how to live with all of the complexity and nonetheless choose to give thanks for that which you cherish.

3. Provokes curiosity and expands your perspective

It is easy to get habitually caught up in your thoughts, feelings, and assumptions. The opportunity always before you is to step outside of yourself and explore your world with curiosity. You can choose to be rigid in your perspective or you can choose to be open and carry with you a desire to learn, rethink, discover, and understand life more fully. Grateful living empowers you to nurture your ongoing becoming.

4. Reminds you to live like today is your first day and also your last day

Life is temporary. Because it can end at any moment, you are invited to cherish every day with the reminder that this may be the last one you experience. While that can be a jolting way to encounter a day, you are also invited to live with a curiosity as if today was your first — to see anew and notice those aspects of your life that you overlook or take for granted. With a child’s curiosity, the extrospective nature of grateful living encourages you to wake up to your life and keep watch. In this witnessing, you discover meaning and purpose and become more alive.

5. Enhances contentment

Grateful living empowers you to embrace what you have by appreciating the life you have been given. Instead of pursuing more possessions, allowing ambition to carry you away from yourself, or waiting on the what ifs, living gratefully reminds you that you are here and that is enough. 

In each of these five unique ways, grateful living empowers you with choices for navigating life. How you choose to respond to life is yours alone, but if you spend your life waiting for different conditions to be content, experience joy, give thanks, or discover meaning, then you’ll allow the mess of it all to cause you to overlook the gifts in front of you. However your life unfolds, living gratefully reminds you that you have the power to awaken to the gift you have in hand. 

Reflection Questions

  • Where in your life do you feel powerless and how can a curious and open perspective help you reclaim your power?
  • What might today unveil to you if you were to approach it as your first day? What might you see, who might you appreciate, and what is sustaining you?
  • Where in your life have you given away your power to enjoy life to conditions beyond your making?

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Joe Primo, Grateful Living

Joe Primo, Grateful Living

About the author

Joe Primo is the Chief Executive Officer of Grateful Living. He is a passionate trainer, community-builder, and program developer whose accomplishments in the field of grief made him a leading voice on resilience and adversity. Grateful living became a pillar to his work since his first introduction to Br. David Steindl-Rast in 2005. An entrepreneurial leader, Primo designed, built, expanded, and led Good Grief, Inc., the largest children and family bereavement organization in the Northeast, from 2007-2022. His TED talk, “Grief is Good,” reframed the grief paradigm as a responsive resource. He is the author of “What Do We Tell the Children? Talking to Kids About Death and Dying” and numerous articles.