Haste swallows us and the future consumes us. Straddling the daily rush and constantly looking at future goals, we often take for granted many gifts of our present life. Practicing gratitude, on the contrary, involves stopping to appreciate what we have. However, what would happen if we extend that gratitude also to those things that were not?
For each path you choose, there are others you don’t walk
“You have to learn to be grateful for what was not”, wrote psychologist Maritere Lee, referring to how gratitude can play a liberating role, allowing us to make peace with our past, with what we have not achieved and, in a general sense, with everything that it could be but that finally was not.
Throughout life, for some things to be, others cannot be. We can understand this concept better if we imagine that at every point of our life we face many paths. Some are very similar, others diametrically opposed. Every time we make a decision, however small, we choose a path and the others disappear automatically.
Therefore, for some things to come true, others must disappear from our universe. Remaining grabbed to those other paths that we glimpse but we didn’t have the courage to undertake or simply didn’t take because life pushed us in another direction, is completely unproductive and generates unhappiness.
If you always ask yourself “What would have happened if …?”, It’s likely you were stuck in some of those crossings on the way. As a result, it will be very difficult for you to move forward because you drag with you the weight of the possibilities that never were and cannot be. That question implies that you have not made peace with your decisions and don’t feel comfortable in your present, because you feel the need to look back continuously. Without realizing it, you subordinate your present to something that will no longer be.
Gratitude for what was not
On the other hand, feeling grateful also for everything that was not, but that at some point was a possibility, allows us to free ourselves from the burden of the past. Accepting our decisions helps us get rid of resentment and remorse, allowing us to build a better future.
Learning to thank for what was not also helps us make peace with our old “ego”, with the person who made those decisions and who has taken us where we’re today. After all, as Hermann Hesse wrote: “The life of every man is a path to himself”.
That means there’re no good or bad roads, in the restrictive sense of both terms, but the decisions we make are those that we need to grow, even if at first they don’t seem the most appropriate. It means being aware that our choices may not be the best, but they certainly made sense to us in the moment we took them, with the degree of maturity and the knowledge we had.
So, how to experience gratitude for what was not?
Celebrate each and every one of your decisions because they have made you the person you are today. Even what you consider “bad decisions” allowed you to grow and acquire wisdom.
Celebrate what you built and be aware that to get where you are, you have had to leave other things in the past. After all, maturing is not only adding more, but also learning to subtract.
Don’t cling to what could not be. Feel grateful for the different possibilities and open yourself to the new paths that lie ahead.