A few weeks ago, I set out to drive across town to see my stylist for the first time in over a year. I'm originally from Maryland, 15 minutes outside of Washington, D.C., and everything in the DC metropolitan area is approximately a half-hour commute, and we've lived in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, where you better budget at least an hour to get from place to place, but here in Las Vegas, a 30 minute drive is considered a "very long way."
Tony and I have lived in Vegas long enough that our mental filter around what's considered a long commute has acclimatized to the locals' way of thinking, so as I'm getting into my car, of course I'm asking myself the critical question: "What am I going to listen to while I drive?"
As an Empowerment Coach who strives to instill the importance of committing to personal growth in her clients, I'm always practicing ways to walk the talk myself. I shifted the question from "What should I listen to?" to "What would I love to feel by the time I get to my appointment?"
"What should I listen to?" is an automatic question - any time I've hopped in a car, since I was 15 years old, I've been asking the same question and answered it from the space of whatever I was feeling at the moment. Feeling nostalgic? Green Day + Blink-182. Feeling fiesty? Nicki Minaj + Cardi B. Feeling badass? J.Lo and Ariana Grande. There's an old, familiar cycle of question + answer that happens here.
This particular day, shifting the question to "What would I love to feel by the time I get to my appointment?" and it's resulting answer "happy, bright, cheerful," brought my thoughts over to what I'm currently developing in my own personal evolution, and that is a deeper connection with gratitude. I always feel happy and cheerful after generating gratitude within myself on demand.
Then the follow up question popped up: "How can I deepen my relationship with gratitude while I'm in the car?"
The answer: "What if I practiced saying gratitudes out loud the whole time I'm driving?"
So I did. I went from gratitude statement to gratitude statement, and it felt incredible! I was coming up with all kinds of on-the-spot gratitudes that I've never come up with before, and they were pouring out like a stream of consciousness.
They ranged from the broad:
"I'm so grateful for the beautiful weather today," and "I'm so grateful I have a car that can get me to where I need to go,"
to the more specific:
"I'm so grateful that I'm able to skillfully wield a piece of machinery that weighs over a ton to get me safely to my destination,"
to the reactive (when a car merged suddenly into my lane), "I'm so grateful for opportunities to remain alert and engaged as I'm on the road so I can be a better and better driver!"
I wondered if I could come up with enough gratitudes for the entire 30 minutes, assuming I'd somehow run out of things to say, or at least have a few lulls, and it ended up being fairly effortless!
I could have written the idea of with a dismissive, "I'm not going to sit here and talk to myself for half an hour." But I stayed curious in what it would be like, and committed to knowing that it would be a great way to make progress in my personal growth.
What surprised me most was how much FUN it ended up being! After a few minutes, I felt like my brain had gone into "seek + identify gratitude" mode, and it became very natural. Plus, when I finally arrived at the salon, I felt incredible. I didn't just feel happy + cheerful, I felt connected and as if I was glowing.
Listening to my favorite songs would've generated feelings of happiness, yes, but arriving at my destination feeling GRATEFUL is a very different sensation. It leaves you with a much more substantive perspective of your place in the world, and empowers you with a filter through which you can perceive and interpret the world in a way that reinforces the belief that we are never without, we always have something to claim as our own and for our own good.
I encourage you to explore what the difference between happiness and gratitude feels like for you. Give talking-to-yourself-for-30-minutes a try, too! Developing the skill of creating emotions like gratitude on demand is a powerful way to deepen your master of self, and this was a very fun way to practice!