This Anne Frank quote came across my awareness the other day and stopped me in my tracks. “Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude.” wow. Here are some themes that came up for me.
Be in the Moment
One of the reasons regret has more power is that we are living more in yesterday than today. Instead of being here now, we spend much of our days living in yesterday. We replay what happened, what we could/should have done differently, and we ruminate on how others wronged us. We are often so consumed by what happened yesterday that we completely miss what is happening right now. We can also miss right now by focusing on the future and then later regretting that we skipped over the present moment. More power, joy, reward, connection, and love exist in the present. The present is really the only reality, because fear of the future and regret of the past are completely diluted with our perception. Being in the moment is where happiness and gratitude reside.
Why is Gratitude So Hard
Hardly a person today could say they haven’t heard the importance of gratitude. Many agree gratitude is very important, and yet, hardly any of us practice it with any consistency. My belief is that gratitude is hard because it makes something other than our ego important. As humans we are constructed to focus on ourselves for survival. Or maybe it is not a result of humanity but a culture that puts the “I” in “team.” Western focus is very much on individual contribution and success. The community is secondary, and yet the community and the larger world are where much gratitude lies. Yes, we can be grateful for the health of our bodies and our current situation, but we can also be grateful for the support of a loved one or the beauty of nature. Whether it is something essential to us individually or something that affects the group as a whole, gratitude is sent outside of ourselves – and unfortunately the ego doesn’t like to lose the spotlight.
Regret and Punishment
As a society, we focus on punishment, getting your just deserts. We have an ingrained belief of a judgment day; that there will eventually be someone earthly or not-so-earthly person who will punish us for our wrong-doing. If you are like me, you may not wait for someone else to judge you and you may spend a lot of your time punishing yourself for a wrong misdeed. This focus on punishment may be the result of human survival needing to focus on threats. Many of our threats are no longer physically based, by emotionally and psychologically. For survival, our ego focuses on negativity and what we are doing wrong, because this is what may kill off the ego. Unconsciously we feel we are protecting ourselves by focusing on the bad not the good. We feel more comfortable and secure if we keep our attention on the negative; which is counterintuitive but commonplace. We send flowers after the fact in the desire to have our regret forgiven, instead of giving in the moment where it can do the most good for all.
Living versus Dying
The final theme I see in this quote is the call to live. Be present. Be grateful. Be here now. Stop looking for the finish line and the final judgment. Stop focusing on the end. Much of my life I focused on the end result. I was focused on the goals and the regrets. I was doing not living. Overtime I have learned that living meant being. It is connecting with others, asking for and giving help, acknowledging growth and progress in myself and others, and striving for better. None of my accomplishments meant as much to me as putting a smile on someone else’s face. Focusing on business and personal goals takes us out of the moment. Focusing on making the most of each and every moment, brings us into the present where life is richer and more wonderful. We are truly alive.
What does this quote mean to you? How can you use it to reframe today? Share with us here.