How Maintaining Gratitude Is The Key To Happiness In Today's World

by Brian Mattoni

November is an important month for me. This year marks the 29th anniversary of my adoption from Korea.

Because I was just a baby, I sometimes forget about where I came from and how I got here (until I look in the mirror and see my face, that is).

Though it's uncomfortable to talk about being given away by the people who brought you into this world, I mention it because I don't take the time to appreciate my journey as often as I should.

And, in general, I don't think most of us devote enough time to reflecting on the ways in which we're fortunate.

We could come up with a million theories as to why several smaller, less wealthy countries are happier than those of us who are here in the states. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, and typically, we can't just pick up and move to our favorite vacation spot.

With that said, I think many of us tend to focus on what's going wrong, what's not good enough and what we don't have. It's easy to fall into that trap.

I'd love to add an extra zero to my salary, and I'd like to be a senior vice president before I turn 30. It would be pretty cool to own a series of Taco Bell franchises and drive an Aston Martin.

But, back in reality, I'm stuck in traffic; my car needs new tires. And damn that guy who invented Instagram before I did. I haven't found the girl of my dreams or started my own family, but some of my friends have and I envy them for that.

I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Instead of allowing our obstacles to consume us and obsessing over the multitude of things we want but don't yet have, we must stop, look around and be grateful.

In my case, I was given a second chance: a wonderful family, two incredible parents and a world full of opportunities my previous life would not have afforded me. I went from the outhouse to the penthouse in four months.

Regardless of what happens, where I fail or what frustrates me, I have been remarkably fortunate. Becoming more conscious of this one simple truth has changed my outlook in ways I wasn't sure were possible.

Take five minutes. Grab a pen and a piece of paper. What do you appreciate? Or, perhaps, more importantly, what do you take for granted?

1. Your health?

2. Your son or daughter?

3. Your soul mate?

4. A job that pays the bills, turns the heat on and puts food on the table?

5. The mistakes you've made and the lessons you've learned from them?

6. The memories of a loved one who's no longer here, but who is still close to your heart?

The length of your list might surprise you. Write it down and carry it with you. Look at it when you catch yourself contemplating all of the things that aren't "perfect" at this particular point in your journey.

As a young professional, it's only natural — not to mention, healthy — to want more for yourself. To aspire to be great, to chase your dreams and to work hard for the things about which you're passionate. I'm not a believer in settling, treading water or waiting for what you want.

But, in your haste to take over the world and build the perfect life, don't forget to enjoy the ride and appreciate all that you already have. Count your blessings and your perspective will change.

For me, it's pretty simple: I owe my life to my "second" parents, two people who are my world and who have always put me first. For them, and for the unconditional love they've given me, I will forever be grateful.