Why I'm grateful this Christmas in spite of recent tragedies

I’m tired of living in a world where we constantly wonder who’s with and who’s against us.

Then again, life is what you focus on...

Before we move on, let’s take stock of the current situation.

Wherever you are right now, you’re reading a collection of pixels on a screen. You’re holding in your hand (or on your desk), direct access to all recorded human history. You can go on Google right now to ask any question you want. You can learn any subject from the best teachers worldwide. CodingMIT Computer Science degrees. Starting a Startup. All for free.

We live in an amazing time. Changes we see around us happen faster and faster. In 2005 you probably never wondered what an iPhone was. Or an iPad. Or SpaceX. Or Tesla. Or Quora.

Things that took many centuries to change are now changing overnight.

With all that change comes access to information right here, right now.

I don’t read the news much. I go on Reddit about once a day. Yet I still heard about the ISIS attacks in Paris the same day. Friends chatting about it in our Whatsapp groups. Patients in the office bringing it up. People sitting next to me at coffee shops. The same thing happened with many of the mass shootings this year.

We hear about these things faster than we might like. With the onslaught of information it’s easy to get bogged down. It’s even easier to run with the wrong information as we see happening again and again.

But as I showed you earlier, what we see is a reflection of what we’re focusing on.

When you first saw this article, you saw some angry looking turban dude in an article about Christmas. Depending on your background and your lens of the world, you may have been angry. "How dare this terrorist talk about Christmas!" Or you may have been confused. "Why is this Sikh guy saying he’s grateful on Christmas?" Or just curious. "I wonder what this article’s about. Dude's cute so might as well check it out…"

That’s the big secret.

The world you see is just a mirror of what you focus on. 

What you do is also an outcome of what you focus on.

And here’s the kicker: You direct what you focus on.

You might have heard about gratefulness exercises before. You ask yourself “What are 5 things I’m grateful for?”. Then you write down anything and everything that comes to mind till you hit the 5. Rinse and repeat. Daily (or as much as possible).

The reason the practice is so powerful is it redirects the mind’s focusing system. Every second we’re filtering out information that’s irrelevant. If you’re in a coffee shop you’re unconsciously ignoring the hubbub in the background. If you’re in the bathroom, you’re probably not paying attention to the weight of your body on the seat. If you’re in an office, you’re likely not paying attention to your body rise and fall as you breath.

Once I mentioned those things though, you became aware.

The same way you became aware in the beginning of this article. You became aware of the beauty of the age we live in. Of the gifts and advances we’ve made. Of the access to information available at your fingertips, every. Single. Day.

This focusing (and unfocusing) power of the brain is one of our greatest and most powerful gifts. 

Here’s another secret. What you focus on, grows.

It’s why I'm focusing on gratefulness.

While I’m tired of the media ignoring the violence that millions face, #Imgrateful. Grateful that I can go on sites like Reddit and search on Google to learn more about the ignored billions.

While I'm tired of tyranny, #Imgrateful. Grateful that I can learn what creates tyranny using free materials on Youtube. I'm grateful that I learned that it starts with fearing others.

While I’m tired of society telling me I’m an idealist, #Imgrateful. Grateful that more and more, those who envision a better future, work hard to create it. I'm grateful that I can learn about people like Malcolm X, Elon Musk, and Jacque Fresco.

While I’m tired of algorithms on Facebook and Google giving us echo chambers, #Imgrateful. Grateful for companies like Twitter that create unfiltered access to people’s thoughts. All we have to do is change who we follow.

While I'm tired of the craziness of Christmas consumer culture, #Imgrateful. Grateful that we’re learning to value people and experiences over things.

Finally, #Imgrateful I get to spend time with the amazing people I call friends, and the crazy ones I call family.

Now it’s your turn.

Will you make an assumption on a person’s background? Or will you wonder who they are? What they care about? How to serve them?

Will you run with the first info you get? Or will you learn more, search more, and find out what you don’t know?

Will you draw a line in the sand about your beliefs and battle anyone who disagrees? Or will you seek out common ground, learn about each other, and build a better world together?

Will you villainize those who look and act different? Or will you work to humanize everyone you meet, most of all those you despise and hate?

Will you build a world designed for a privileged few? Or will you face the struggle and challenge of designing for as many as possible?

Will you choose to judge? Or will you choose to learn?

The choice is yours.

I'm grateful you read this far. 

Let's change the conversation this holiday season. Share this article with friends and family. Allow yourself and your loved ones to focus on what matters most.

Let's make this upcoming year the best year yet.

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