I recently read about a man who, at 53, believed he had lost almost everything in his life. John Kralik was 40 pounds overweight and his two marriages had ended in painful divorces. His law firm was on the brink of bankruptcy. He slept on an air mattress in a tiny apartment. He had grown distant from his two older children, and desperately feared losing the deep connection he shared with his young daughter. Around Christmas time, his new girlfriend broke up with him, declaring that she couldn't take his noncommittal attitude toward her anymore. He had reached a personal bottom and did not know how he would ever lift his head again.
Then on New Year's Day, while taking a walk in the hills above Pasadena he heard a voice. Inspired by the simple and beautiful thank you note that his ex-girlfriend had sent him for his Christmas gift, the voice told him to send his gratitude and love out into the world by writing a thank you note everyday -- 365 thank yous that next year.
He wrote to his family, former colleagues, college friends, doctors, neighbors and store clerks -- even his enemies. He wrote thank yous to anyone who had done him a good turn or taught him a life lesson, no matter how grand or small. With the mailing of each letter, he let go of the hurt, resentment and fear he had felt for so many years, negative emotions that left him hunched and shrunken.
And guess what happened? John noticed that almost immediately his life began to shift -- his business turned around, his old friendships returned to him, he opened himself up for new relationships to form and deepen. He even lost weight. Most importantly, he began to feel grateful for his life, the love he felt for his children, and the idealistic principles with which he practiced his work. By sending love out into the world, he received love in return, and realized how many people had truly cared for him and protected him throughout his life. He then turned his year-long odyssey into a book, 365 Thank Yous, which not only has climbed the bestseller lists, but also inspired people all over the world to take stock of their own lives and feel grateful and loved.
I take such joy in this story. It strengthens for me something I've always believed in: By choosing love, you can revolutionize your life.
I, too, have been at a place at which I felt at my lowest. When I hit my mid 40s, I was knocked flat by a wave of despair, a conviction that as others close to me lost their lives that somehow mine was over too. I was a girl coming undone. During this time I exited the company I had founded and eventually sold. Only then was I forced to reconcile that I had to love just me minus the title, the accomplishments and the corner office. It was hard. For the first time in decades I took a true look in the mirror. I was older and heavier than I even realized and much lonelier than I wanted to admit. I did not write 365 letters. But I did reach out for help because I knew I needed it. I found not only help. I found love. Love that came wrapped in divinity and the reminder that I was an original blessing and nothing less.
Through deep and lengthy self-reflection, I began to realize something monumental. Although I might have been physically losing the bloom of youth I was just hitting my stride intuitively and emotionally, which would allow me to become a timeless lover of love. Like John, with every insightful and caring message that I imparted, and every act of love and kindness I showed my family, friends and the people I encountered, I felt gratitude for all the gifts I had within me. With that revelation, I began loving myself in new ways with an appreciation I had never had before. My greatest finding of all was that self love is where all true love can be found and in true love everything heals within in you and beyond you.
I once read that Hindu religion teaches that we are all part of the same energy; that all of our fates are interconnected; that my well being affects your well being, and to hurt somebody else is, ultimately, to hurt yourself. That we are, in essence, one entity bound together.
And yet, we as a society invest so much energy in hating one another. Why?
There's an old saying that goes like this: Resentment is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die. Well, that's what hating does to you, too. It gets into your blood, and colors your life an impenetrable black. It closes you in and shuts you down. Hate, dogma and hostility towards others is ultimately projected back on the hater - it's like turning a gun on yourself and pulling the trigger. Reviling others is the ultimate demonstration of hate towards oneself. In business and in life, I have seen hate and anger self-destruct those who were most enraged. Yes, it's a great paradox of life -- what you hate is you become.
Loving, on the other hand, brings you blessings and friendship and passion in return. John Kralik shows us as much in his journey of gratitude and I've seen it myself in my own life. But choosing love is not always easy. We each have to make a conscious decision to do so and, in many cases, retrain ourselves to choose a path of light and compassion instead of hate and despair.
Try these techniques everyday for choosing love and see if your life doesn't blossom in return.
1) Appreciate. When you wake up every morning and before you go to sleep every evening, remind yourself what you're grateful for. Every time you pack your children's lunches, consider how lucky you are to have their love in your life. Every time you part ways with your partner for a day of work, take a moment to say, "I love you" and "Thank you for all you bring to my life." Show your deep thankfulness for the people and gifts in your life, and see what comes to you in return.
2) Once a day, write down your intention to choose love. Author Mallika Chopra found that resolving every morning to show more love reminds her to be positive and open. "By making an intention to choose love, you consciously and unconsciously put your energy in that direction," she says. Her website Intent.com offers a space online for anyone to state a personal-growth goal for the day and get support from like-minded people. "I've seen people make the decision to shift from negative emotions to positive ones and turn their whole lives around."
3) Model love. Love is learned -- as is hate. You teach love by demonstrating compassionate and caring acts, not by talking about them. Make love to everything that you do and be love to everyone that you meet. Show your children how to smile from their depths, do kind things, and take a moment out of their lives to give to other people. We are like plants - we thrive under the condition of water, light and love. If you show love for trees, bumble bees and worms alike you teach your children that we must love all living things.