For higher level belt testing at our Tae Kwon Do school, part of the application is to write an essay on a given topic.  Typically the topic is the theme of the belt that was just completed.  For testing this time, the theme is Gratitude.  Asking a blogger to write an essay may have turned into more than they bargained for (they seem a little surprised by the amount of content I have produced in the past for these).  Here is my essay, somewhat targeted to the Tae Kwon Do purpose, obviously, that I thought worth sharing:

It is sometimes easy to overlook the little things.  To not take notice of basic benefits of our day, whether it is someone holding a door open for us or doing something around the house to help out.  Sometimes the hustle of life causes us to miss these little acts or even take them for granted as something expected.  We can easily miss moments where a show of gratitude is due.

It may be easy to run through a list of basic things you for which you are thankful.  Health, family, friends, happiness – these are typical things that come to mind when we are asked about giving thanks.  Although we shouldn’t overlook these things, they are important and the abilities we have to do Tae Kwon Do and spend time with our family and friends should never go unrecognized, we can also look at more specific times when gratitude should be a focus of our feelings and responses to others.

Being thankful for something someone else does builds bonds.  If you are appreciative of the effort someone put into doing something, especially if it was for your benefit, they will in turn appreciate your acknowledgement and a bond will form.  It can easily become a circle of gratitude that leads to friendships and productive partnerships.  Even when we are not the direct benefactor of an action but notice that it is helping us indirectly or helping others, showing gratitude to the person conducting that action will encourage them and show them they are recognized.

This bond building through gratitude can be seen in many aspects of life, and can specifically be applied to our Tae Kwon Do school.  When working with an instructor, we should respect their experience, pay attention to their direction and appreciate the time and attentiveness they are giving us through their guidance.  It would be easy for them to simply direct the class to conduct activities and then let us do them, right or wrong.  When they help us with the finer points, as a group or individually, we should be appreciative and more importantly, let them know by showing our gratitude.

The same can apply to working with a Tae Kwon Do partner.  We honor the practice of doing our best when working with classmates and in doing so, show our gratitude for them giving us the same effort.  We should pay attention to the guidance of others, especially more senior belts, and give them the same courtesy of gratitude, shown through a thank you and a courtesy bow, that we would show to a Master.  We can also show our gratitude by working hard with our partner and encouraging them to do their best.  This helps build those bonds and camaraderie that helps everyone work together in a positive environment.

In everyday life, showing gratitude can help improve relations with family, friends, co-workers and even strangers.  By showing we appreciate what someone has done we are encouraging them to do more.  If we show our appreciation to our child for helping to clean up or do some work around the house, they will be more likely to help in the future.  Everyone likes to feel appreciated.  If we say thank you to a co-worker for bringing something to our attention then the bond is strengthened and they are more likely to alert us to something else in the future.  If we take their act for granted, they may not bother the next time.

Gratitude is powerful for building relationships.  Showing someone that you appreciate them is a strong message.  Sending that message in a note or other non-verbal manner gives it even more impact as it shows you took the time to share your appreciation, but any show of gratitude is good and should not be overlooked.  We should show our thankfulness where is applies everyday, not just on Thanksgiving.  In both Tae Kwon Do and in all aspects of life, it will build the bonds and warm the hearts of those around us, improving our relationships and in turn, our quality of life.