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How Gratitude Combats Suffering

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As creative thinkers and entrepreneurs, we often create tools and products because we personally need to work on something.

For Canadian entrepreneur superstar, Alex Ikonn, co-founder of Intelligent Change and creator of the best-selling Five Minute Journal and Productivity Planner, gratitude was his Achilles heel.

When Alex, who had a challenging childhood and at times had felt like a victim of his circumstances, learned the power of gratitude, it shifted his whole life.

If you have scarcity of some sort in your life, whether it is things that are happening in your family, in your career, or in relationships, you can fall into that trap of saying, “Why me?”

When Alex had that first huge realization that you are planting seeds to your reality with your everyday thoughts and what you focus on, everything changed for him.

He learned that if you want to make any difference in your life, you have to take responsibility.

This led him to create tools like the Five Minute Journal that could act like “toothbrushes for the mind” and help people build new, healthy habits through a daily routine of being grateful that catapults them on a new life trajectory through changing their mindset.

No one can make you unhappy. Once you take responsibility in your life, there is power in this. 

If you take care of that one being that you can be responsible for – YOU – you can make a big change that will inspire others.

Gratitude is a Choice That Rejects Victimhood

Many people thought because Alex Ikonn created the Productivity Planner that he must be productive all the time, or grateful and perfectly happy because he created the Five Minute Journal, but he created those tools to help him. 

Gratitude shifted Alex’s whole life but it didn’t come naturally. Like many people who face hardship, he had slipped into a victim mentality before he committed to gratitude. 

When you have scarcity in your life of some sort, it’s easy (and natural!) to slip into a mindset where you Say “Poor me. Why me?”

After those moments it’s your choice whether you stay Below the Line in victimhood, or move Above the Line into empowerment

If you want to make any difference in your life, you have to take responsibility. You can’t blame your upbringing or the situation you’re currently in. Victimhood is a lack of responsibility and personal agency. You can make changes if you take responsibility for your life. Victimhood magnifies your suffering because it keeps you in Drama

Journaling Helps Create a Gratitude Habit 

What you focus on, you cultivate and create in your life. You’re really planting seeds in your reality with your everyday thoughts. It may seem like, “Oh, it’s nothing,” to watch some news or do some gossip here or pay attention to that thought or go down this rabbit hole.

Habits create your reality. Humans are creatures of habit. But you get to choose what those habits are. 

There is no quick fix for gratitude. It’s a mindset you work at. It takes self-awareness and a journey toward empowerment. If you have history, decades where you’ve been cultivating a certain mindset, it’s going to take you time to relearn. 

It takes effort and willingness to create a habit of gratitude. 

The Five-Minute Journal was created as a tool that you have every day to help you cultivate a mindset of gratitude. Think of it as a toothbrush for the mind. You brush your teeth every morning and night on a regular basis. Gratitude is a life-changing habit that improves your mental health. Cultivate a gratitude habit and watch how it impacts your life. 

Responsbility is Empowerment

You can focus on what you can’t control or you can make the choice to focus on the things I do have and value them. 

That choice scares so many people away from choosing a life of gratitude and a mindset of gratitude because we are letting stories define us and we’re letting the stories happen to us and get written for us. We don’t pick up that metaphorical pen and say, “I am going to write my own story now.” 

Part of shifting out of Drama, which includes Victim, Villain, and Hero mode, and into Empowerment involves taking radical responsibility. The opposite of Victim mode is Creator mode

Creator mode and life of gratitude start with aiming your camera and choosing what you want to focus on. You can choose to focus on what you don’t like or you can choose to focus on what you’re grateful for. That takes willingness. 

As soon as you say those stories don’t define you, you’re the one left holding the pen and now it is your responsibility to create your reality. 

That leaves you feeling exposed! You’ve been comfortable in a Victim mindset because you’ve protected yourself by saying, “This is not my fault because this story, this thing happened.” 

As soon as decide your stories don’t define you…guess who’s responsible? YOU!

That can be really scary, especially when you feel disempowered. But when you let go of those stories you’re presented with an opportunity. You have the opportunity to take your power back and create the life you want. 

Once you take responsibility in your life, it’s your responsibility and you take responsibility for whatever things are happening for you. 

So many of us cling to blaming somebody or something else for our circumstances. This commitment to victimhood keeps you in Drama. Owning your circumstances and taking responsibility for your life brings you to empowerment. 

You have so much more power than you may even realize. 

The biggest power that people have is when individuals stand up and take responsibility and start making different choices.

You can only control what you can control, and the only thing you can actually control is yourself so there is no power if your focus is out there. 

Empowerment really comes from recognizing that responsibility equals freedom. Responsibility is your span of control, it is your choice. 

One of the last questions in Alex’s Five-Minute Journal is “What did I create that I would like to create differently next time?”

There is so much to learn about your own power by looking at what you can be responsible for that you previously didn’t think you were responsible for. 

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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