The Art of Appreciation: how one man lives his dream

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Sitting at a cafe enjoying a cup with my friend Brad, our conversation turned to dreams and how neither of us have big overarching dreams that we are pushing to achieve. Rather, we agreed that we had really revolved our lives around a series of short term goals. In other words, we don’t put all of our dream eggs into one dream basket.

But then Brad, a heli-skiing sales rep for Canadian Mountain Holidays, told me something that made me stop and think.

He said, “I can’t imagine being able to dream up anything any better than when I am skiing in BC with my wife on some “run” in the middle of the wilderness that we were transported to by helicopter.  When we are skiing in perfect unison, making fresh tracks, I just don’t think I could conceive of anything better.”

His awareness that no circumstances could come together in his mind that would top what he has already accomplished shocked me. You don’t meet too many people who have attained this level of contentment.

When I began to ask other people about what they thought of this, most of them didn’t believe he was being honest with me. I know Brad well enough to know that he is being honest.

We’ve been trained to be unsatisfied, to want more, to achieve more. It’s a flutter in our gut that says, “I need something else. Get it and then I’ll be happy.”

Let’s be clear. He’s not saying that there is nothing left for him to do. He wouldn’t still be alive if that were the case. Brad will be the first to tell you that he has a long way to grow spiritually.  But in terms of identity construction (who he is) through experience (what he does) and let’s face it that’s all dreaming really is, Brad has reached his peak, built a house on it, and is sitting on the porch enjoying a beverage.

The key to this peaceful, easy, feeling, is Brad’s ability to appreciate.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Here goes one more of those Thanksgiving season pieces where he’s going to tell us to be thankful for what we have.” After all, even people who spend the entire year complaining will post something they’re thankful for on their Facebook.

You should say thank you and send thank you cards and all of that but appreciation only starts at gratitude and leads to life at its fullest. Appreciation is being grateful and then some.

To appreciate requires new thinking and new eyes. It implies a deep understanding and is a source of joy. You may not care to go heli-skiing. You might have another vision of sufficient grace for your life. Brad lives his whole life appreciating and that’s his secret. He understands that being healthy enough to do something like that with his wife is not to be taken for granted.  He values his life and understands the worth of his, yours and my life.

Appreciation adds an acute awareness to thanksgiving. We notice the beauty around us with discrimination. Like someone who appreciates classical music or fine dining. He knows what is special.

As we begin to break through the clutter, this value is more readily revealed and can be appreciated further. No wonder Brad can be content while still moving forward.

Here’s what to do. Take stock of what your thankful for but this time go deeper. Look for ways to appreciate your life and others and begin to “notice with discrimination” what makes you special. Share it here with us at steep thinking and if you haven’t already signed up for my mailing list, please do.

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3 thoughts on “The Art of Appreciation: how one man lives his dream

  1. As Brad’s mother I can vouch for the fact that he is absolutely telling you the truth. He is one of those amazing people who places enormous value on being exactly who he is and saying exactly how he feels. I have a feeling that this sometimes makes people uncomfortable especially ones who can step over and ignore the elephant in the living room. I know that he thinks highly of you and your article says that you know him well. Thanks for writing it.

  2. Content on this earth I am because as Paul says in Philippines 4:11- “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”. The little things- a grandchild’s smile or hug, an unexpected phone call, a red bird on my fence, a smile, getting to share JESUS with someone I don’t know, being able to walk and talk and eat and sleep- these make for a day of joy for me. This place, however, is not home my home, so Heaven will bring total fulfillment in my life. Death is not the end but just the beginning if we know JESUS.