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Gratitude As The Measure Of A Successful Life

May 16, 2017

Here is a simple notion for you to entertain:

What if Gratitude were your measure of a successful life? What if you measured your own personal success by how much gratitude you express to others (with them fully receiving your gratitude in the way that you intended)?

We usually measure success in ourselves and in others by our achievements and to that end there is, more or less and for better or worse, a predefined life path for success which may include one or several of the following steps:

  1.  Getting a good education
  2.  Working hard toward financial independence and success
  3.  Raising a happy family
  4.  Retiring comfortably
  5.  Making a positive difference in the world
  6.  Leaving behind a beloved legacy

For some, success may mean wealth, fame, intelligence or power.  It may mean accruing the most life experiences possible. It may mean being a successful parent.  It may mean having a meaningful career. It may mean living a life of service.

But whatever way you define success for yourself and others I want you to suspend that definition for a moment and consider your own unique expression of gratitude as the only valid measure that you will ever need in order to lead a successful life.

I want you to imagine, for a moment, that there is something that we all share in common with each other (and all living things on the planet) and it is the simple fact that we are alive – and for that life we are innately and profoundly grateful whether we express or even experience this feeling of gratitude or not.  Life is a gift and whatever we do is an expression of our gratitude to be alive and experience all that life offers from the most terrible tragedies to the most beautiful moments.  Consider, for a moment, that we are born grateful and our journey, from its very beginnings, is simply to figure out how we can best express this gratitude to all in ways unique to the life we are given.

Though we may be told by our family, friends, teachers and society as a whole how we should live our lives and what is expected of us, the essence of all this eventually boils down to finding our own individual and unique way to express our gratitude to all for this life we have been given.

Thus, the most successful among us is not one who has the greatest wealth, the most fame, the most intelligence nor is the most powerful.  Rather, it is the one who has learned how to best uniquely express his or her gratitude to the world in a way that is accepted by all of humanity and life.  If you look at all persons and see that what they do as merely an expression of gratitude for life then you may be able to see that the fundamental motivation for all human actions, from the most self-serving acts to the most selfless, are all unique individual attempts at being heard and recognized for our innate and profound expressions of gratitude that is within us from the very start of life.

When you are young and asked, “What do you want to do with your life?”, then consider the answer as simply to figure out how to express your gratitude for life in your own unique way.  To achieve that you must discover who you are, how others see you and learn how to express and uniquely convey your gratitude, thanks and appreciation to and for all.  It could be as a doctor, a lawyer, an artist or businessperson.  It could be as parent, a friend or a lover.   It could be as a world leader or as a homeless beggar.  it could be as the most celebrated hero or the most vile criminal.  Whatever path you choose to uniquely express yourself, it is all eventually and ultimately an expression of appreciation and thanks for the life you have been given and you are successful when you find that expression of gratitude that comes most natural to you and is uniquely yours.

When you think to yourself, “What should I do with my life?” think not about a career or skill or talent that you can apply to make a living.  Instead think about how you can express your gratitude and appreciation for life in a way that is unique to you.  Think about writing a simple note of thanks to someone whom you are grateful to.  Think about how you can uniquely help someone – a family member or friend or neighbor – by simply smiling and acknowledging them or spending time with them.

Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that you “should” express gratitude and that you are a failure if you don’t express gratitude. What I am suggesting is you cannot help but express gratitude.  I am suggesting that just by the fact that you are alive, your life is an expression of gratitude.  Breathing, eating, sleeping are all expressions of life and that you can and do these things is a gratitude for life in and of itself. I am suggesting that expressing gratitude is living life itself.  It is who you are and you can not help but express it.  You express it when you are happy and when you are sad.  You express it when you are angry and in pain.  You express it when you are joyful and ecstatic.  You express it with life and by simply existing. It is something that you will never be a failure at as long as you are alive. What can be considered is how to expand your expressions of gratitude.

I am suggesting that instead of measuring your life in terms of accomplishments and goals successfully achieved or failed or any other conventional measures of success that we hold each other to in society as parents, family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and global citizens that, instead, you adopt the notion that your life is a success and always was and will be and that the only thing left to do is express it by simply living your life. There is nothing more to do.  If anything, the only thing left for you to do is to figure out how to better express your gratitude by learning who you are and by developing your own unique self-expression of the gratitude that is your life.

That’s all for now.  Thank you for taking a moment to consider this notion,

With Gratitude…


My quest to discover how to measure success began many years ago and became an obsession in my work promoting macrobiotics.  As Director of the Kushi Institute and a macrobiotic counselor and teacher, I was deeply concerned at how we measure our success professionally.  Do we measure success based on how many terminal recovery cases we produce?  Do we measure success based on how many lives we saved?  Or do we measure our success by how many people change their diets and start eating organic whole grains?  Do we measure our success by how well we are able to teach people how to care for themselves and avoid sickness through macrobiotic knowledge?  Or do we measure our success, in more conventional ways, like how much money we make?

After many years of struggling with this question and concluding that while having specific measures for success are temporarily useful for growing a business, the true aim of promoting macrobiotics is not to eliminate sickness nor is it to get people to change their diets nor even save the planet.  Instead, the best measure for being a successful macrobiotic promoter is imparting this notion of living a life of gratitude.  In other words, I am a successful macrobiotic educator if my students develop a profound sense of gratitude to everything life has to offer including all difficulties and challenges such as diseases, tragedies and other misfortunes.  My goal as a macrobiotic promoter is to inspire and instill this profound sense of gratitude and appreciation for all of life including any and all challenges and misfortunes they be facing now and in the future.  My goal is not to save people or the planet and it is most certainly not to make people afraid of sickness and bad diets.  It is even not to make a positive difference, because that implies there is a wrong way of doing things.  No, it is to simply remind and inspire people of the gift of what they already have within themselves and that is a profound sense of eternal gratitude that is expressed by simply living and appreciating all.  A successful life is a life of gratitude.  That is macrobiotics, in my humble opinion.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Gale Jack permalink
    May 16, 2017 8:11 pm

    Thinking of life that way certainly takes a weight off of my shoulders.
    Thanks. Gale

  2. Robert Süss permalink
    May 17, 2017 4:32 am

    I am in doubt if you ever will serve us an easy exercise –
    Thanks a lot for your hard digesting insights! Big smile!

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