In his latest book, Choosing Gratitude: Learning to Love the Life You Have, renowned author James A. Autry reminds us that gratitude is a choice, a spiritualnot socialprocess. Made evident as behavior, gratitude is not the behavior itself. We may automatically respond, “Thank you” or “Appreciate it” in the daily course of our lives. These are polite, conditioned responses, but they are not gratitude. Instead, gratitude is a way of life, a belief system, that means cultivating a spirit of thankfulness even through the negatives of life. It is remembering there will always be more reasons for gratitude than for despair.
In a society consumed by fears of not having “enough”money, possessions, security, and so onAutry suggests that if we cultivate gratitude as a way of being, we may not change the world and its ills, but we can change our response to the world. If we fill our lives with moments of gratitude, we will indeed love the life we have.
James A. Autry, a former Fortune 500 executive, is an author, poet, and consultant whose work has had significant influence on leadership thinking. He is the author of ten books, and his writings have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Featured in Bill Moyers’ PBS series The Power of the Word and in Moyers’ book The Language of Life, Autry has also been noted on National Public Radio via Garrison’s Keillor’s “Writer’s Corner.” He serves on the national advisory board of Poets & Writers, Inc. Autry resides in Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife, Sally Pederson, who recently retired as Lieutenant Governor of Iowa, and their twenty-seven-year-old son. He has two grown sons by a previous marriage and is a proud grandfather of two.
Growing into gratitude comes in discrete pieces: coming to see “calamity” as a deepening experience, as well as recognizing that one already has enough. The culmination of this gem of a book is the longish account of the author’s brother’s learning how to say “thank you” in the face of his inevitable death. Like a slow building formation, James Autry’s wisdom regarding gratitude slowly builds up into insight that repeatedly appears just when needed.
Claremont Graduate University