How many times have you woken up before dawn, cold and sore from a hard day of cutting line, and thought, “F this job. F this life. I’m done.”
And then proceeded to have a grumpy, miserable morning that led to an equally miserable afternoon and evening?
When I was on the Lassen Hotshots, and you hit that point where everything was awful, we called that “Jelly Fishing”. With your hands outstretched, and complaints spewing freely from your mouth, you could singlehandedly kill the crew’s morale.
That kind of negative energy is bad for you, and its bad for the crew.
So stop it. But how?
The answer is simple: Gratitude, my friends. But what exactly is gratitude? Properly defined, gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
Researchers have documented the importance of gratitude on our overall happiness and well-being. People that take the time to focus on gratitude are healthier and mentally stronger.
I was shown this short film titled “Gratitude” by Louie Schwartzberg, and trust me, it will help refocus your priorities, and clarify your perspective. If I’m stressed or frustrated, I try to throw this on get some much needed perspective on what’s important.
Obviously it’s not always convenient to just sit down and watch a six minute video. But the next time you’re out on the line, and you’re dreading the start of the next shift, reflect on this:
As a wildland firefighter, I am fortunate because:
- I am physically stronger than 99% of the population
- I am mentally strong enough to do a job that scares most people
- People dream about doing this job
- The work that I will do today might save a life
- I will see places today that very few people ever will. And they are beautiful.
- I will experience a clear sense of purpose. I know what my mission is today.
- The bond I have forged with my fellow firefighters is stronger than anything experienced by a civilian
- I love what I do.
Amy Morin and Tim Ferriss, among many others, are proponents of daily journaling with a focus on gratitude. You don’t need to be churning out pages fit for the New Yorker. All that is important is that you take some time to remind yourself of all that is positive in your life. The relatively small, yet powerful, act of shifting the focus away from the negative stressors and towards the positive aspects of your life can yield major gains in overall happiness. You choose which path you’re going to take. You choose whether or not you’re going to go down a path cluttered with negative emotions, or if you will travel down a path filled with positive emotions. Choose wisely.
So the next time you’re sitting in the buggy, driving out of fire camp, pull out your phone or a notebook and jot down some things that you’re thankful for. Make this a daily ritual, and you’ll be a happier, healthier hotshot. Guaranteed!
Interested in learning more about the importance of gratitude? Check out these books:
Amy Morin, LCSW “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”
Tim Ferriss, “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers“