The Gift of Today—Lessons from a Monk

I originally published this post last Thanksgiving. It has such a powerful, simple video that I wanted to share it with you again today. I pray it inspires you to focus on the things that matter most. Have a blessed holiday.

The older I get, the more I believe that gratitude is the answer to almost every problem we face. It can transform anxiety, anger, and depression.

It may not change our circumstances—though it often does—but it can change us. And isn’t that really the purpose of this journey we call “life”?

My daughter Marissa recently shared a video with me that I want to share with you. It is as beautiful as it is profound. It is well-worth your time to watch it.

I particularly loved this quote from Brother David Steindl-Rast, a benedictine monk, and the one speaking on the video:

You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today…. It’s the only gift that you have right now. And the only appropriate response is gratefulness.

Maybe we would get this if we saw today as the first day of our life—or our last.

Here are four ways you can transform today, taking it from ordinary to extraordinary:

  1. Notice the gifts around you. Whether it is the natural beauty that surrounds you, the interesting people you encounter, or the simple beating of your heart, everything is a miracle—if you have eyes to see it.
  2. Open your heart to receive them. It’s so easy to feel entitled and become cynical when we don’t get what we want or feel we deserve. But if we receive everything as a gift, designed for either our enjoyment, our transformation, or both, we open ourselves to new possibilities.
  3. Express your gratitude for them. This is one of the things that makes humans unique and sets us apart from the animals. But we have to speak it to experience the power of it.
  4. Bless someone else. Let your gratefulness overflow into the lives of those you encounter today. It doesn’t have to be fancy—just offer them a smile, a touch, or the simple gift of your presence. (You could also share this post with them!)

Today will never be repeated. It it is unique among all the days of your life. Gratitude can transform into something to be remembered.

Note: If you want to explore gratitude further, read Ann Voskamp’s excellent book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

Question: What are you thankful for on this Thanksgiving holiday? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • chris vonada

    I’m thankful for this message and for you Michael, that was extraordinary! While today may never be repeated, if I could start each day with a message that is so inspiring I can strive to make the most of every single one of them. Thanks for this one!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Chris.I wish I had something like this every day as well!

    • Todd Liles

      I agree – thankful for Michael and this community

  • Jon Stolpe

    I’m thankful for my job.  Today, I get to work with some great people.  Tonight, I get to go to an awards dinner for those who have achieved various milestones at our company.

  • Joe Abraham

    I am thankful for every good thing – ordinary and extraordinary – I enjoy today including this post :) Thanks Michael. 

  • Jviola79

    I am sitting here with tears literally flowing. What a moving message. Thank you so much for sharing it. You have no idea. I am sure you are too busy to read something that I wrote yesterday. But I feel to include the link. I wrote this blog post yesterday & posted it this morning by 6AM. To then read your post & watch this video, I realized how deeply God was speaking to me (& probably to many of us) about gratitude. You surely hit it out of the park with this one. So grateful that you did!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks so much. I appreciate your post too. We can never be reminded too much about the need for gratitude—especially during this holiday season.

  • Senthilraj

    Nice article. Thanks, Michael.

  • Eric Dingler

    Thank you for this post.  I like number 2 a lot.  Things we feel entitled to we never have gratitude for.  

  • Kimyung Kim

    I’m thankful for the wonderful people in my life and for wise men and women who are constantly investing in my life, the Zig Ziglar’s, Michael Hyatt’s, to the friends who give me info to help me improve my business.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am so thankful for Zig’s life too. He was a remarkable man.

  • Matthew Trinetti

    Completely agree Michael. I think if each of us made Gratitude and Appreciation our primary thoughts, conflicts would dissolve and we’d be collectively happier. 

    For the past 6 months, I’ve been on an adventure/pilgrimage of sorts, traveling through Europe and taking a break from working IN my life to work ON it. One of my greatest realizations was just what you articulated in this post. It’s the transformative power of gratitude.

    Gratitude turns mishaps into opportunities, tragedies into inflection points, and suffering into a chance for reflection.

    I’m thankful for being in Granada, Spain right now and having the opportunity to explore a new place and gain a new perspective.

  • Bidemi

    Today, I am thankful for you Michael Hyatt, for your free Lifeplan ebook.  I just printed it out this morning because 2013, is the year I want to live intentionally in abundance on every account. Your book will bring me closer and for that I am truly grateful!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks so much for that. I truly appreciate it!

  • DS

    What a timely post.  It’s easy to get bogged down and neglect what we’ve been given, or grow in disatisfaction.

    You’d be shocked at how many people will respond in a remarkable way to #4 when you act with a genuine heart.

    • Aaron Johnson

       So true, DS. I’ve found texting to be a really effective way to do that. In fact, many in our community of friends have made blessing one another and our children part of our daily life – it’s become really powerful.

  • Leah Adams

    I’m thankful that I have God’s Word. It truly is LIFE to me. It teaches me, corrects me, comforts me, encourages me. It is LIFE.

    I’m talking about thankfulness, as well, over at my site today using a story from the life of Corrie ten Boom. I’d love for all of you to join me.

  • Aaron Johnson

    I’m grateful that my kids slept through the night last night :)  And I’m grateful for our community of friends – they are amazing.

    • Michele Cushatt

       Ha! I hear ya. Kids sleeping through the night is a good thing to be thankful for!

    • Joy Groblebe

      Aaron – I can really relate!

    • prophetsandpopstars

      Now that my kids sleep through the night, I wish I could ;)

  • Kim Hall

    Yes, yes! Gratitude is one of the most under-rated, overlooked means of getting to a much happier and contented place in our lives! Not only does it improve our mental health, but it helps in other ways as well. It is truly a magic elixir!

    Your suggestions are great for beginning or re-starting the actual practice of gratitude, for it is just that: practice. Intentional, regular practice will make our gratitude muscles kick in when the going gets tough and it looks like there is nothing for which to be grateful.

    I think it’s important to remember as well that we recognize that our culture (movies, shows, articles, commercials) doesn’t want us to be grateful. They want us to be envious, to look at who we are and what we have as just not enough, to fill that emptiness we didn’t even know we had with stuff. When we are armed with gratitude, we have much greater walk-away power from that negative message.

  • Eileen Knowles

    Beautiful!  I think it’s been age and experience that have helped me LIVE gratitude.  I’ve watched God show up in some pretty amazing ways…even in the bleakest of circumstances.  His presence has changed everything in my life.  Thanks for posting. 

  • Tricia Welte

    Thank you for this message today.  It is a needed reminder of how precious life is … especially today. 

  • Gary Morland

    I’m thankful that I lost my job ten years ago this month which set me free to pursue what I was more passionate about.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Love this, Gary. Inspiring.

  • Elizabeth Darcy Jones

    If ever there were words to ‘inspire, touch and sustain’ they’re here. I’ve sent the video to the people closest to me as a belated Thanksgiving card. Yesterday I was a bit niggled by Hyatt for giving me so much reading and thought that prompts rearranging things in my life! Today there’s only gratitude and of course clarity has come with the dawn and clear wintry sky here in Herefordshire, England!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Elizabeth. I wish I’d posted this before Thanksgiving last week! Thanks for commenting.

  • Cam Goede

    Really enjoyed this one today. What a powerful and relevant message. Thanks for sharing.

  • StrategyBuilder

    Michael, thank you for your gift today! It’s a beautiful reminder to be fully present for each action we take … it’s all too easy to push the “auto-pilot” switch while our minds are elsewhere. Brother David’s reminder — and your good sense in bringing it to us — is that today is the most important gift we have.

  • Karen Kremers

    Really great post, Michael.  I am grateful for this time of year and the cheerful dispositions that typically coincide with the holiday season.  Also thankful for heat to warm our home, a comfortable place to sleep, and the extra time I get to spend with my college kids. So many blessings. Thank you.

  • Bridget

    Transforming stuff, Mr. Hyatt.  After reading Ann Voskamp’s book, 1000 Gifts, last year, gratitude has been transforming me and my family in miraculously ordinary ways!!!  I recommend the book to anyone who would like some clarity on slowing down, being truly present, and cultivating a habit of gratitude.  I love one of the themes in the book about discontent being a habit and how you have to drive one habit out with another, like a hammer to a nail.  That gratitude is the nail that can drive out discontent.   Oh, and how gratitude is one of the main keys to experiencing the joy of the Lord!  I’m telling you, life-changing stuff!

  • Keri Wyatt Kent

    Mike, thanks for this. Such an important reminder to slow down and notice God in our daily lives! 

  • Sam Pekeno

    I had woken awake a bit sad and depressed. But this video, changed my view perspective for today. Thank you so much for this message Micheal.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I’m so glad!

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  • Stacey Thureen

    I’m thankful for a lot of things today. Here’s a blog post I recently wrote about what I’m thankful for:

    • Michele Cushatt

      Loved your list, Stacey. Especially that trip to Haiti … 

      • Stacey Thureen

        Thanks Michele! 

  • kpeds

    Whoop-Whoop… thank you.  I’ve seen this before and shake my head at how powerful the message really is.  My new morning newspaper…  

  • Nancyagriffith

    I think that seeing that little girl made me think of Mattie Stepanek on the Oprah show many years ago . Although he has now passed, his image is brought about in this little girl. Gratitude is really everywhere!

  • Sensei Storms

    What a beautiful video, and beautiful lil’ girl. Thank you Michael
    Grateful-  I’ll try and hit the high lights.Our Lord – Almost 8 years ago I was re-born, opened my heart and life.My lovely wife, our wonderful four children, our health, our parents, our spiritual family, our free (imperfect , I get it) great country, choice, a home, our dogs, my team, our business, our gifts, our challenges, trial,  infrimities, our adversaries that make us better. 
    What an inspiring message, thank you.

  • Lisa Colon DeLay

    This was a holy video…set apart for the honor and glory of God and humankind. Like a breath of fresh air. A gift. Thank you.

  • annepeterson

    I always love reminders to be thankful. Thanks for this post.

    Today, I am thankful for the ability to feel. For years I had so much pain in my life. As I worked through issues it was at times excruciating. But as God continues to heal my wounded places I am thankful for the ability to feel. Without that, I couldn’t feel love, couldn’t feel joy. Thank you God for my emotions. 

  • Shirley Thiessen

    I am thankful for my son Jordan who lived fully for 23 yrs. He passed away on Oct 18, 2012 and although my heart is aching with grief, I am thankful for the gift that he was to our family and his wife.  More than anything, I am thankful that I will see him again in heaven as I know he is with his Heavenly Father.

    • Joy Groblebe

      Shirley – I’m so sorry for your loss.  Your thankfulness through such a difficult awful experience is inspiring.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I’m so sorry to hear this, Shirley. May God give you peace until you are reunited with your son.

    • annepeterson

      Shirley, I am sorry for your loss. Focusing on what he did bring to your world is inspirational. I believe when our hearts are aching and we decided to praise the Lord, it is a sacrifice of praise. I have many people I will se in heaven that I miss. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  • Kathryn

    I am so very thankful for this message…the heart of it brought home to us by the sudden death of my dearest brother ten days ago…we are still mourning, but know the truth of the beauty of each day, each hour, each moment we have to celebrate our life here…with of course, the added joy of spending eternity together! Thank you for sharing this beautiful message.

    • annepeterson

      Kathryn, I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my brother last year. And while I miss him, I am also thankful for the fact we got to help him go through his cancer. Deaths do give you hope for the lives that remain.

  • Wayne Elsey

    Wow, awesome.

  • Kent Faver

    I was introduced to this film by Louie Schwartzberg – Gratitude - over a year ago and have watched it dozens of times since.   I have watched Louie’s TED talks and followed his passionate career on time lapsed Nature films through his website.  He is presently trying to turn it into a feature length film by using Kickstarter.  Likewise, I have listened to everything I can find by Brother Daniel Steindl-Rast and have been moved by his lifes teachings.  I am grateful for this film!

  • Lily Kreitinger

    Thanks Mike for a great reminder.  This post helped me get a much better start to my day.  I’m thankful for God’s work in my life, for an amazing husband, healthy and happy children,  my work and my friends.  

  • mglaker

    Today I am thankful for a moment last night playing uno with kids.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Moments like that are precious!

    • Barry Hill

      I love Uno with the kids! My kids are really into Apples to Apples right now! What a blessing!

  • ReneDAube

    Thank you, Michael, for this post! I will pass it along with the prayer that others will also be blessed by it. God bless you!

  • Jonathan

    Michael… I’ve followed your blog for quite some time…   We met at ChickFlA Leadercast (I was your audio engineer for backstage for the last 3 years) and while you’ve had awesome posts and helpful reminders….  Today, your post really made an impact on me that I am quite grateful for. 
    Thank you …  thank you for your encouragement and leadership. 


    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jonathan. I appreciate you taking time to comment.

  • Rob Trenckmann

    Thanks Michael–I needed that reminder today. My wife, son, and I recently moved to Hungary, where we work with young people. We love it here, but it’s also hard. This blog is a good reminder to remember the good, even when life is difficult.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Often the best experiences are also the most difficult. I understand that well. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Debby

    …being reminded of the gift of today, this day The Lord has made. I will “rejoice and be glad in it!”

  • Samhill39

    I am grateful for the friend who emailed this to me…for your wonderful reminder “to be grateful”…for I am to continue learning each day as I journey…for my awareness of GOD’s presence in my life no matter the difficult circumstances.  Thank you, Michael Hyatt for posting this.  SAM Staub, New Orleans.

  • Peter Gowesky

    Today I am thankful for God’s grace and mercy.  I’m thankful for the fact that He has given me all the strength that I need for today.  I am thankful that when I am weak, He is strong, because today I am feeling a bit weak.  So I know that today I will operate on His strength.  Thanks for posting this Michael.  

  • Tracy Hoots Hoexter

    Thank you for this! I would like to share this video that also renews my gratitude…

  • David Kirkaldy

    Thank you for posting this today.  The message, reinforced by the photography and cinematography is outstanding.  I knew I had seen it elsewhere and found it in a link I had saved to Louie Schwartzberg’s TEDxSF talk on gratitude (the YouTube link is which one or two other commenters also recall.  

    The talk by Louie adds an intro to this video that is simply stunning.  His comments are so very profound and amplify the narration of Bro. Stendl-Rast.  Particularly, his statement that ‘we protect what we fall in love with’ resonates with me.  Gratefulness creates the condition that allows one to love.  Thanks for sharing.  

    I’m grateful for so much, including the knowledge that you freely share that has lead to me finally starting the blog I had been thinking about for years and never could quite get started on, Thank you.  See you at the Platform Conference in February!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing this video. I have it queued up to listen to in a bit!

  • Joy Groblebe

    I am in love with this video!  What an amazing thought – that everyone who encounters you today will be blessed by you.  That’s a huge life mission.  I’m not always successful in living this out, but it fits so well with who I am – I love that idea.  Great post!

    • Joy Groblebe

      I also loved the thought of how miraculous it is to turn on our taps and have hot and cold water flow…we always take that for granted and it’s an amazing gift.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Joy. You are a blessing to me!

  • Matt McWilliams

    I grew up in what would be considered a “poor” household in America (statistically speaking)

    And yet…

    I never wanted for basic clothes. They never had fancy labels, but they kept me warm in winter and usually fit well. My feet were always covered when I went outside.

    I never wanted for food. I ate when I was hungry, even if it meant something I didn’t want.

    I never wanted for entertainment, shelter, education, or any of the basic needs in life.

    I am tempted to say “how can I not be grateful?” but I am often not, because I’ve fallen for the lie that success and contentment are a moving target. I bought the big house, but now I want it bigger. I hit my income goal 7 years early but now I want more.

    That being said, moments like this remind me to be grateful what I do have and so I am. I was born in America. That alone means I am better off than 97% of the world’s population.

    • Barry Hill

      Well said, Matt. I especially relate with the feeling/idea that success is “out there” and I most go find it! Success is now. How will I now? How is my now?

      Thanks, Matt.

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  • Rick Yuzzi

    Great video and post. The daily devotions I look at each day have all centered on thankfulness recently and I thought, wow, God is trying to tell me something.  Then I remembered this is the time when Thanksgiving falls. :-)   Still, gratitude and blessing others is the key to a joyful life. 

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