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Riding in the Hot-Air Balloon of LifeI’ve only been in a hot-air balloon once but it was unforgettable. We visited some friends in Albuquerque, NM when they were having their annual Balloon Fest. Hundreds of hot-air balloons lifted off at dawn. It is one the most photographed events in the world. My family and I took a wonderful ride in a hot-air balloon that October day. The weather was perfect and the view from 500 feet was breathtaking.

I noticed something interesting that day that I have never forgotten. It had to do with the way the world looked at different altitudes. On that particular day, riding in a hot-air balloon seemed an apt metaphor for my life.

What I noticed was that the height of my balloon had a lot to do with how nervous or relaxed I felt during the trip. When we were cruising along at about 50 or 60 feet, I felt the need to vigilantly watch for oncoming buildings, telephone poles, electrical wires and trees. The trees and buildings may have been beautiful to look at but at that height I could only see them as possible disasters waiting to happen unless we could avoid them. I couldn’t relax and enjoy my surroundings for fear that we would inadvertently slam into something that I hadn’t spotted. We never did crash into anything but it looked like we were going to come close a couple of times. Here was the interesting thing–by adding just another 150 feet to our altitude, my perspective changed and so did my anxiety. Things that were threatening and scary before now seemed harmless, fascinating, wonderful and thrilling. Just 150 feet higher and I could completely enjoy the view and the ride and my family free from the worries inherent at the lower altitude. I realized first hand the value of a heightened perspective and I could see the implications for how it could transform my life.

I began to wonder what makes my balloon (my experience of life) gain altitude and stay at that wonderful height. What I came up with was gratitude. Gratitude is the hot air that keeps my balloon aloft so I can really enjoy the view and the ride. The more I focus on what I am grateful for, the higher I get and the less worrisome are the obstacles in my life. Things that would otherwise loom as problems seem interesting but insignificant when I’m having the heady experience of gratitude.

Since that ride and that realization, I have made it a practice to express my gratitude to the people around me for the even the smallest things. When I practice this with my wife, my usual issues with her seem less important, less upsetting and less relevant. The good news is that, in my balloon of life, I supply the hot air by what I do and say and how I think so I can get as high as I want and don’t have to depend on people or circumstances to cheer me up. Whenever I don’t like the mood I’m in or the judgments I have cast on myself or my partner, I return to my quest for things I am grateful for and express my appreciation for whatever or whomever pleases me. The balloon begins to rise, changing my perspective and improving my mood. At that I height I see another way of looking at things in my life. Solutions present themselves to me that never occurred to me down below. I even find that my lower level problems, when viewed from this perspective aren’t problems at all and thus require no solution. Expressing gratitude also has a positive effect on the people being appreciated.

I’ve always wanted to see the big picture and lifting my balloon by focusing on gratitude seems like an easy and inexpensive way to get there. I wish for you the perfect altitude and a life that soars.


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