A Thought Experiment: “What If I Lost Everything…” (How To Use A Gratitude Journal)

Imagine waking up tomorrow and not having any of the comforts that you’ve worked hard for years to obtain or the support systems that you’ve become completely dependent on and accustomed to.

  • You have no money in your bank account.
  • No network of friends or family to help you.
  • No degree to fall back on.
  • No clue what you want out of life.

What would you do? How would you begin to piece your life back together?

Many of us would crumble emotionally. We’d completely shut down.

But once you consider what it would feel like to lose everything, you truly begin to see how many advantages you actually have.

Take a deep breath, and quietly ask yourself right now, “What would I do if I lost everything?”

The concept sounds scary — but believe it or not, you’d only need one tool to piece it all back together.

It all starts with gratitude

If I lost absolutely everything tomorrow, I’d only need one thing to start rebuilding myself.


At the beginning of the year, we talked about my goals and objectives for 2014. One of them was to begin keeping a gratitude journal filled with everything I’m thankful for on a daily basis.

Here are the two best reasons for keeping a gratitude journal:

First, it’s always energizing to think about the aspects of your life that you love and the reasons you’re happy to be alive. In fact, research has shown that simply adopting a positive mindset can actually increase your real-life happiness, productivity and overall health.

Gratitude and happiness act as feedback system. The more grateful you are for your life (even the little things), the happier you become. The happier you are, the healthier and more productive you get — and that brings more gratitude. The cycle starts anew.

Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to start that feedback loop.

The next reason for keeping a gratitude journal is even more powerful than just the cultivation of a positive mental outlook.

Simply put, forcing yourself to name people and things you’re grateful for actually challenges your brain to think about what life would be like without these things — and then come up with creative solutions.

Oftentimes, we let our “idea muscles” grow weak. We don’t practice coming up with creative solutions. We stop thinking of innovative ways to solve problems. But coming up with solutions to our problems is a skill, just like any other. We must practice using this part of our brain.

A James Altucher talks about the link between gratitude, creativity and happiness in his “Daily Practice.”

I use my gratitude journal as a catalyst to spark my “idea muscles.” Once before I wake up, and once again before I go to sleep, I pull out my journal and write down at least 10 things I’m grateful for.

I try to think of 10 different things in the morning and 10 new ones in the evening. Even “little wins” like, “I got to wear my favorite shirt today” count. Always acknowledge the little things.

Then I use that positive energy to come up with solutions for the problems I’m dealing with.

Start your gratitude journal, right here on Hack The System

Let’s start our gratitude journals, right here. Together.

Here’s what I want you to do.

  1. Ask yourself, “What would I do if I lost everything?”
  2. After considering what it would be like to lose everything, write 10 things that you’re very grateful for in the comments. Bonus points if they were things that you hadn’t taken the time to appreciate until today.

One thought on “A Thought Experiment: “What If I Lost Everything…” (How To Use A Gratitude Journal)

  1. If I lost everything I would : Walk the earth, nature, trees, flowing water, blue skies, the moon at night, stars, walking trails, fish, fresh air outside

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *