We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean…and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.       Michelle Obama

Living in a culture where the “self-made” person is idolized, leaves little room for the gratitude and humility of which Michelle Obama writes. In fact we are eager to claim full credit for all of our efforts and achievements as we make our way through life. “Did it on my own…and so forth.”

I am curious about this narrative and I wonder if there is a method to check it out. Well, it just so happens that I do know a method. It is called Naikan and I have a simple suggestion for what you can do at home to see for yourself.

Take a piece of paper and across the top write out one of your significant achievements. Below, make a list of anyone and everyone who helped you realize that achievement. Be as thorough as you can and start all the way back to your grade one teacher who may have been the one who taught you how to read. As you reflect on your life and add to your list, do your best to recall things and people that you have come to take for granted and yet without them you may not have succeeded.  Look with fresh eyes.

Have no fear that this takes away from your efforts. You are simply expanding your view to consider the efforts of others on your behalf. Specific types of help that came your way from people who may have long since forgotten what they did for you.

This first question in the three question reflection of Naikan is important because, in this case, it can help to balance the scales of what we have achieved in our lives, “all on our own.”

Why is it even important? When we view our lives realistically we can see for ourselves how consistently we have been supported, at every turn, and this clear knowledge prompts the gratitude and humility of which Michelle Obama speaks. It gives us a chance to say thanks to those people (who are still alive) who helped us along the way and in turn to become one of those people providing a stepping stone for others.