It is maddening to be reminded to appreciate what we have: for someone to tell us we shouldn’t forget to be grateful. It’s in conflict with our times, and their emphasis on constant ambition and striving. The idea of pausing to take stock of what has gone well, to be content with many things as they are – this feels strange and dangerous, like some kind of a loser’s counsel – or the consolation prize. But in truth, there is so much that, if we learnt we might be dead by nightfall, we would promptly remember to value: the summer night sky the taste of cold milk old brick walls deserted railway stations the presence of our partners beside us in the stillness of dawn. We are ungrateful partly out of a fear; a fear of accepting what we have – as if to pause to appreciate things as they are might make us ‘soft’, complacent, without the will-power to take on new challenges. Anxiety feels so much more natural. It’s been with us from the start. But ultimately, it’s not heroic or sensible always to be dissatisfied; relentlessly to focus on everything that’s gone wrong and to obsess about our humiliations and rejections. There’s in truth far more courage and skill in being able to identify a hopeful perspective: in knowing how to train and keep our eyes on what’s been – more or less – OK. What can best help us in this is – oddly – is the thought of our own death: how soon and how unexpectedly it may come, and how much we’ll miss about life when it does. We are constantly undermined by our failure to retain the purity and drama of this helpfully morbid insight – which should strike us once every day at least and to put it to powerful use in the ordinary course of life. Gratitude is the dividend due to us when, for a few moments, we begin to assess our lives with a truer sense of all our small but significant advantages – and with a frank, humble recognition of all we have to lose – and one day will.