How to Reboot Your Mind: Sam Harris’ 3-Minute Gratitude Talk

Every once in a while I have an insight, or do an exercise, that strikes me in a powerful way.

These insights hit like a bolt of lightning.


One of my most recent lightning strikes was a short talk by Sam Harris about gratitude. Every time I listen to it is like pushing the reset button on my mind.

I’m seeing clearer. My heart feels more full. Life feels more alive.

Naturally, I wanted to share it with you.

You can listen to the 3-minute audio below. Or continue reading for the full transcript of Harris’ talk.

Sam Harris’ 3-Minute Gratitude Talk

Here’s Harris:

“I’d like to talk for a few minutes about gratitude.

There’s now a lot of research that suggests that gratitude is good for us. (No surprise there.)

And, as an emotion it is very easy to invoke. Unless you are living the worst possible life, it should be easy to find something for which you’re grateful.

And it can be very skillful and wise to do this.

Now one reflection I find myself doing when I’m in some ordinary contracted state of mind—let’s say I’m stressed-out by something not going well, I’m reacting to some hassle. I could be caught in traffic and late for an appointment—I sometimes think of bad things that haven’t happened to me.

I might think that I haven’t been diagnosed with a fatal illness. I’m not caught in a war zone. And I think of all the people on earth in that moment who are suffering those sorts of dislocations in their lives.

And then I reflect that if I were in their shoes, I would be desperate to get back to precisely the situation I’m now in: just stuck in traffic and late for an appointment, but without any care in the world.

I noticed this at dinner the other night with my family. Everyone seemed to be in a fairly mediocre frame of mind…We were all in some way disgruntled or stressed-out. I had a million things I was thinking about.

And I suddenly noticed how little joy we were all taking in one-another’s company.

And then I thought: “If I had died yesterday and could have the opportunity to be back with my family…” I thought of how much I would savor this moment with my family right now.

And it totally transformed my mood. It gave me instantaneous access to my best self. And a feeling of pure gratitude for the people in my life.

Just think of what it would be like to lose everything and then be restored to the moment you’re now in—however ordinary.

You can reboot your mind in this way, and it need not take any time.

The truth is, you know exactly what it’s like to feel overwhelming gratitude for your life. And if you have the freedom and the free attention to listen to this lesson right now…You are in an unusual situation.

There are at least a billion people on earth at this moment who would consider their prayers answered if they could trade places with you. There are at least a billion people who are suffering debilitating pain, or political oppression, or the acute stages of bereavement.

To have your health—even just sort-of.

To have friends—even only a few.

To have hobbies or interests, and the freedom to pursue them.

To have spent this day free from some terrifying encounter with chaos is to be lucky.

Just look around you, and take a moment to feel how lucky you are.

You get another day to live on this earth. Enjoy it.”

You Can Reboot Your Mind

What little stressors were nagging at your consciousness before you read this?

And how do you feel now?

Harris’ observation that you can reboot your mind on-command is a powerful one.

Along with that observation comes the wisdom that we should ​expect​ to need to reboot our mind. Our mind will never land in a place of everlasting peace and bliss.

As Zen master Shunryu Suzuki once said: “There are, strictly speaking, no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity.​”

Dan Millman put it a slightly different way, saying: “There are no enlightened people, no nice, bad, smart, neurotic, or stupid people, either—only people with more (or less) enlightened, nice, bad, smart, neurotic, or stupid moments.”​

Which reminds me of The Equanimity Game.

You have to expect that you’ll have some off-days. You have to know that you’ll feel negative emotions. And you have to assume that you’ll feel a contracted state of mind sometime in the future.

This is part of the game.

And when it happens to you next, know this: You can reboot your mind.

How to Reboot Your Mind

The process is simple:

  1. Notice when you’re off your center.
  2. Pause to note it without judgment.
  3. Set an intention to reboot your mind in whatever way would serve you best. (e.g. listen to this talk, connect with what you’re grateful for, meditate, exercise, nap, …)​
  4. Take action. Reboot your mind.
  5. Move forward from a higher state on your ladder.

That’s your challenge this week (and always.) Put this wisdom into practice. Notice when you’re off, and take action to shift.

How you do what you do matters just as much as what you decide to do.

Reboot Your New Year

Setting up to review my 2018

In addition to your opportunity to reboot in-the-moment, the new year presents a unique chance to reboot in a more significant way

This is the only life you get to live. You might as well make the most of it.

The beginning of the year is a chance to take stock of your growth from the last year, solidify important lessons-learned, identify opportunities to improve, and let go of what no longer serves you.

I created a workbook to help you do that. If you haven’t yet, take a moment to check out The 2018 Year in Review Template to Reflect, Learn, and Grow.

It pairs hand in hand with The Year Planner Template to Make 2019 Your Best Year Yet​​.

Which is all about setting an expansive vision for 2019 that fires you up, and setting a plan to get there.

Check out the posts or enter your email in the box below to grab your copy of the workbook.

Access the Year-In-Review and Best Year Yet Templates

End your year on a high note and create a bulletproof plan to make this your best year yet!

We'll also add you to the Mindful Ambition email community. Powered by ConvertKit

Here’s to your rebooting,