Being Grateful for the Things that Went Wrong



As we approach Thanksgiving, much will be written this week about gratitude, how to give thanks, counting blessings, how not to stuff yourself like a tick, etc.

I’d like to suggest being grateful for things in your life that went wrong. Things that didn’t go according to plan.

Now before I go any further let me say that, sometimes when stuff goes wrong, some really bad things can happen. It would be hard to be grateful for losing someone you love in a sudden terrible accident.

Still, many people that I speak with who have lost a loved one, often say that it was a wake up call for them; they realized that they were not being grateful by taking their lives for granted and resolved to live with more passion and love.

Recently, I was watching 127 Hours, the movie about Aron Ralston, the guy who survived a hiking accident by amputating his arm which was stuck under a boulder. Seems being grateful that would be really hard to do. Still, he gave a speech (he’s paid up to $37,ooo for speeches) “about how he did not lose a hand, but gained his life back.”

I had really bad back problems as a young man. Somedays I couldn’t get out of bed. But it got me into a habit of daily stretching that continues to this day that has kept me lean and mean (at least I think so). I’ve also been challenged by severe eye problems that necessitated shots in my eyeball. I asked the doctors “What can I do to keep this from happening again?” They said “Walk everyday.” Being grateful for those problems is easy because I walk daily and I love it. Better than a sharp stick in the eye.

Now when something goes wrong in my life, it’s a bit easier to ask myself “What is the lesson here? How can I grow from this?” Being grateful for the tough times is a little easier while they are happening even though the thanks sometimes comes grudgingly.

Can you look back and feel gratitude for:

  • The pain you’ve felt?
  • The disappointments you experienced?
  • The sadness you felt?
  • The loss you felt?
  • That time you got fired?
  • That time you got sick?
  • The times you got taken advantage of?
  • The time(s) you got dumped?
  • The time you were broke?
  • The time you lost your job?
  • The time someone told you the cold hard truth to your face?
  • The time you lost?
  • The time you failed?
  • That special once in a lifetime love who got away?

You might be thinking “How can I possibly be grateful for ____?”

Well, did you learn something? Did you become stronger? More compassionate? Wiser? More honest? More loving?

Did you find some tough stuff within that you didn’t know you had that still serves you to this day? Were you able to draw out  some courage or cleverness that allowed you to get to the other side?

Were you humbled? Did you get closer to God or your fellow man or woman? Was all the superficial, artificial, surface glitter and glam stripped away to reveal the real rock hard diamond deep down inside?

If so, then you’ve got something to be grateful for,  my friend. Doesn’t mean you liked it, or want to go through it again, it could just mean that you can say “It happened, I got through it, and I got something of value from it.”

If there is anything in you that is good, strong, right, and true, anything powerful and bold, any small measure of grit and bad- assedness, I’m not sure you would have it without those experiences.

It’s called a re-frame. You pull that dusty old stuff out of the basement, that junk that has been sucking your self esteem and self worth out of you, and you polish it off, hang it up and display it like a badge of honor, even if you’re the only one who sees it. You say to yourself “Yeah, I was flat on my back, I was down and out, I was crushed, hanging by a thread, written off, forgotten, humiliated, burned out and close to dead but dammit, I did not die! I am here to tell the tale! Yes it was tough but I was tougher!

That’s what I’m talking about. Being grateful for every little bit of it. It means you’re alive.


18 replies
  1. Brian Bergh
    Brian Bergh says:

    Amazing message, Ted. Being thankful for the good things is easy, although often overlooked and taken for granted. Being thankful for the bad things? Now that shows character and a will to see the best in life. Thanks for this message, it meant a lot to me personally.

    • Ted A. Moreno
      Ted A. Moreno says:

      Great to hear from you Brian, and thank you for your comment. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. I’m grateful to know you.

  2. Kyle
    Kyle says:

    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
    Thanks for the wise words Ted. This one is definitely a challenge sometimes but it all comes down to how you look at things. Keep moving forward, when life knocks you down get back up.

  3. Becky Baker
    Becky Baker says:

    What great and positive thoughts! I hope I’m always learning… about ideas, thoughts, people and most of all, myself. It is bringing me to inner peace…

  4. Armida Baylon-Stelzer
    Armida Baylon-Stelzer says:

    Ted – you have the gift of understanding and comprehension which you are willing to share. Thank you for your thought-provoking commentaries. They touch me, make me stop and think. Gratitude Attitude is something I strive for on a daily basis, and I am thankful for your presence in my life. Blessings to you and your family.

  5. Therese
    Therese says:

    Hi Ted, 🙂
    Well Gratitude ,you know that’s my theme .
    I have it on my voice mail and as a tag on my phone
    Attitude of Gratitude !!!
    My lesson especially this week is Really Praticing this attitude , so it is so approbate
    That this is what you are speaking about.
    When stuff goes wrong that us when you dig deep and understand that it us Always in your perspective , sometimes you are lucky to see why and what the lesson was you were to learn right away , other times its takes a bit.
    I am grateful for all and this week lessons is understanding what I won’t do again ( talking about work) and grateful for the clarity and vision to ground and breathe and be grateful .!!!!! Take Care and Happy Gratitude Day coming up 😀

  6. Heather Morrow
    Heather Morrow says:

    Great article, Ted. It is hard to look for the blessings in a loss; however, they are there. For me, it was the gift to create art and share it with the world. I am grateful for good friends, like you. Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. Marynance
    Marynance says:

    Thank you, Ted, for a very thought-provoking article. (I came from Heather Morrow’s Pottery Daily.) I am a very new blogger and used your article as a base for the Thanksgiving reflection I will post Thursday.
    If you have no objections, I would like to use several quotes from the article for the Thanksgiving Thoughts I will be sending out via e-mail. I send “my” Thoughts (3 quotes on a subject) every night to a selected e-mail list, in the hope that they will inspire, encourage, challenge, or provoke thought. Your insights will certainly fit into those categories!
    Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

  8. Kristina
    Kristina says:

    It is liberating to know that no matter what is going on around us, we always have some measure of control–in our attitude. No one can enter our brain and force us to think something is good or bad except us. I am learning to view setbacks, disappointments, or “things not happening as I think they should” as messages to let go and allow God’s plan to unfold at exactly the time it is meant to. This is not to say that we can’t feel frustrated or angry, but we need to recognize when those feelings start to take over and create negative patterns so we can give ourselves an attitude adjustment. Something that I think of, too, is how often have I learned or grown from things going right? Just as in exercising the muscles of the body, the change happens when there is discomfort. “If it’s not burning, it’s not working,” I have heard from a trainer. Only we can bring on that burn purposely, if need be–if we are becoming stagnant–or if the burn is happening to us, only we can frame it positively. As much as possible, without ignoring it, integrate the things that went wrong as part of the journey of life. We focus predominantly on the destination, but if most of our time is the journey, why would we not be as present as possible?

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