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.