We are all very well aware that gratitude needs to be a dominant force.
But when shit goes down, and we’re in the throes of anger, frustration, and feeling a lack of control, gratitude is typically the last place we go. Even though it’s very difficult to remember saying thank you in the face of adversity helps, it’s exactly what we need to train ourselves to do.
When we suffer, gratitude is the answer
Think back to the last time you felt sadness. For most of us, it’s a daily thing. Even if it’s minor, we suffer over things both large and tiny. It’s not hard to get worked up. Traffic pisses everyone off to varying degrees. Saying hello to someone you pass on the street who doesn’t respond doesn’t feel good. Emailing a client who gets back to you but doesn’t answer any of your carefully crafted questions is annoying. Trying an arm balance in yoga class and landing flat on your face sucks. Even though at the end of the day these occurrences are small potatoes, at the moment, they bother us. Gratitude is the last thing on our minds.
Saying thank you holds all kinds of power
Let’s revisit a couple of the above examples and insert gratitude as the answer. If you’re walking down the street, feeling super and sunny and you say hello to someone who fails to respond, be grateful you’re feeling friendly and warm. Be cognizant you have no idea why they chose not to respond. Remembering you offered kindness by saying hello. Allow your intention to be about them instead of you.
If you email a client and they don’t address your questions, saying thank you out loud will mitigate feelings of irritation. Maybe they were in a hurry. Maybe they didn’t know the answers so they chose to ignore your questions. When gratitude is the answer, you see opportunity instead of aggravation. Email them back thanking them for responding. Phrase your questions again a bit differently and use the opportunity to improve your clarity. See it as the teachable moment it could be.
Easy to preach, hard to live
Do we always take our own advice? Hell no. I can road rage with the best of them. Taking things personally is one of my most developed muscles. So we practice. We practice daily. Some days we do better than others. But owning the fact that gratitude is the answer can only help us. Gratitude never harms.
3 strategies for believing gratitude is the answer and how to listen
It sucks to feel upset. I know a few people who seemingly don’t get upset easily and I admire them for it. This is what I’ve learned from these chill folks who live just a little more comfortably than I do:
- Don’t care so much. It sounds strange to encourage others not to care. We must care. But we must not care about every little thing. Mark Manson wrote a very well-received and popular book called, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. He details this concept artfully and expresses saying thank you that you don’t care so much about everything as the way to go. We have to conserve our energy for what and who really matters.
- Locate the opportunity. When we choose gratitude as the answer instead of anger, opportunities prevail like a glistening rainbow framed by calico kittens. If you try to execute an arm balance in yoga class and you fail, saying thank you will lead you down the path of informative assistance. Getting pissed and giving up will never make that posture yours. Failure just means you need to go about it differently. You’re smart. And you’re humble. Be thankful these things are true and try again after acknowledging the things you didn’t employ the first time.
- Recognize truth when it’s staring you in the face. Think about the last time you had a fight with a loved one. It’s jarring and typically, both people are wrong in some way and defensive. Instead of focusing on what they should think, feel, do, and say, turn the mirror on yourself. “How can I see this differently? What could I have chosen not to say? Why am I being defensive?” These questions will almost always lead us to take personal responsibility, unveil our truth, and solve some of the hurt feelings. Being grateful we are capable of doing this can only lead to good. When we’re very busy being right, we’re also attached to suffering.
We’re promised difficult moments every day. The difference in the varying degrees of said challenges is recruiting gratitude. Please comment on how this practice goes for you today. We all learn from example.