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As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we are reminded of the importance of expressing our gratitude for the blessings we have in our lives. It’s a positive message that most of us embrace, but the concept of gratitude can be deeper and more powerful than most people realize.
I have seen lots of videos and memes that discuss how everyone should affirm their gratitude daily. Tony Robbins and Gary V are both big proponents of how focusing on the good versus the bad is the key to both success and happiness. I think that is a great way to live if it works for you, but it also seems a little superficial to me. It assumes that we all have a comparable amount of good and bad in our lives.
We have all been exposed to stories about people who are physically disabled or who have experienced debilitating tragedies in their lives yet maintain a positive outlook on life and are still able to achieve great things. Those stories force us to put our own lives in perspective, and while hearing those stories has an impact for a while, it doesn’t always last. Why is that? I think it’s because it often forces us to take a balance sheet approach to life. It’s supposed to make us look at all the good in our lives and compare it to the bad. I’m not sure that works for everyone because we all prioritize things differently. Happiness is subjective; What may be a small thing to some people may be a big deal to others.
Things also change during the course of our lives. Tragedy is a part of life. Failure is a part of life. It’s unavoidable. Most of us will deal with abject failure and unspeakable tragedy in our lives. At certain points in our lives, the bad might legitimately outweigh the good. Then what? Being told that we should be happy just because other people have it worse, doesn’t quite get it done for many of us.
I think if you are truly a grateful person, you have to be grateful for everything – the good and the bad. How many of us are capable of that? Because that’s a much more difficult mindset to acquire. That is the epitome of being mentally strong. I’ll be honest, I’m not there yet, but it is something I strive towards because it’s the only mindset that transcends the ups and downs that we all experience. It is the only mindset where happiness isn’t fleeting. The happiest and most mentally strong are grateful for the good AND the bad in their life. They are grateful for the triumphs and the setbacks. When things go wrong, they say “thank you” in their minds, because they know that with every bad there is good. There is opportunity. There is the opportunity to get better. There is an opportunity to find a solution. The bad is what makes the good worth pursuing. You can’t experience joy if you don’t experience sadness. If you can say “thank you” in the face of tragedy, to feel honest gratitude, when things are going bad, that’s when you can’t be beaten. That is when you are truly able to appreciate life in its fullest sense. Gratitude is a powerful concept when it is understood holistically.