It’s been a tough year. For some, tough times may have already been a reality prior to covid and all the challenges of 2020.
Life can be hard, change is a constant, and we can all struggle. As we approach Thanksgiving I have been thinking about how crucial gratitude is for us all right now. Zig Ziglar, among others, talks about the importance of having an attitude of gratitude, and not allowing ourselves to fall victim to “stinkin’ thinkin’.” Ziglar said, “We all need a check up from the neck up to avoid stinkin ‘thinkin‘ which ultimately leads to hardening of the attitudes.”
Gratitude is one tool to help us manage our thoughts and feelings. It is hard to feel fully stressed, negative, or worried if you are feeling deeply and genuinely grateful.
How many of us have said or thought, “I have to go grocery shopping tonight.” If we make a slight change to that and think instead, “I get to go grocery shopping tonight,” it can change our outlook and our feelings. Truly, I get to, I have the ability to, go get food for my family and I am grateful for that. It is something that can be taken lightly, or can feel like a chore, but in reality, many would cherish that opportunity that may not be a reality for them. Or, “My son has three soccer games this weekend that I have to go to.” In my world, “My son has three soccer games this weekend that I get to go to.” I am grateful that my son has the opportunity to follow his passion, and that I am able to share in this part of his life, to watch and support him in following his dream; what a gift.
In a weekly newsletter, Jon Gordon said, “We act as if we don’t have a choice. As if we are imprisoned by a paycheck and the expectations of a world that forces us to do things we don’t want to do. But in reality we do have a choice. We can choose our attitude and our actions. We can choose how we view our life and work. We can realize that every day is a gift. It’s not about what we have to do. It’s about what we get to do.”
We can sabotage ourselves into a victim mentality, or a “poor me” mindset. Life certainly can be hard, and feel unfair. But if we ruminate on those thoughts and feelings we put ourselves in a place of negativity that will not support us in forward movement or positive relationships. It is easy to find someone or something to blame for our feelings or our behaviors. However, at the end of the day how we think, act and behave is a choice that we make. Having that knowledge, and willingness to take that ownership, can shift our focus from external factors to internal control, and our life can change for the better.
My brother had a cerebral hemorrhage when he was 18. He survived, but was completely paralyzed on the left side of his body. He had to work very hard to regain movement and basic functions. A friend said to him, “It is just not fair that this happened to you.” My brother looked at his friend and said, “Would it have been fair if it happened to someone else?” Life is not “fair,” life can hand us enormous challenges. It is our mindset in approaching those challenges that can be the difference between success and failure, between peace & balance and stress & anxiety.
If my brother had focused on the “fairness” of what happened to him, he could have existed in a very negative place that prevented or slowed his recovery process. He expressed gratitude that he survived, gratitude for having wonderful doctors and therapists to make his survival and recovery possible. In many, even very difficult situations, we have a choice and control on how we will approach it. That choice can often dictate outcomes. Situations and events may be out of our control, but our response to them, the thoughts and approach we choose, are completely in our control.
The human mind is so powerful. All of us can find an external “why” for our negative feelings and an external “why” for our behaviors and actions. However, in doing so, we limit ourselves. We underestimate our ability to intentionally choose our thoughts, our actions, and our behaviors. We cannot control circumstance or other people, but if we choose to, we can control our outlook, our thoughts, our emotions, and our behaviors.
Choosing an attitude of gratitude can be life changing. Take some time each day to write down a few things you are grateful for. If you are struggling to think of something, start small. The simple act of allowing yourself to feel gratitude, to recognize what you have to be thankful for, can build on itself. It can rewire how we approach our day, and our life.
“I am thankful for this day to live my life.”
“I am thankful for this morning cup of coffee.”
“I am thankful for my loved ones in my life.”
“I am thankful that I can choose my own thoughts and begin this day with a positive outlook.”
“I am thankful I have the strength to support those around me.”
“I am thankful that those around me have the strength to support me when I need it.”
This Thanksgiving will most likely look and feel different for many of us. However, let’s not lose sight of the things we have to be grateful for. Now more than ever, we need to choose to focus on thoughts which will help us move forward, rather than the things that could keep us stuck in a place of concern, frustration, or despair. Life can be challenging, but so often, if we choose to be intentional in looking, we can find so many things to be thankful for – not the least of which is our ability to choose our thoughts, to control our emotions, and to own our actions and behaviors. Life is a journey, approaching it with an attitude of gratitude can help us embrace and enjoy it so much more, even when we might be navigating a difficult path. Happy Thanksgiving!