Next week is Thanksgiving in the US, a holiday that is celebrated in other countries at different times of the year. The purpose of this popular holiday is to give thanks for the good in your life.
But what about all the problems you are facing? Don’t they over-shadow the good? This year, 2020, has certainly put suffering and difficult times front and center.
Can you view your challenges as assets rather than liabilities? Something to be grateful for rather than complain?
In TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® framework, the Challenger role is the antidote to the Persecutor role in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). One of the insights that the Challenger role brings forth is to ask ourselves: Given the situation, what is here for me to learn? What is this situation teaching me that I couldn’t see before?
When stuck in the DDT, you may feel Persecuted by the problems that have arisen this year. You may even look for those to criticize or blame for what you don’t like. However, if you take a stand for learning and growth as your outcome, you can still move forward, despite the problems.
Gratitude for both the good and the difficult in your life is a choice and a practice—and it takes time to develop this broader perspective. But if you wait to begin a practice of gratitude only when things are going well, you will always be waiting.
When you are in a state of gratitude, you notice that your mood lifts and you naturally focus on what you like more than the problems you are facing. This energetic shift builds momentum and gives you the energy to take action toward what you care about.
When you see a difficult situation as an opportunity to learn, you become uniquely qualified to support others who are struggling in similar situations. Why? Because you can now compassionately connect with them, knowing that life can be hard sometimes.
Here are three tips to cultivate gratitude, even in the face of Challengers:
- Actively look for the good. When you intentionally look for the good in life you are much more likely to recognize it, even when things go wrong. If you do not choose to actively look for the good, you may not see it when it is right in front of you.
- Write down the good you recognize in a gratitude journal. Research has shown that just a few minutes a day recording what you are grateful for significantly increases a positive mood which seeds creativity and well-being.
- Begin an “appreciation practice” at the start of a business meeting or before a family dinner. Ask each person to share what has worked well since the last conversation. When focused on what is working, more than the challenges, people report the mood becomes more positive and conversations are more productive.
In the process of looking for the good, these grateful moments become like a magnifying glass that enlarges your focus and connects you to the positive feelings that arise when you focus on what you appreciate. You are literally teaching your neurological system what you value, and in the process, you counter-balance your brain’s tendency to worry about your what’s not going well.
There is one other key point to note. You can feel both a positive emotion from being in a state of gratitude and still feel anxiety about the problems you are facing. We are complex human beings that have the capacity to feel both at the same time.
Look back now and remember times you have faced a difficult situation. These moments serve as reminders that you are capable and have what you need to move forward, despite obstacles. That is something to be grateful for!