Vail Daily column: Finding gratitude in adversity
In last week’s column, we revisited the attitude of gratitude and considered how important it is to be sincerely appreciative for all of our blessings, successes and people in our lives. Showing our appreciation by recognizing and giving thanks for all the people who have impacted our lives was highlighted.
Showing gratitude in times of success or when receiving help is usually easy. We are often riding the wave of achievement, happiness or relief and we get caught up in thanking everyone around us. Many times, you will hear people thanking God, or see people pointing to the sky to recognize God and show their gratitude while giving credit where credit belongs. We see this every week in sports when someone scores a touchdown, hits a home run or sinks a 50-foot putt.
Now what about the title of this column and maybe a harder topic, like finding the attitude of gratitude during times of trouble and adversity. Again, showing gratitude when things are going really well is much easier for most of us than it is to be appreciative and giving thanks when things are not quite going our way.
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Many times, we feel frustrated and we only see the trouble immediately in front of us. And when this happens, our defense mechanisms kick into gear and we have blinders on when it comes to the good that can possibly come from the trouble and adversity we are facing. And when this happens, it can diminish our ability to show appreciation and compromise our attitude of gratitude.
Let me share a quick story with you. When I was a young boy, my father had died. My mom remarried a couple of years later, however that marriage ended in divorce. My mom remarried again and unfortunately, her husband died a couple of years later as well. Looking around at all of my other friends who still had their biological dad in their lives I often found myself angry and resentful. It was a very wrong attitude for sure, but I was young and it just didn’t seem right or fair.
But two things happened along the way. I got to spend so much quality time with my grandfather, who I regarded as the greatest man alive. And although I was unsure of what I was missing by not technically having a dad, I had a grandfather who loved me and was more of a dad than I could have imagined or hoped for. The second thing that happened occurred in my early twenties. I was working as a youth group director and one of the kids coming to youth group seemed troubled and acted like a bit of a loner. After speaking with her, she shared with me that she had lost her father, her mom remarried, got divorced, remarried again and got divorced again. In an instant, I realized that the troubles and adversity that I had faced was simply a way of preparing me for this very moment.
It would have been so easy to say something such as, “I think I know how you feel.” And that may have shown sympathy and concern, but by having the ability to say, “I know exactly how you feel because I lived the same story,” was so very powerful. I still remember the feeling of gratitude and appreciation that I had because I was able to relate and help someone else find their own attitude of gratitude during their time of trouble and adversity.
It’s when, not if
It is not a matter of whether or not challenges and difficult situations find us — it’s really only a matter of when they find us. And it is during these times that if we can look for the good in the mountains of what appears to be the bad piling up around us and maintain our attitude of gratitude, it is there that we will be able to see the opportunities, learning moments, and teaching moments that can bring us back to joy and happiness.
How about you? Is there something in front of you right now that is causing you anxiety, stress, trouble, or grief? If so, I would love to hear all about how you still recognize the good and find the ability to give thanks even in the midst of your challenges at firstname.lastname@example.org. And when we can find gratitude in adversity it really will be a better than good week.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of http://www.candogo.com. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.
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