Grateful for adversity? Really?


I speak so often of gratitude nowadays that some listeners/readers may speculate that perhaps I’ve become a tad obsessed. Well, I probably have. The fact is that I’ve learned a lot since I began concentrating on plusses rather than minuses. 

Insight #1: Compiling a roster of things to be grateful for will nearly always result in a long list. Start with having a roof over your head (however much in need of repair) when countless millions aren’t so fortunate. Next, gather the names of friends and family members whom you can be certain genuinely care about you, as opposed to those unworthy of your attention. Finally, if you have a steady job that pays (most of) your bills on a regular basis, consider the anguish of the homeless and/or unemployed. Those three measurements alone should call for celebration. 

Insight #2: We don’t advance very much when things are going well. We learn far more when things turn lousy. The reason? Bad luck leads to serious introspection. Why did this happen? What was my own role, if any, in creating it? How can I fix that and perhaps even make sure it doesn’t happen again? This kind of intense, often painful reflection makes it impossible to dwell in self-pity. 

Insight #3: Pain and suffering change who we are. Yeah, you say; they make us rightfully bitter! Not necessarily, not when petulance becomes an intensely heavy load. Would I be the person I am today if I’d been born into a life of privilege? I doubt it. I needed to climb out of a morass before I could forge a remarkable path of success coupled with generosity. 

Insight #4: The glass is never half empty unless we wish it to be. We “wish” it by concentrating our energy only on downsides, by looking at whatever we don’t have rather than on what we do. 

If you doubt me on any of this, try a short experiment. Imagine yourself losing your home to a fire, being diagnosed with a deadly disease for which there is no cure or losing a loved one to a horrific accident. Feel the terror––but only for a moment. Don’t feed it with too much energy. 

Now imagine an abrupt rewind, where everything is restored to its present, unscathed condition. No soul-crushing loss, no irreparable damage, no lifelong trauma. How do you feel now? I would imagine very, very, very grateful.



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