Updated: May 6
I trust you found many things to be grateful for last week! I certainly did - and it was easy because there was an abundance of love and vittles! But what happens when life gets really hard? Tough times present the biggest challenge when it comes to sustaining a grateful orientation to life. It's where the rubber meets the road. When my wonderful mother was alive, she had what I called a "fair weather faith," meaning that she was high on life as long as it was going her way - or what she perceived as "her way." However, when things took a turn for the worse, she didn't have the resilience to view those hurdles as gifts as well. Instead, she felt abandoned and alone, and her faith quickly dissolved... at least until the tide changed and things started improving enough to regain her high again. I felt so sorry for her as I observed repeated rounds of this unhappy roller coaster. I decided that I wanted my faith to be more robust - I wanted to attempt to accept everything that happened to me as an opportunity to stretch and grow. Does that mean that my life has been a piece of cake? No way. But I developed a process along the way that's helped me to navigate the difficulties more quickly and completely, and who knows - they may work for you, too.
Step One is to not resist the reality that's occurring. Feel it - fully. Painful emotions need to be allowed, rather than bottled up where they can wreak havoc later. It's a natural initial response to try to escape or to rewrite the story into something more palatable, but in the long run, it's best just to face it squarely and move into acceptance as soon as possible.
Step Two is to live by this simple, yet powerful idea: Life is not happening to you. It's happening for you.
I'll even take it a step further and say that Life is happening through you. With this in mind, there's an opportunity to ask: what is the gift for me that's trying to play out in this situation, and how may I grow from it? Of course, it may not be apparent right away but, in my experience, the answer always reveals itself ultimately, as long as I remain open-minded and aware. Even though it's oh-so-tempting to slide back into a victimized mindset, with a little spiritual muscle and remembering that we came here to evolve, we can learn to retain the concept that Life is working its way through us on our behalf. This shifts us into a much more powerful position. Step Three I found that the quickest way to transform my inner narrative was to begin with gratitude, even in the worst of circumstances. In virtually every account that I hear from coaching clients, there's always at least one blessing, no matter how tragic the story is. Sometimes the blessing is simply that they're still alive to tell the tale. Focusing on the gifts rather than the losses trains the mind to be more habitually grateful and, as brain science tells us, actually reduces feelings of stress while improving moods. Did you know that these positive responses are accentuated when the gratitude is written down and/or spoken aloud? Suddenly a gratitude journal makes a lot of sense! And the downstream bonus is, the acknowledgement of all the little gifts can draw to us bigger ones: "Where focus goes, energy flows." Best of all, making a daily practice of Gratitude brings the magic back into Life, as expressed so beautifully this poignant video (with music created by my friend, Gary Malkin).
I hope you've enjoyed and become enriched by our month dedicated to Gratitude. As always, I'm grateful for your presence in my life! Have a beautiful week as we enter December...
Infinite blessings, Hope