Donna recently had a coaching session with a CEO who co-owns a small business with her husband. As the session began, the CEO shared an emotional story that had unfolded over the previous month involving employee gossip about her marriage. The situation was affecting her ability to work effectively with two of her employees and had initially made her question her marriage.
Toward the end of the session, Donna asked if there was anything she was grateful for in spite of the pain she was feeling. Without hesitation she said, “Yes, I am grateful that my husband and I have stayed connected through this month and I can now see that our marriage has gotten stronger. Maybe all this mess has been good to help me see how strong our marriage is.” The session ended on an uplifting mood.
Gratitude is not about ignoring life’s troubles and challenges. It’s about seeing the good in spite of the bad, no matter what. The phrase, no matter what, is the key.
Gratitude is both an attitude and a practice. It takes time to commit yourself to the habit of gratitude. If you wait to begin a practice of gratitude until everything is going well in your life or the world, you will always be waiting.
The victim mentality that fuels the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ rarely uses the magic of gratitude. They would rather look at all that is going wrong as evidence to back up their conclusion that they will never have the life they want.
It is impossible to feel negative emotions and the positive feelings of thankfulness at the same time. Gratitude helps us feel good – and it is good for your health. The more we sense and feel good, the more our body pumps endorphins and healthy hormones into our system that help us live a longer and more enjoyable life.
Here’s an insightful experiment. Select a day for this, then in the morning, stop each hour to reflect upon what went wrong and everything you didn’t like. For example, the morning traffic was awful. You got a call from school and your child is out of lunch money. Your boss was in a bad mood. Notice how this makes you feel.
In contrast to the morning, begin the afternoon by stopping and notice each hour everything that went right. The sun came out and the blue sky graced the window. You found a lost high school friend on Facebook. You did a nice job completing an email you were avoiding.
Did you feel more alive in the morning or the afternoon?
Once you feel better, you are able to relax and begin to reframe the situation. The key to pulling yourself forward and stepping into TED* is seeing the situation as it is and still practicing gratitude—no matter what.