If you’re always grateful for the little things, it’s hard to avoid happiness. It’s a lack of gratitude that often keeps us feeling down.
In the NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently, Angel and I ask readers this question in the first chapter:
How often do you let go of what you think your life is supposed to look like, and sincerely appreciate it for everything it is?
If you’re anything like the rest of us, it’s probably not often enough.
Because finding sincere gratitude is much easier said than done in the hustle of life, especially when hard times hit. The truth is, most of the time we create tragedy in our lives out of fairly minor incidents. Something doesn’t go exactly as planned, but rather than learn from the experience, we freak out about it and let stress become us. Or we resist the small bits of progress we’ve made because we can’t achieve exactly what we want all at once.
Here’s an excerpt from 1,000 Little Things with some proven ways to find sincere gratitude when everything seems to be going wrong. Of course, we’re not suggesting we should rejoice at living through disappointing or painful life experiences. But there are ways we can find gratitude as we grow through them, nonetheless…
1. Be grateful around difficult people.
We expect people to treat us kindly, fairly, and respectfully. But the reality is some people won’t. They will lose their tempers or act foolishly, regardless of how we treat them. This must be accepted.
Don’t lower your standards, but do remind yourself that removing your expectations of others—especially those who are being difficult—is the best way to avoid being disappointed by them.
When you’re forced to deal with a difficult person, you can be grateful for having other people in your life who are far less difficult. You can be grateful for having a way to practice being better at patience, communication, and tempering your expectations. You can think of this person as a teacher who is inadvertently helping you to grow stronger as a person. And, at the very least, you can be grateful for them because they serve as a great reminder of how not to be.
2. Be grateful when you catch yourself starting to complain.
Many of us have developed a subtle habit of complaining when things don’t go quite our way. Gratitude is the antidote. Each time you notice yourself feeling bitter, or complaining, notice the story in your mind about “how life should be.” Instead of letting this story dominate you, find a small way to be grateful instead. What could you feel grateful for right now? What could you appreciate about this moment?
Remember, there’s always something to be negative about—and something to be grateful for. The choice is ours.
3. Be grateful when you begin to feel overwhelmed.
Have you ever noticed how the more familiar you become with an amazing situation or relationship in your life, the more you seem to take it for granted—and even feel annoyed or overwhelmed in busy and stressful times? Challenge yourself to flip your perspective in these moments, using a simple reframing tool we call “. . . and I love it!”
Add this phrase to any overwhelming thought:
- I need to go grocery shopping, and pay the bills, and pick the kids up from school in an hour . . . and I love it!
- My inbox is filled with two dozen client e?mails that need a response today . . . and I love it!
Let this little reframing tool give you the perspective you need. Because, again, the everyday things that overwhelm us are often blessings in disguise.
OK, now for some harder stuff . . .
4. Find gratitude after job loss.
No one wins at chess by only moving forward; sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. And that’s a good metaphor for your life’s work too.
As painful as losing your job is, it’s an ending that leads to the beginning of everything that comes next. Let the heaviness of being successful be replaced by the lightness of starting over. This new beginning is the start of a different story, the opportunity to refresh your life, to reinvent who you are.
Remind yourself, as often as necessary, that you can find gratitude for where you are. You can find gratitude for these moments of reinvention—for pushing into the discomfort of getting good at interviewing, learning new skills, and leveling up. You can find gratitude for the opportunity to grow stronger, even in the midst of the growing pains that ultimately get you there.
5. Find gratitude amid health problems.
A couple of years ago, on the second-to-last day of her life, a close friend of ours shared that her only regret was that she didn’t appreciate every year with the same passion and purpose that she had in the last two years of her life, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “I’ve accomplished so much recently, and truly appreciated every step,” she said. “If I had only known, I would have started sooner.”
Her words made us cry and smile at the same time. What was truly miraculous was seeing the genuine gratitude in her eyes at that moment. And her sentiment has always remained with us. So, while health problems are never fun, the pain can be mediated by a sense of gratitude for having a chance to move forward on our own terms. Of having a life worth living, from moment to precious moment.
6. Find gratitude when someone you love dies.
As we know firsthand, when you lose someone you can’t imagine living without, your heart breaks wide open. And the bad news is you never completely get over the loss—you will never forget them. However, we have the ability to push through the experience, and even find meaning in it.
Ultimately, we grew to appreciate that although death is an ending, it is also a necessary part of living. Limits illuminate beauty, and death is the ultimate limit—a reminder that we need to celebrate this beautiful person, and appreciate this beautiful thing called life. Although deeply sad, this passing forces us to gradually reinvent our lives, and in this reinvention is an opportunity to experience beauty in new, unseen ways and places. And finally, death is an opportunity to celebrate a person’s life, and to be grateful for the beauty they showed us.
Life’s disappointments and struggles are not easy to find gratitude for, but they can become incredible paths of growth if we find the lessons in them—if we start to see everything as our teacher. Truly, the best time to focus on being grateful is when you don’t feel like it. Because that’s when doing so can make the biggest difference.
Our Story of Loss (And What Saved Us)
To reinforce the six points above, let me give you a little background on how Angel and I learned them…
A decade ago, in a relatively short time frame, we faced several significant, unexpected losses and life changes, back-to-back: Losing a sibling to suicide. Losing our best friend to cardiac arrest. Financial uncertainty following a breadwinning-job loss. Breaking ties with a loved one who repeatedly betrayed us. Family business failure.
Those experiences were brutal. And enduring them in quick succession knocked us down and off course for a period of time. For example, when Angel’s brother died, facing this reality while supporting her grieving family was incredibly painful at times. There were moments when we shut out the world and avoided our loved ones who were grieving alongside us. We didn’t want to deal with the pain, so we coped by running away, by finding ways to numb ourselves with alcohol and unhealthy distractions. And consequently, we grew physically ill while the pain continued to fester inside us.
We felt terrible for far too long. And getting to the right state of mind—one that actually allowed us to physically and emotionally move forward again— required diligent practice. We had to learn to consciously free our minds, so that we could think straight and open ourselves to the present opportunities in front of us.
We learned that when you face struggles with an attitude of openness—open to the painful feelings and emotions you have—it’s not comfortable, but you can step forward. Openness means you admit that you don’t really know what the next step will be like, and you’d like to understand the whole truth of the matter. It’s being fully present and sincerely grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow.
One Little Step at a Time
The simplest way to initiate a more present and grateful mindset? Little daily reminders.
It’s all about keeping the right thoughts at the top of your mind, so they’re readily available when you need them most. For us, especially when we were in the thick of things, that meant sitting down quietly with ourselves every morning and evening and reflecting on precisely what we needed to remember. We used short written reminders, which we’ve collected in the NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently, to do just that. Sometimes we’d call them mantras, or affirmations, or prayers, or convictions. These daily reminders kept us motivated and on track by helping us stay grounded, with peaceful, productive thoughts at the top of our minds, even when life got utterly chaotic.
And we’ve witnessed the power of this practice unfold time and again in other people’s lives too—through our blog, workshops, and an earlier version of this book as well. We’ve heard powerful stories of readers facing serious health challenges and other potentially catastrophic issues. Their experiences are a reminder that even when harsh circumstances threaten to bring us down to the lowest of lows, we can keep our minds focused on the positive and our hearts open, and continue to put one foot in front of the other, to recover the pieces, rebuild, and fight back with more strength and determination than we ever imagined possible.
So, if you’re currently struggling, hang in there. Sometimes the best thing that can happen to us in the long run is not getting exactly what we want right now. Make today the beginning of a new chance. Take time to be present and grateful. Take time to eliminate the old expectations getting in your way. Take time to love, laugh, cry, learn, and work for what you need right now. We hope the simple reminders in 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently will help you find genuine peace and progress, no matter what you’re facing. Digest a few pages at a time, mull over the ideas that move you, and gradually turn them into positive rituals in your life.
Honestly, that’s why Angel and I are publishing a brand new and updated volume of 1,000 Little Things, to be that daily reminder for anyone who’s struggling to change their situation for the better. It’s a compendium filled with our best advice on overcoming setbacks, letting go of what is holding us back, nurturing relationships, finding time for self-care and cultivating passion in order to achieve our important goals.
Check out the official book trailer here:
And note that when you order the new book today you also get $25 in bonuses for free. So, order now and then just reply to this post in the comments section below, and paste your Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. order/receipt number. Angel or I will personally email you within 24 hours with instructions for getting your free bonus. (We’ll keep your reply private too, if you ask us to.) 🙂