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.) 🙂
Kim Hanes says
A wonderful post with an excerpt from my new favorite summer read. I will honestly be referencing 1000 little things all summer long. One page at a time. It’s such great tool for getting your mindset on a good path. So many helpful thoughts, ideas, tricks and quotes that are useful for everyday life. This world is broken, and life can get tough. We all need help to stay positive and persevere through the tough times. THANK YOU!
Gail B says
I love the first book, but am anxious to get the new one which I just ordered through Amazon just now!
Gail B says
Just received my Amazon order#:
Dear Marc and Angel?
Thank You For sharing the wonderful
guidance on How to embrace the Grateful things in daily life!
Lovely post. And I recognized the extended quotes for your book too. I’m enjoying reading it right now! I liked your last book too, but I really like that 1000 Little Things categorized by topic and it only takes moments to flip through and read “little things” that leave an impact and get me thinking. Bravo!
Book ordered. I replied to the most recent email you sent and emailed you my Amazon receipt info. Thank you.
Jan Walther says
Amazon order 114-4050302-2480245. Thanks for a great start to my day!
Monique Evans says
I’ve always believed in the power of gratitude and this post was a delightful reinforcement. I am deeply touched and inspired by your stories of triumph over advertisty. I look forward to reading the book. Thank you!
Jennifer Fulks says
Hello, I just ordered your book on Amazon, 113-3541230-0300265, I look forward to reading it!
Moving through change kicking and screaming. Your daily inspiration is my go to..looking forward to reading your book and maybe learning to calm myself. Thank you?
ellie odom says
111-4229587-7948258 Amazon order number !
Thank you so much for helping America develop and maintain a happy and thankful mindset!
Dupinder Johl says
Thank you for shopping with us. You ordered “1000+ Little Things Happy…” . We’ll send a confirmation when your item ships.
M Lee says
This is an excellent article. This is probably the best one I have read yet, I ordered the book!! Thank you. Your articles have kept me going, I think the book is a necessity now. Many thanks.
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Hi there! I just ordered mine on Amazon: Order Number: 112-9587579-0465049
Sharon Berenfeld says
Amazon. Order Number: 113-3717929-2964267
Hi. Ordered the book and I’m ready to start reading. I’ve been following on Facebook and want to say thank you for the wisdom you share. Super helpful as I find my way through a difficult time of life.
Patti Harper says
Amazon Prime Order # 111-3737669-4601021 Just place order for “1000 Things. . .” and can’t wait for my bonuses
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I’m really looking forward to start reading this book! I read your emails and tweets daily. Thank you for providing me with reminders to ground myself and take a minute each day to appreciate the experiences I am being allowed to have.
Just received the book, looking forward to reading it and making changes for the better!
Amazon.ca Shipping Confirmation
Maria Sodari says
Books x 2 ordered… receipt number
Looking forward to new proven techniques to make every day a new beginning towards lasting happiness! Thank you M & A for bringing this to us!
Thanks for writing this!
I think that it’s normal to struggle with being grateful when we experience negative situations because our immediate reaction to any event is to be fixated on what’s happening in front of us.
Personally, it takes a good mental slap to snap me out of a negative state of mind and practicing gratitude is perfect for that!
114-7827955-8113043 That’s my Amazon order number. After reading daughter detox I am now on the road to recovery. I have been following your blog for an year now. Very impressive. Thank you for sharing so much for free with the world. Your a true inspiration. God bless.
Scott Stewart says
Great article. I look forward to reading the book.
I am discovering that there is an intimate relationship between gratitude and humility. Humility is not only a prerequisite to gratitude; genuine gratitude is a clear sign that the person has any humility whatsoever. And here’s my reasoning.
Typically, when an individual is ungrateful, it is due to have the attitude that they aren’t getting something they actually should have. Almost all of us, myself being one of the most egregious of this, has an underlying attitude that says, “I deserve this,” or “I earned that” and “I’m not getting what I deserve,” “I haven’t got what I have worked hard for,” or even, “Everyone else seems to be able to so why can’t I?”
Unfortunately, we can all point to a time when we didn’t get what we really should have. Maybe we were passed over fro the promotion and we were the best qualified and worked the hardest to achieve it. But it is only in arrogance, and I’m speaking primarily of myself now, that a person would look past all of the blessings they already enjoy only to be soured by something they have determined is best when others don’t. The grateful person just doesn’t do this.
The grateful person sees everything they have, or even don’t have, as a gift – something freely given that has value far beyond anything they deserve. Just to wake in the morning next to a loved one, or take in a deep breath or sit in the sunshine on a chilly morning with a fresh cup of coffee. These are special. And, yes, they may have worked hard to afford certain “gifts.” But even the ability to have work, to have the talent, the capacity, to do something that achieves anything…is a gift.
But, like gratitude, humility is elusive. At the exact moment you realize you have it, is the exact moment you prove you don’t. Developing humility I have found to be impossible. However, I am learning to learn to accept the fact that I don’t always know what is best for me; I don’t have all the answers; I don’t control the universe…nor should I.
Life turns out better for me when I get out of the results, do the next right thing, and let God stay in control. And during those times when I am actually walking in the realization that I don’t have to get my way or be in control are those days I am most grateful for even life’s toughest and most painful lessons, let alone the life I have been given.
When things go wrong, or when you are most stressed out, the best thing you can do is look for things to be grateful about. It’s also extremely hard to have a level-headed attitude when you’re in the heat of the moment. As Daniel Kahneman says, “the most effortful forms of slow thinking (logic) are those that require you to think fast (impulsive).” What I’d like to suggest, besides gratefulness as a means to deal with stress, is a whole arsenal of tools: meditation/witnessing of events without partaking emotionally, a schedule to commit to no matter what, and turning to a strong net support or reaching out to avoid isolation.
Just purchased the new book today through Angus & Robertson!
Love the new book “1,000 little things”….. great read and great chapters! Highly recommend for yourself or give as a graduation gift.
You always inspire me…Thank you for making these blog because of you this helped my depression thankyou Redagas?
Also, practicing Stoicism helps!