It is easy to be thankful when we are feeling good about our lives. When our job is going well, our finances are in order, our relationships are easy and comfortable, we don't have a lot of stress, etc.
Naturally then, it's difficult to be thankful when things are are not going well. When we lose our job, we are drowning in debt, we are experiencing stress and anxiety and our relationships are suffering. The overwhelming feeling is defeat, and feeling like a failure. It seems there's not a whole lot to be thankful for.
The major difference between those who are thankful when times are good, and those who are thankful ALL the time, is our perspective on circumstance.
People who are grateful when things are going well rise and fall as a victim to circumstance. This may be difficult to grasp, especially if you hold up the mirror and find that this is you (I had to do this at one point, and still have to remind myself of this regularly).
Too many of us fall into the victim mindset in many areas of life. "If so and so wasn't here I would have gotten that promotion." "If my boss liked me he would give me a raise." "If my husband bought me flowers I would be kind to him." "If my wife had dinner ready for me every day I would buy her flowers."
Do you see the pattern? In each scenario, the person is claiming victim status which says "Someone else got me into this circumstance and someone will have to rescue me out of it."
What a powerless place to be!! That makes you a victim to your circumstance, other people's decisions, and your happiness rises and falls on those things. The newsflash for someone like that is things will NEVER get better.
Now take the person who takes PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY in each of those situations and finds a reason to be grateful instead of falling into the victim role. The victim is jealous of competition, but the one who takes personal responsibility works harder and finds out what areas need improvement to continue growing and work towards the next promotion. The victim only reacts based on what other people do for them (i.e. cooking dinner or buying flowers), the person who takes personal responsibility for their own happiness SERVES others, even when they don't deserve it. Because let's face it, we don't really deserve it, either.
Do you see the difference? The point is that the CIRCUMSTANCE is exactly the same, the difference is a change in perspective about the situation, and the people involved.
So here's the good news (those really stuck in that victim role may consider it bad news).... YOU alone are responsible to be grateful. True gratefulness comes from the heart and is not dependent on things going well. In fact, you are grateful all the time, and when things go well it is just a really wonderful added bonus. Your outlook is different though, and therefore your mood, joy and happiness are not indicators of your circumstance. They are indicators of a grateful heart despite the world around them.
About a year ago I was invited to speak to a about seventy-five employees of local business with the sole purpose of helping them create a better, more supportive place to connect with each other. There was gossip, division, stress, and lack of cohesiveness as there is in many businesses.
I was brought in to share some tools to help the employees build bridges between coworkers and customers that they don't necessarily "like" and help facilitate a more positive atmosphere.
I had them do an exercise where they had to list 3 things they liked about each person at their table. People later told me that it took them far outside of their comfort zone to shift their mind from the things they couldn't stand about those people, to intentionally finding something they appreciated about them. But when they did it, guess what happened? They began to genuinely appreciate that person for certain qualities. It's not that they began to "like" them, or started hanging out with that person. But their perspective changed because they were able to focus on the value that co-worker brings to the table instead of the unfortunate qualities.
Many told me they were amazed that they were even able to find anything positive about them! (Yikes!)
I challenge you to do that. Next time you wake up without zest for life on a Monday, think of what you're GRATEFUL for that day. Or you have to see a certain coworker that you can't stand, force yourself to find 3 things that you appreciate about them. What is it that you really like about your job, those people, your boss, your kids, your husband.... whoever and whatever it is! I Dare you! And then funnel your energy into those things.
If your co-worker is negative and gossipy, but she has a wonderful organizational skill, give her opportunities to use that skill! Ask her for tips on organizing your desk drawers, and how she sorts out her to do list. Empower them by helping them work in their strengths. You will see attitudes change and walls come down.
Same thing goes for your spouse, your kids, your friends. There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for, and yes sometimes it's grasping at straws to find it. But the more in tune you become with LOOKING for things to be thankful for, the more you'll find them.
Thanksgiving is a perfect time to evaluate where you fall in terms of gratefulness. But don't be thankful one day of the year and a victim the rest of the time. Be thankful EVERY day of the year! Most likely, as a result of the shift in your own attitude, your circumstances will improve and give you countless things to be thankful for! :)