We’ve all heard about how important it is to find things to be grateful for, right? It’s easy to be grateful for kindnesses shown to us from others; finding a parking place close to the door in a full parking lot; a spontaneous hug from your child. But what about being grateful for harder things: a flat tire when you’re in a hurry, or a critical co-worker? Why on earth should we be grateful for that???
Shifting your story about something can make you more peaceful.
When something happens that we don’t like, it’s because we are making up a story about it and pretending that story is true. What we look for (“My boss is SUCH a jerk!”) we will find. We gather evidence to support our stories, and ignore evidence that contradicts our conclusions. But the evidence we ignore is still there and perfectly valid—if we only take the effort to notice it.
Shifting your perspective from anxiety to more peace will involve reframing your story. Instead of greeting your critical co-worker prepared for battle, what if you asked yourself, “What is the gift this person is offering me?”
I was once on a development committee and loved the brainstorming process. It was very positive and I loved hearing about what was possible. However, I dreaded it when one particular woman spoke up in our meetings, because she always pointed out what wouldn’t work. “She is SO negative,” I would think, and I avoided her as much as I could.
One evening after our meeting, she cornered me in the parking lot. “I see how you look at me when I point out pitfalls. But what I’m really doing is helping address possible problems before they arise.” Her comment instantly shifted my story about her, and I saw the gift in what I had previously seen as negativity. We went on to form a friendship, and I enjoyed the meetings a whole lot more.
So the gift in the flat tire when you’re in a hurry could be a gentle reminder to slow down or not overcommit. The gift inside one of life’s losses could be to point out how much you still have. The choice is up to you as to how you look at it.
No matter how you get there, finding something to be grateful for can make you a happier person. And that is a gift worth opening!