That phrase has been in my conscious awareness for at least a decade. And to be frank…I used to think it was total malarkey!
I missed the boat / I stubbed my toe / I misunderstood and she got pissed / I left him and he felt hurt / I didn’t get called back
When things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to, what the heck was there to be grateful for? Attitude of gratitude, you can shove it, thank you very much.
As I became more involved in the world of transformational growth and continued to hear the phrase over and over again, I knew I must have been missing something. I took some time to consider 1) how I’d been applying it to my life, and 2) how I might apply it differently, in order to get different results.
Here’s what I realized…
Having an attitude of gratitude doesn’t work if I’m only slapping it on the surface of my unexamined life like a band-aid.
A true attitude of gratitude starts at the core of my being and my beliefs.
The epiphany was both exciting and also totally overwhelming — how do I even start examining my core beliefs? Instead of getting lost in a pointless think-a-thon, I committed to handling issues as they came up.
When something didn’t go the way I had planned, and I got upset…I’d ask myself questions with the intention of figuring out what exactly I was so pissed/frustrated/sad about. For example:
My husband Eric and I had tickets for a ferry that was traveling from Wellington to Picton (New Zealand). We were running late and arrived at the ferry terminal JUST as the boat was pulling away…it was like a scene from a movie! The super kind women at the ticketing counter booked us onto the next ferry at no charge…and so began our four hour wait.
Three eye-rolls, five exasperated sighs, and two candy bars later…I sat down to delve into my thoughts & feelings, and had an internal conversation.
- What’s the big deal about missing the ferry?
We’re arriving into Picton 4 hours later.
- Ok, so what impact will that have on our trip?
Well, we’ll be there 4 hours later…but we didn’t have any plans.
- And what is the primary intention of this whole trip?
To spend quality time with E.
- Still doing that, right?
Yep, I suppose I am still doing that…
So…what was I really frustrated about? It came down to this:
I had mentally planned to take the earlier ferry, and was therefore having a whirlwind of thoughts regarding what we weren’t going to be able to do, and how missing the ferry was ruining our other (non-existent) plans. I thought there was a “right path” and a “wrong path” in every situation, and whenever something didn’t happen according to my “right-path-plan,” I automatically went into we-are-on-the-wrong-path-freak-out-mode.
After having the “right/wrong path” issue surface many more times, I finally figured out how to shift my core beliefs in order to transform my surface experience. Here’s what I remind myself of now, if that old way of thinking comes up…
I am where I am.
When I choose to meet every moment with openness, excitement, and gratitude,
I will experience my life for the wonder that it is,
instead of restricting my view of it to what I think it “should” be,
and getting upset about it when it doesn’t turn out that way.
By letting go of my expectations and attachments to outcomes, I’ve gotten excited about experiences that I definitely would not have gotten excited about in the past…like the surgery I had on October 6th to remove my right ovary and a baseball sized ovarian mass!
And while we’ll never know what we “missed” by not taking the earlier ferry, I am very grateful to have had the chance to witness this sunset over the water with the love of my life!
Have you ever had a difficult time coming up with something to be grateful for when it seemed like things weren’t going “your way”? What might you do next time to identify the root cause of that discomfort, in order to rise above it in future situations?
Photos courtesy of Nicole Strack