“Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.” - Oprah Winfrey
People are always commenting that I am always positive and happy. I will say that it is rare that I am not. To be clear, it is not because my life is filled with rainbows and joy. One of my strengths has always been my ability to focus on the good not the bad, and I have found value in this ability. Being grateful has always helped me shift my perspective from negativity, loss, and heartbreak to the good things in my life and most importantly the future.
GRATITUDE KEEPS THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
Gratitude simply means being thankful. I have a lot to be thankful for – a loving family, wonderful boyfriend, supportive friends, amazing mentors, a great job, my dogs- I could go on and on. I also have a lot of things in my life that I feel are unfair, that frustrate me- things that I am not thankful for. Even just mentally envisioning them, I feel more frustrated and defeated, but when I think about the things I am happy for I feel uplifted. For most of my life, I shifted my focus to the positive unconsciously. I was always a glass half full kind of girl. As I got older and life got harder, I realized that I was consciously telling myself to think about good things. And when I did, I felt more motivated to keep working towards making my life filled with even more good. Being grateful helps me think about what I do have, instead of what I don’t. It helps shift my spirit from defeated to motivated.
BEING GRATEFUL ALLOWS ME TO BE HAPPY
The beautiful thing about being able to focus on the positive is that very little bothers me. I am freed from a lot of the worry I could bring on myself, and I say bring on myself because it is a choice. I choose not to worry about bad things going on because I think about them differently. I went through a really rough time emotionally when I ran out of money for college in New York and moved back home to New Orleans. I must admit I did not appreciate the way things unfolded in that situation for years. But when I finally realized that I was meant to end up back in New Orleans because opportunities were waiting for me here, I promised I would never doubt God’s plan and be ungrateful again. Now, if I feel I am being overlooked or passed over for an opportunity, I know there must be something much bigger in store for me. When I lose someone important to me because we are seeing things differently or they wronged me in some way, I understand that God is removing them from my life for a reason. When I find myself behind on my financial goals, I know that God is telling me work harder or rethink my financial strategizes to be more efficient, which will make me stronger financially in the future. Look at how many major problems I was just able to turn into positives!
GIVE GRATITUDE TIME TO KICK IN
For anyone thinking this whole gratitude deal is not always realistic, you are right. Like I said, in some cases my appreciation for a situation didn’t come until years after it happened. My initial reaction isn’t always gratitude. Sometimes it’s anger, frustration, or disappointment. And I think it’s important to honor those initial emotions. The key for me is not letting those emotions consume me or my actions even if they are justified. How many times do we tell a friend about a situation so that they can validate our emotions? “Oh yeah girl, I’d be mad too.” I seek that validation sometimes to justify being negative and all I am doing is allowing myself to stay in that negative space. It’s important for me to acknowledge that my feelings are valid, but gratitude allows me to move past that to a more productive space. That’s why gratitude is my most powerful weapon. It is empowering to know negative people and circumstances cannot defeat me because I have learned how to move right past them and cherish all the good I have and all that is yet to come.
photo credits: Larry Everage