It is not that hard to be thankful. Sure things can be tough. Life is hard. But there is always beauty.
Our ability to be thankful is a matter of perspective. A matter of choice. The option is always on the table. Always.
The wonderful thing about Thanksgiving is that we make the choice easier. We almost force it on people. The traditions and the name, for goodness sake. But gratitude is not just available on the days we make it easy on ourselves. It is a mindset, a perspective, available to us always. And if we so choose, the perspective of gratitude can change everything.
When we traveled the world in 2016 on The World Race, we were told about The Thankfulness Game. The Race was an exercise in intense community. We lived, worked, and traveled with the same few people for a year. Plus, there were difficult situations and circumstances, such as long periods without showers and sleeping on the ground.
When we started complaining, someone in the group would shout out, “What are you thankful for?!” and we would have to stop and list three things.
It happened to me once in a downpour in the remote countryside of Cambodia. I was soaked and hungry and we were miles from our home, having missed a bus.
You are probably thinking what I often thought. How lame, right? There is no way that works.
But it did. It actually did.
Sometimes all it takes to change our perspective is to realign our vision. When we are so focused on negativity, staring holes into our bad feelings, of course we aren’t going to see anything else.Participating in the thankful game helped remind us there was another choice. A choice to be thankful. A choice for gratitude.
There are things in your life to be thankful for. No matter how bad it seems. No matter how hurt you are. There is air. There are people. There is opportunity. If we chose it.
How to Choose
The thing that was so valuable about The Thankfulness Game was that it reset the deck. It forced us to reshuffle and think about the things going on.
Sometimes we are talking with a student who is depressed or very hard on themselves. And we ask them to tell us three things they like about themselves. It is often hard for them to do. We are so married to our negative perspectives.
Every moment of life is an intersection. A choice. And we will choose what we most believe to be true. We will choose what we value.
It sounds strange but we make negative choices because we value negativity. We may be believing an untrue narrative or have been the victim of abusive values thrust upon us. Whatever the reason, we choose negativity because we believe it to be true.
Your initial reaction to The Thankfulness Game (like mine) was likely rolling your eyes because we think it is a trick. A manipulation. We don’t think it is real. What we think is that the negativity is what really matters and this kind of activity is just a way to wash over it.
Oh how backwards we have it! The negative narratives are not true. They are the perversions of the beauty of life. We are using them to cover up the goodness of the world. But change is just one choice away.