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9 Things Grateful People Believe

*This post was originally published at the end of 2015. Since this was around the time I decided to create my newly launched gratitude journal, it seemed fitting to share it again today!

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” ~Melody Beattie

My title was a little misleading, at least based on my personal beliefs.

I don’t believe the world fits neatly into some massive yin yang with grateful people on one side and ungrateful people on the other; but rather, we all go through times when we feel high and low degrees of gratitude, and that’s only human nature.

It’s okay to feel angry, despondent, and disappointed. It’s okay to wish things were different—that we were healthier, or happier, or generally less lost in the world.

There’s nothing evolved about ignoring reality or repressing our emotions. But there’s a difference between embracing our feelings and stewing in them.

It might not be possible to be feel grateful all the time, but it is possible to be grateful more often than not.

The opposite was true for me for years, but I’ve shifted my ratio of grateful to ungrateful moments by adopting and reinforcing the following beliefs.

1. Everyone has something to teach or offer me.

That person who cut you off in traffic—she’s likely not a selfish jerk, but rather someone who’s having a stressful day and rushing. Annoying, yes, but thankfully this is an opportunity to practice patience.

That person who broke your heart—he’s likely not a sadistic bastard who took pleasure in your pain, but rather someone who was human and hurting, just like you, and did the best he could. Distressing, yes, but thankfully this taught you a great deal about yourself and what a healthy relationship entails.

This mindset was difficult for me to adopt. For a long time I felt convinced that some people were beyond understanding. And, I thought, like Miley Cyrus, some of them came into my life like a wrecking ball and provided absolutely no value.

I now see that I’ve learned something from every broken heart, broken hope, and broken promise. It’s all helped me become a stronger, wiser, more compassionate person, and the same is true for anyone who chooses to see it that way.

2. There’s something valuable in every challenge.

Just like every person can offer us something valuable, every challenge can contain an opportunity as well.

To be clear, I don’t think we need to see everything as a blessing in disguise. In her book Bright-Sided, author Barbara Ehrenreich shared her resentment for the implication she should see her cancer as a gift. I understand why she felt that way.

This goes back to what I wrote in the beginning—there’s nothing worthwhile about pretending we’re not shocked, saddened, and disappointed by the hardships that come our way. It doesn’t benefit anyone to ignore our natural feelings in the face of trauma and tragedy.

But it is possible to acknowledge that, while some things just plain suck, good things can come from them.

When my grandmother passed away several years back, we all wished we had more time with her. But that began a new tradition for my extended family. Once a week, on the day when my mother previously took my grandmother out to dinner, my aunt, uncle, cousins, parents, and siblings get together for “family night.”

It was a tradition born from tragedy, but one that’s brought everyone closer.

On the other side of loss there’s an opportunity for gain, if we’re willing to seek or create it.

3. Even if I don’t have what I want, I’m fortunate to have what I need.

Very few people have everything they want. True, some may have a lot more than others, but the vast majority of us have hopes that have yet to be fulfilled.

We have dreams and goals and ambitions. We want things and experiences and opportunities. We want to be a little richer, for life to feel a little fuller, and to generally get the sense that we’re moving forward, not backward.

Still, amid all the ups and downs and highs and lows, many of us have everything we need, or at least most of it. We have somewhere to live, food to eat, people to turn to, and the ability to pursue whatever it is we’d like to achieve in life.

Those things are not givens. Many people—and you may be one of them—do not have their basic needs met.

I didn’t always appreciate this, because it didn’t seem to make my challenges any easier. But if I didn’t have those needs met, my challenges would certainly be harder.

4. The “little things” are the big things.

If you keep a gratitude journal, you’ve likely recognized just how many touching, fortunate, or fun little things happen every day.

Recently I’ve listed the following in my gratitude journal:

  • My new adult coloring books, which provide stress-relief and joy
  • Getting to see the Christmas tree lighting at The Grove with my fiancé and an old friend (it happened before Thanksgiving—which annoys some people, I know, but not me!)
  • Realizing the new season of Arrow started, and there were five episodes to watch
  • Taking a hot bath with a mindless (okay, trashy) magazine
  • Getting a cheap but awesome burrito for lunch
  • Anticipating a fun family visit for Thanksgiving
  • The smell of meatballs cooking in my parents’ kitchen

It’s not every day we get a new job, marry the love our life, or bring a child or passion project into the world. Most smiles in life stem from little things, appreciated.

5. I don’t have to have it all or do it all to be happy.

In the US especially, many of us hold the belief that we need to do it all, have it all, and be it all. We can’t miss out. We can’t fall short. We have to keep up, and keep accumulating.

Sure, it’s nice to cross an experience off our life to-do list, and we all love when we’re able to provide ourselves with something that’s caught our eye.

But grateful people realize that happiness comes from accepting and appreciating what is—and knowing that even if we never have or do more, we can live a full and fabulous life.

This doesn’t mean we need to forsake all our goals and desires and grow stagnant. Though I love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, as I wrote previously, I don’t believe we need to sacrifice all our wants and dreams to be good people.

I do believe, however, there’s something to be said for putting in the effort, surrendering to the outcome, and recognizing that whatever happens, life can be beautiful.

6. Everyone’s blessings are different, and that’s okay.

When you’re caught up in that race to do more and be more, it’s all too easy to look around at who seems to be “ahead” and feel resentful. Grateful people realize that life isn’t a competition, and there’s no such thing as “behind.”

We’re all different people; we all have different talents, interests, priorities, and values; and we’re all on our own path.

What’s meaningful to me might not be meaningful to you. What’s valuable to me might not be valuable to you.

You might feel blessed to have four healthy kids. I feel blessed to be getting a fish tank soon. You might feel blessed to have just bought a new home in the country. I feel blessed to live in a vibrant apartment community in a city.

And you may have things I wish I had (I actually wouldn’t mind a healthy kid or two), but there may be things I have that you want. And that’s totally okay.

We’re all fortunate in our own way, for different reasons. All that really matters is that we recognize, focus on, and appreciate our own.

7. Things can, and will, change.

Every now and then, I look deeply at someone I love and remind myself that they won’t always be here. And I won’t be either.

It sounds morbid, I know, and it sometimes chokes me up to think about it. But recognizing that nothing and no one will be around forever makes it so much easier to focus on the good things and appreciate what we have.

And this doesn’t just apply to people. It’s not a given that any of us will do the same job until we retire, or that we’ll make the same salary, or that we’ll have the health we have now to enjoy the same hobbies.

Try as we may to insure things won’t change—with contracts and policies and commitments—things can, and will, change. Nothing nurtures a grateful heart like recognizing this, and acting like it.

8. It could always be worse.

Yes, it’s a cliché, and not something we want to hear when we’re going through a hard time.

I recently found an anonymous quote that reads, “Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else may have it better.”

Knowing that it could be worse does not have to mean denying our feelings. But it does put things in perspective and make it easier to move through them.

After losing both of his legs, my grandfather could have been bitter. Clearly, many people had it “better” than him—they could walk. But he still had his sense of humor, his values, and the people he loved, and that was all he needed.

9. Life itself is a gift.

We live in a world full of teachers—both people and experiences—that enable us to learn, grow, and continually evolve into the people we want to be.

We have many, if not all, of our basic needs met, providing a foundation that allows us to comfortably enjoy life’s abundant simple pleasures.

We may not have it all, or the same things other people have, but we each have countless things, people, and opportunities to appreciate and enjoy.

This moment will never come again, and there’s no guarantee the moments that follow will look anything like this. Knowing this somehow makes the present more precious—even if things aren’t perfect.

And that brings us to this final belief: life itself is a gift.

It isn’t always easy, or happy, but it’s one hell of a ride—and it wouldn’t be without the bumps and turns. At least, that’s what I believe, and because of this, I’m grateful.

What do you believe?

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Nurse emeritus

    Hi Lori, I have been a subscriber for about a year and looked forward to the daily inspiring messages. Until I realized that needing to be inspired somehow meant that I was broken. Kind of like the lady you mentioned with the cancer. I am so tired of trying to be grateful to vicious hateful people who somehow have something to teach me. It is my naïveté and generally caring demeanor that let’s my guard down to people without conscience. And there are people who simply do not care about the mass damage they leave behind. I know you will say that things will change for me and that I need to be grateful and that there is something to be learned, and I would respond with “I have learned not to trust” as I leave nursing where colleagues not only eat their young, but seasoned caring nurses too. There is nothing broken about me, I am experiencing normal healthy coping mechanisms to keep me safe. I have started to not open the tiny Buddha messages as often, because they leave me feeling broken, and I am not broken. Nor is there an invisible gift in being tortured by someone with an anti social disorder. Yes life has changed for me and I struggle with gratitude, and maybe one day I will be happy again. I am sure you can relate on some level and I truly hope to be better one day. Lorelei

  • Sarah

    Hi Lori, Thank YOU for all you do throughout the year to remind us all to be grateful! Wishes to you and yours for a very Happy Thanksgiving! ~ Sarah

  • Diane Lau

    This was such a fabulous message for Thanksgiving, Lori! I concur with every word and this just sums up how I’ve come to feel about life. I’m thankful for you and all you do to help so many people and bring such joy to the world.

  • Diane Lau

    Lorelei, you are right that you’re not broken–and that there are some people in the world, not many, but some, who have no capacity for compassion. All we can do is get away from such people and heal from the damage they cause, which it seems like you are doing. Coming off that sort of abuse is not the best time to feel gratitude–and while I agree that there are always lessons that come from difficulties, there’s no reason to be glad that narcissists exist. I believe one day you will get there, but now is the time to focus most on self-compassion. Take care of yourself and recover. If you need some help with healing from narcissist abuse, I recommend http://www.lucyrising.com. I’m sorry to hear of the pain you’ve been through (I’ve experienced it too) and I understand how you feel. Sending love to you!

  • Thanks so much, Diane! Your kind words mean a lot to me. =)

  • You’re most welcome, Sarah. Happy Thanksgiving! =)

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    Thank you for sharing; Lori didi. Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

  • Lorelei, I’m so sorry to hear about the pain you’ve endured. I can understand why you have trouble trusting, given your experiences. I don’t think you’re broken; I think you’re processing what you’ve been through and healing, and that takes time. Like Diane stated so wonderfully, now is the time for self-compassion and allowing yourself to rebuild your faith in people gradually, as you work through your feelings and recover. You are in my thoughts!

    Love,
    Lori

  • Thanks for the thanksgiving, Lori. So much wisdom there!

    May I add another empowering belief to the excellent list?

    Each of us is a gift to the world, to others. With all our flaws and shortcomings, each of us is a gift.

    When I see a person with impaired sight, I recall my gratitude for Stevie Wonder.

    When I see a person with physical disability, I recall my gratitude for Prof. Hawking.

    When I see a person who can’t hear well, I recall my gratitude for Beethoven.

    What about someone struck down by disability or illness, mental or physical?

    I recall the joy that each of us can still bring to others, just by existing, respecting others and remembering our shared intrinsic dignity.

    There’s a clip online of how even a speechless being afflicted by illness and disability can light up someone’s life. The master derives great meaning and joy from carrying this suffering, aged but beloved dog into the water, so that the dog can get a little comfort and sleep.

    How magnificent each of us is, simply because we’re alive and human! We’re each a powerful source of joy and love for others, even if we sometimes lose sight of that fact.

    Thanks for a wonderful post, and for all your efforts to light up the lives of others.

    Joel

  • You’re most welcome, Joel, and thanks for the kind words!

    What a beautiful belief to add. I love that story! Thanks so much for sharing this. =)

  • Lance

    Beautiful, Thanks Lori 🙂

  • Thanks, Lance, and you’re most welcome. 🙂

  • I have always believed in all 9 principles in one form or another but some have been difficult to implement daily. I try to be mindful and think positive thoughts through out the day.

  • I understand, Tony. I struggle with implementing these things at times as well! But mindfulness can go a long way. 🙂

  • Hello Lori
    Your article brought back many memories that I have of my dark days. I call them dark days because I was one of the most negative people you would have ever had the joy of meeting!

    I, like you, at this stage in my life found nothing to be grateful for. My ratio of ungrateful to grateful was 10 to 0.

    I hit rock bottom several years ago when I experienced a trio of bad happenings that I would not wish on my worst enemy: my mom passed away, I got separated and I did not win a grant to open my physiotherapy clinic, so I was unemployed.

    Death, Separation and Unemployment. All of this happened in less than 14 days. I was devastated. How can you find anything to be grateful for in that mess?

    It did not take me long to start my own gratitude journal. At first I kept repeating what I was grateful for the previous day. Then something switched. I could find more things to be grateful for each day.

    Every second sunday, I look at my journal and reflect on my gratitudes. The list is longer than I would have ever imagined.

    This journal has helped lift me up from the darkness: I appreciate the fact that everyone’s blessings are different; I have healed from that broken heart and now love my own company more than I ever did and I am a stronger, wiser man.

    This change did not happen overnight. But, like you, I made the shift with baby steps.

    Today, I am grateful to you for sharing this wonderful article with all of us.

  • I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and all the hardship you’ve endured – but inspired by how you’ve healed and grown stronger! You’re most welcome, and thanks so much for sharing your story here. =)

  • Quoc Huynh

    Being grateful is to project ourselves into a simplicity mindset.

  • Thank you Lori. I’m amazed at what you’ve built. Have you ever written a post on how you did it all?

  • You’re most welcome! I haven’t actually. Perhaps I will at some point. =)

  • Beautifully written. Love reading this post, especially on days when I feel like I have nothing to be grateful for!

  • Thanks so much, Syaf! I’m glad you enjoyed it. =)

  • I always count my blessings, and FEEL the gratitude for all my blessings.

    Posts like these help re-iterate the important of gratitude, so thank you!

  • Nitebug

    This article is my life. I always remind myself how my life could be worse. As much as I try to do better but fall short, no longer beat myself up for it.

  • Patmay1122

    I love summer! It’s warm and as a young mother it meant I would be home and my children would be home with me. It was a beautiful bonding time. Baseball, picnics, swimming. We were all together. Now I still work in education and am home in the summer, but now I have my grandchildren to look fwd to spending time and making new memories. I am ever so grateful for these blessings!

  • Patmay1122

    I love the gratitude journal for myself and my granddaughter. I’m teaching her how to be grateful everyday!
    Thanks for your work and your sharing with us all!

  • Susan forma

    Hi. My favorite season has always been fall. I love the feeling in the air when the weather starts to become a bit cooler, the smell of the leaves and of course their brilliant color. I grew up in Philly but have lived in FL for 17 years. Although I can feel a slight change in weather around that time down here, I always make an annual trip to CO to experience the colors of fall.
    I’d love to win your journal!! Pick me!!!

  • H Pedrini

    My favorite season is summer – the fresh air, being on my bike as much as I can, the scents, the lake, the sense of lightness – only some of the reasons

  • Natalie

    This is so incredibly beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Its crazy how life can be so busy we forget to look at and appreciate the little things. Thank you so much for this article

  • Great post, Lori!

    I find that being/feeling grateful is similar to being mindful. It’s an internal choice to feel grateful. Additionally, it’s also a skill. It takes practice to remind yourself what you’re truly grateful for. Some days it’s harder than others, and some situations are not conducive to feeling grateful. But you must persist and make the choice to think positive, grateful thoughts!

  • Thanks Kevin! I couldn’t agree more. It takes practice to see the world through a different lens, and it’s easier at times than others. At least, that’s been my experience.

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