This is a blog on personal leadership and generally its tone is positive, optimistic, and growth oriented. So a title of “Things can always get worse…” may seem a bit on the down side. But there is a method to my madness.
Just as you sometimes have to back up to get on the right track, sometimes it takes a little “stinking thinking” to appreciate the blessings in your life.
I was on a hike recently with family and friends in the mountains of North Carolina when we were caught in a downpour. Hoping it would pass quickly (the forecast was for only 20% chance of precipitation), we huddled under a plastic tarp and waited quasi-patiently. Mother Nature was not in a sunny mood, however, and before long it was clear that we would have to hike out in the chilly rain. I started to play the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” game in my head, a sure choice of mental lose-lose.
I quickly caught myself and started to play another mental exercise, the “things could be worse” game. Someone could have slipped and twisted an ankle on the slippery rocks or, worse yet, break a leg and have to be ported out. I could lose my keys to the rental car and we would be stranded miles from help. Heck, we could be refugees like those I saw on the news last night——homes devastated, loved ones missing, evacuating on foot to a dark and uncertain future. I had a hot bath and a clean change of clothes awaiting me within the hour. What was I upset and worried about?
You now see how the “things can always get worse” mental game can quickly evolve into the much more uplifting “count your blessings” mental exercise. Whatever mental tricks we choose to play on ourselves to make it happen, it is always a mood lifter to focus on our blessings rather than our troubles.
Thoughts held in mind tend to attract in kind, and what we focus on tends to expand. When we focus on what we have to be thankful for, we tend to be happier and more cheerful, and like attracts like. You tend to grow in the direction of your dominant thought patterns.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and you will have even more things to be grateful for. It is best to get there by directly counting your blessings. But if taking a detour through “things can always get worse” gets you there, then be my guest!
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – President John F. Kennedy
“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” – William James
“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of Thanksgiving.” – H. U. Westermayer