“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” ~ Anne Frank
Life never seems to have a shortage of challenges to throw at us. This past week, two people I care very deeply about – one a current employee and one a former employee – have faced major set-backs in their lives. The current employee just lost her husband to cancer. This is the kind of challenging situation that pretty much everyone has to face at some point in their lives, but very few seem able to emotionally prepare for. The loss of a loved one changes everything and can be devastating if you allow yourself to live in the past. The former employee, over the past few years, has watched their life spiral out of control and is now on the verge of being homeless.
I have no doubt whatsoever, both of these dear friends will bounce back and overcome the challenges they face in their lives. The variable in each situation is “attitude”. Attitude is the most important ingredient in the remedy for overcoming adversity in life. I can think of no greater example of this concept than the example seen in the life of Anne Frank. Up until the day she and her family were captured and murdered by the Nazis, she chose happiness. She chose to see the beauty in her life rather than dwell on the dire situation she was immersed in – hiding in an attic and depending on the generosity of others for her own existence.
Keeping such a positive attitude under challenging conditions is very difficult, but it can certainly be done. I’ve found one of the best ways to maintain a positive outlook is through a “Thanks Journal”. When facing the difficulties of life, putting down on paper a few thoughts each day of the things you are thankful for makes a huge difference in how you view challenges. We know that “what you focus on expands” and in difficult times it’s very easy to let those challenges consume your attitude and turn into a “woe is me” philosophy. This kind of self-induced pity-party will get you nowhere.
By journaling the things you are thankful for on a daily basis, you not only take the focus away from the negative, but you open your mind up to be constantly on the lookout for things you should be thankful for. This same principle can be applied to just about any difficult situation; the loss of a loved one, the loss of income, even a difficult personal relationship. The quickest way to improve a personal relationship is to focus on, each day, the things you are thankful for about your spouse or significant other.
Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, one must admit the Bible is guidebook that is filled with wisdom for life. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 the Bible tells us “in everything give thanks”. In doing so, you will still face challenges in life, but with the right attitude, those mountains become mole hills and much more easily dealt with. When those challenges occur, you will find great solace in the pages of your journal as you read back over the many things you have to be thankful for. What are the first five things that need to be recorded today in your “Thanks Journal”?