How can someone do ‘being thankful’ wrong?

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a challenge on a friend’s Facebook that talked about naming something for which we are thankful every day for the next 21 days. It was designed to end the Friday before Thanksgiving, the day when everyone decides to be thankful.

I loved the idea and immediately created a Facebook event so that we could spread the word across social media. More than 1,500 people have accepted the challenge and it’s been fun to participate. I tried something similar last year and it was a blessing to develop a sense of thankfulness during what was a somewhat trying time in my life, given that I had just lost my job.

Interesting discovery

IMG_20131108_134450But something hit me last night. I’ve been doing it wrong. OK, so not “wrong.” But I’ve not been using the challenge to create the spirit of thankfulness that I had so richly craved. Sure, I’ve named something each day for which I’m thankful. Some days it has been constants in my life such as veterans, my husband and of course Jesus. Other days my “#21DaysThankful” statement was based on something that happened that day, such as my husband taking care of something for me or a stranger pumping my gas.

But these are all positive parts of life. Not that hard to be thankful for those! So how does that create, instill and further develop a spirit of thankfulness? This hit me when I was feeling grumpy towards my husband. He had eaten the last of the enchiladas I had made the night before, not realizing I had only gotten one of the 10 enchiladas that had been made.

I was grumbling under my breath about it and a thought hit me, although it didn’t feel positive at the time! I thought, “well, at least I have a husband who likes what I cooked enough to eat it all up that quickly!”

That’s when it hit me. What had been a negative thought got turned into a positive and grumbling turned to thankfulness. That is what this entire challenge has been about! A spirit of thankfulness is not about acknowledging all the good stuff we already have going, well at least it’s not all about that. Not for me, anyways. That’s too easy.

Don’t just be thankful, have a spirit of thankfulness

To me, having a spirit of thankfulness is about being thankful for the the easy positives, but also finding something for which I can be grateful in the painful or difficult moments and situations. It doesn’t fix anything, it doesn’t make the negatives go away. But I think it creates an attitude that allows a person to not only handle the negatives better, but to continue that “attitude of gratitude.”

I liken it to training for a marathon, or any contest. If you train at the status quo, you won’t develop or grow in strength and endurance. You have to test yourself, slowly but surely. It’s the same with developing an thankful heart–or any mindset, for that matter.

So from now until the end of the challenge (and I hope beyond), I plan on continuing to be grateful for those positive constants, but also seeking out what I can gain from those less-than-lovely moments.

So, are you up for the challenge? Are you willing to let your heart and mindset be changed?

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