Give Thanks In Everything

Respond To What Happens Don’t React

Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will – then your life will be serene.


Migrants In Calais


To give thanks in everything sounds like a pious platitude, but it is rather more than that.

So without resorting to fancy word play or appealing to debatable religious or belief based perspectives what exactly does this mean - and more importantly how can we do this and why would we even want to do this anyway?

In The Power of Gratitude we reviewed the many research based benefits of the basic practice of gratitude and we noted that:

"As with mindfulness, gratitude can occur spontaneously but it is not the default position of how our minds function. It requires conscious effort over a period of time to 'reprogramme' your thinking processes and emotional responses to live a life of gratitude."

Based on my own experiences I outlined a number of simple, practical guidelines for developing a regular basic practice of gratitude for giving thanks for all the good things in your life.

However, giving thanks in everything takes gratitude into another dimension.

This is advanced gratitude.




    To give thanks in everything involves a seismic shift in perspective that can appear illogical and at best counter-intuitive, and at worst frankly insane.

    Why? Because "everything" includes all those situations, circumstances and things in your life that you don't want and that are not acceptable to you.








What Does It Mean To Give Thanks In Everything?

My personal start point with this is that:

  • My life is full of things I don't want, that frustrate me, and that I want to change.
  • My default response to all these things is one of considerable resistance.

As I move beyond my knee-jerk default response and into a more considered view I have to decide whether or not there is anything I can do about the things that I don't want.

Inevitably many of these things are out of my control and I can't change them. The recent pandemic is one obvious example.

This is where the advanced level of gratitude takes place.

This is where I have a choice.

I can't change my circumstances but I can choose how I will respond.




    This is about responding to what happens not reacting to it.

    This is not about giving thanks FOR everything that happens, but about giving thanks IN the middle of everything that happens.








How To Give Thanks In Everything - Three Guidelines

I offer you 3 guidelines as to how and why we can learn to give thanks in all circumstances:

  • Amor Fati
  • Agape
  • Acceptance

We need to be very careful in our choice of words and how we frame this.


1. Amor Fati [Love of Fate]


Amor Fati: The Formula for Human Greatness


In The Daily Stoic blogger Ryan Holiday presents the Stoic approach of Amor Fati which translates as a "love of fate".

This is one of the core stoic approaches to life and the basic idea is that we should embrace everything that life throws at us regardless of whether it is something that we do want or something that we don't want.

The stoics encouraged us to not only embrace what life throws at us but to actually love it - hence the phrase "love of fate".

In my view this is one of those ideas that sounds wonderful  and very profound in theory and which in practice is generally applicable. But it is not applicable in all cases.

In my view this teaching has a significant fault line which I will discuss below together with my presentation of an alternative and more expansive meaning.

But firstly let's listen to what others have said about it.

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said of Amor Fati, that it is:

“A blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it.”

The former slave Epictetus said:

“Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy.”

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche defined this:

“That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it"

Blogger Ryan Holiday unpacks this and says that the goal is:

Not: "I’m okay with this."

Not: "I think I feel good about this."

But: "I feel great about it. Because if it happened, then it was meant to happen, and I am glad that it did when it did. I am going to make the best of it."

Bestselling author Robert Greene  has echoed this perspective, by saying that we need to:

“...accept the fact that all events occur for a reason, and that it is within your capacity to see this reason as positive.”

I have great respect for Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene and their work. They have contributed greatly and offered much to our understanding of of the field of personal development. So it is with deep respect I have to say:

"Gentlemen, I fundamentally disagree with you on two points:

  1. There are certain things that happen in life when it would be wrong and totally inappropriate to say that I am glad that happened and I am going to make the best of it.
  2. We can not say that all events happen for a reason and that it is in our capacity to see that reason as positive. Many things happen for which there is no discernible reason. Robert Greene is overlooking the randomness of many things that happen."

One of many examples I can think of is the tragic and unforeseen death of my 28 year old god-daughter a few years ago. She was studying for a doctorate in science and led a full and active life before being struck down with brain cancer, which killed her in 8 short months

I do not think that her parents will ever say that they are glad that it happened and in this context that is a ludicrous and deeply insensitive thing to say.

I also can see no reason for her death. It was, as are so many difficult things that we experience, a random tragedy.

There are many appalling things that happen to us and that frequently are imposed upon us by the actions of others or the random twists of fate.

As a further dramatic example, I do not think that victims of rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence, are ever going to love their fate. The very thought is repugnant.








Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene are not stupid men and I am not accusing them of deliberate insensitivity, but I do think they/we need to be very careful in our choice of words and how we frame what we say with due regard to the impact and consequence of our pronouncements.

Whole truth, partial truth and untruth

As is so often the case in the world of self-help and personal development a partial truth is presented as a whole truth and it can, on occasions, become an untruth.


The Important Distinction Between Ordinary and Extra-ordinary Events

There are a great many unwelcome and unwanted things that can happen to us and fall into the category or "ordinary" insofar that there is nothing special or note-worthy about them other than that they are unwelcome.

In these situations, in my view, it is appropriate and constructive to look for the learnings and meanings in what has happened and to find aspects of these situations to give thanks for.

But there are more occasional events which are not ordinary "run of the mill" set-backs and irritations, these are events that are extra-ordinary and usually life-changing and often tragic - such as the example I shared above.

In these situations the magnitude and scale of these tragic events require a different approach and we can and should by-pass the search for reasons and meanings and, at an appropriate place in the grief cycle, move towards a position of acceptance.







Looking For Meaning

In my view, we have to be very careful how we look for meaning in ordinary and extra-ordinary events.

We should never under-estimate our very human capacity for cognitive distortion and for seeing a meaning that we want to see, or seeing a meaning that supports a cherished belief or faith position.

I am not decrying deeply held beliefs or faith positions, but I am counseling conscious awareness of how you are ascribing meaning.

In my view, a good baseline position is to adopt the existentialist perspective that the meaning of an event or situation is what you choose it to be, taking note that the framing of that meaning needs to be exercised with discernment and care, and aligned with your values and sense of purpose in life.

This is a practical and empowering position to adopt, and one which I support.

Having the grace to accept that I just don't know

But I would also suggest that there will be times when we can not see a meaning, point or purpose to what has happened. That does not necessarily mean there isn't one, it simply means that it is beyond our grasp i.e. we don't know and we don't know what we don't know, nor do we have the wherewithal to determine how we could know.

If this is case then I would recommend the more reflective perspective of humility that says "I don't know" and that has the grace to accept that "I don't know".



    The key takeaway from Amor Fati is choice.

    You do have a choice in how you choose to respond to things you don't want and that you ordinarily would find it very difficult to give thanks for.










2. Agape love


dimensional.me


With deep bows of sincere respect to the Stoics and Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene, in my view we need to be more clear and precise in our terminology.

Specifically, the word translated  as "Love" [of Fate] need to be reframed to arrive at what I perceive to be its intended meaning.

The latin word Amor denotes the Roman god of love and is used in the passionate and romantic sense and equates to the Greek word Eros. For the reasons discussed above this is the wrong word to describe an appropriate response to fate.

In Greek thought there were seven different words for "love", common and well known usages could be "Eros" erotic and sexual love or "Philos" which is filial or brotherly love.

In my view the most appropriate love word is "Agape" which is not an emotion-based word, Agape is not about feelings.

  • Agape love is not an emotional response, it is expressed "come what may".
  • Agape is unconditional, committed and accepting love, it is a dutiful love and it is a universal love, and in all cases is the result of a conscious choice and an act of the will.
  • Agape is a consciously chosen attitude to a person and/or an entity [such as Fate/Emptiness/Life/God/Allah depending on your perspective].




    Agape is a seeing beyond the person or situation that is presenting, and knowing that beyond the limits of human comprehension there is - or could be - a transcendent dimension of consciousness, a holistic dimension, where all of the threads of human experience are gathered up and woven into a far larger tapestry.









    The key takeaway from Agape is commitment.

    Agape is not an emotional response it is a consciously chosen attitude - a commitment - to a response that can find eventual acceptance in difficult and tragic circumstances, and that can find the grace to accept that sometimes "I just don't know" why this happened.










3. Acceptance



Acceptance is the gateway to being able to give thanks in everything.

Acceptance is also a significant part of the answer as to why we want to give thanks in everything.

I want to reprise a few key points here from  The Transformative Power Of Acceptance:

The transforming power of acceptance is that it:

  • Unfuses your thinking mind from your observing mind.
  • Stops you identifying with the torrent of words and thoughts it is constantly spewing out.
  • Unhooks your dependence on a change in outer circumstances before you can make an inner change.
  • Releases your "stuck in waiting" and always looking forward or backwards. 
  • Releases your resistance to what is happening in your life.
  • Brings you peace and calm.
  • Centres you in the present moment, now.


    The key takeaway from Acceptance is the power of the freedom that it gives you.

    Freedom from the tyranny of your thoughts and emotional responses to the events and circumstances of your life.

    Freedom from the attachment to circumstances and outcomes.

    Freedom to align with the flow of the energy of life.








How To Give Thanks In Everything By Being Grateful

I have a lot of respect for the work of blogger Steve Pavlina and I often find that he is very articulate and eloquent in describing spiritual states and experiences in non faith-based, neutral language.

From time to time I do find myself running out of words to describe things that I have experienced without reverting to faith based language or using flowery poetic language.

So let's listen to Steve Pavlina talking about what its like to move from doing grateful to being grateful.

“How wonderful it is to exist!

  • Circumstances are irrelevant because this form of gratitude is a choice that needs no justification.
  • It is a sense of utter fascination with the very notion of existence. You become grateful for the adventure that is life, including all of its twists and turns.
  • This form of gratitude is synonymous with unconditional love because there is no attachment to circumstances or outcomes.
  • Consequently, there is no fear of loss or change.
  • When your feelings of gratitude are conditional upon temporary circumstances like your stuff, your job, and your relationships, your base identity doesn’t change.
  • But when you root your gratitude in something permanent, it becomes a permanent part of you. Instead of saying, “I am grateful for…” you just say, “I am grateful.

When you feel grateful for existence itself, you move from doing grateful to being grateful."









Final Takeaways

To recap, the 3 guidelines to the advanced practice of gratitude and giving thanks in all circumstances are:

  1. Amor Fati - Knowing that you have a choice and you choose how to respond.
  2. Agape - Having a commitment to a response that can find eventual acceptance in all circumstances, and also find the learnings and possible meanings in the ordinary day by day circumstances of unwelcome events
  3. Acceptance - Practicing deep acceptance and experiencing the power of the freedom that it gives you from the tyranny of: your thoughts and emotional responses; the events and circumstances of your life; your attachment to circumstances and outcomes; and the freedom it gives you to align with the flow of life.

As with all the mindfulness based practices that I have shared on this site the execution of giving thanks in all circumstances is very straightforward and simple to do.

The difficulty comes from your innate resistance to doing this and your thinking mind/monkey mind's endless need to over-think this and give you a stream of reasons why you're not ready or you need more information - in fact any excuse just to not do it.

The route to  moving to a state of being grateful is in these 2 simple powerful practices:

  • Deep Acceptance - deal with the pain of your thoughts and emotions via this practice and reach a place of peace and calm quickly [you may also want to undertake some self dialogue]
  • Mindfulness Practice - each day, just focus on this day and then narrow your focus down to this moment. Be at peace and free of your thoughts and emotions the only place you ever can be - now!

My experience with all this is a daily one. There are a number of issues in my life - some of them longstanding - and when I feel the resistance rise within me I immediately move through the deep acceptance process until I am at peace.

When - as frequently happens - I find myself worrying about the future and what might or might not happen and when, I bring myself back to the only reality there is, the present moment.

I have learnt to keep "short accounts" with myself and if something is troubling me to deal with it quickly and get back to a state of peace as fast as possible.

I have also found that it helps to narrow my focus down to today - this one day - and treat it as though it was my last day in this life.

To misquote and adapt the famous biblical saying in Psalm 119 verse 106:

Mindfulness practice is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.






    Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will – then your life will be serene. [Epictetus]







Further Reading On Acceptance:

The Transforming Power Of Acceptance

Teach A Cat To Bark


Further Reading On Gratitude:

The Power Of Gratitude

Ryan Holiday - Gratitude is a Daily Practice

Steve Palina - Gratitude

Being Grateful - What the Buddha Taught About Gratitude








Next Article: Recognising Limbo As A Stage Of Transition

Return from "Give Thanks In Everything" to: Walking The Talk

Contact me





Zen-Tools.Net



English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. Going With The Flow - The Balance Of Being And Doing

    Steer The Boat Each Day Rather Than Plan Ahead Way Into The Future. Going with the flow is about learning to become comfortable with uncertainty, and learning how to exploit the potential hidden withi…

    Read More

  2. 8 Principles For Success

    A Timeless Foundation On Which To Build Your Success. There are Universal laws and processes that work to support us and guarantee that we achieve all our goals. But first we need to know what they ar…

    Read More

  3. The Loving Father

    A Love That Will Not Let You Go. I had a loving father. I knew that I did, but I never felt it. My father was a good man but very damaged and unable to show his feelings. So I grew up knowing in my he…

    Read More

  4. Your Ebenezer Stone Of Help

    How To Stay Connected To Your True Source Of Power. Approximately 2,500 years ago the Israeli town of Kafr Qasim was close to the site of two battles between the ancient Israelis and their neighbours…

    Read More

  5. The Stockdale Paradox

    How To Deal With The Attrition Factor. The Stockdale Paradox is named after the late James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval commander and prisoner of war during the American-Vietna…

    Read More

  6. Embrace Your Fear Of Failure And Uncertainty

    We Celebrate Success And Ignore Failure. Numerous studies have been undertaken on successful people to understand what it was that they did to become so successful, how they did it and when they did i…

    Read More

  7. The Wilderness Years - 3 Keys To An Exit

    How You Got Into The Wilderness Matters Less Than The Lessons To Be Learnt There. The wilderness years can be described as any lengthy time, longer than a year, that is spend aimlessly; without an imm…

    Read More

  8. Boredom – Your Greatest Threat to Results

    We Live In A World That Glorifies The Results And Not The Process. We all know what we should be doing, but the trouble with that is that sooner of later we get bored. The enjoyment fades, the excitem…

    Read More

  9. The Luck Factor - 4 Basic Principles

    You Can Master The Art of Creating Your Own Luck By Mastering 4 Key Principles "The Luck Factor" is the title of a book published 20 years ago based on the research of Professor Richard Wiseman who fo…

    Read More

  10. Your Relationship With Failure Is Critical To Your Success

    Just Because You Have A Spectacular Failure Doesn’t Mean The Game Is Over. The thought that you could fail can really slow you down. But the problem is not the failure, the problem is your relationshi…

    Read More

  11. Lost, Stuck & Going Round In Circles?

    Are You Lost In Transition? To be in an alien North African city, late in the evening, in the dark, completely lost in transition from the main market square back to the obscure location of our Riad…

    Read More

  12. Seeing Is Believing Or Is It?

    Do You Believe What You See Or Do You See What You Believe? Like the characters in "The Matrix" we are fooled by the illusion that what we see is how things really are. Why? Because this is the mind's…

    Read More

  13. What Difference Did You Make?

    What Impact Will You Leave In The Lives Of Others? If you knew you were going to die tonight and you were given a few minutes to reflect before that happened, what would you say was the meaning of yo…

    Read More

  14. Compassion Is Selfish And You Need It

    If You Want Others To Be Happy, Practice Compassion. If You Want To Be Happy, Practice Compassion. Compassion is derived from the Latin words "com pati" meaning to suffer with. It has been defined as…

    Read More

  15. The Placebo Effect - 2 Key Takeaways

    The Power Of Expectation Of An Outcome Regardless Of The Lack Of Any Substance To That Expectation. Traditionally, the placebo effect occurs when false, or dummy, treatments of inert substances [that…

    Read More

  16. The Red Pill

    This Is What Will Happen After You Take It. "This is your last chance," rebel leader Morpheus tells Neo, holding a coloured pill in each hand. “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in y…

    Read More

  17. Transformational Life Hacks

    This Has To Be One Of The Best Ways For Living The Best Life You Can Possibly Live. An online search on life hacks will invariably provide you with multiple links to ways of increasing your productivi…

    Read More

  18. This Too Shall Pass

    The Blessing And The Curse Of Impermanence. There is a story of a king who sought wisdom. Eventually he heard of a man living in a remote part of the kingdom who had a reputation for great wisdom. The…

    Read More

  19. The Stories We Tell Ourselves

    The Stories That We Tell Ourselves Are A Matter Of Choice. The stories we tell ourselves form the backcloth and the tapestry of our lives. These narratives shape and define our sense of self and how a…

    Read More

  20. Who Do You Trust?

    Trust Is A Choice And It Creates Your Reality. Nothing in life is permanent and nothing lasts forever. Every relationship ends in tears. Somebody leaves or somebody dies. This is how things are. This…

    Read More

  21. How Positive Asymmetry Can Transform Your Life

    Finding This Hidden Value Is The Key To A Huge Upside. Most of us spend our lives working to linear rules where there is an equal relationship between effort and result. Work hard you get a result. Wo…

    Read More

  22. 5 Tips For Developing A Growth Mindset

    How To Be There When Preparation Meets Opportunity. The growth mindset holds the core belief that your intelligence and personality is something you can develop and that you can expand and grow. The p…

    Read More

  23. Lost For Words? Experience Truth

    If you can't think of the right thing to say, say nothing. The concepts we employ, the categorizations we apply and the words we choose and use to articulate a direct experience put us in a double bi…

    Read More

  24. Belief - A Terrible Tyrant Or An Empowering Servant

    To Believe Or Not To Believe - That Is The Question. Nothing has inflicted more suffering on humanity than its beliefs and dogmas. The religious and cultural beliefs that sanction and allow or impose…

    Read More

  25. How To Avoid Herd Mentality

    How To Stay Far From The Madding Crowd. Herd mentality describes how we make decisions based on what everyone else is thinking and doing. It is also known as a mob or crowd mentality. We follow the he…

    Read More

  26. Are You Trying To Teach A Cat To Bark?

    We Suffer Every Time We Believe A Thought That Argues With What Is. When your mind is perfectly clear, what is, is what you want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try…

    Read More

  27. The Value Of Slack

    Slack Is The Capacity To Effect Change And The Resource To Deal With The Unexpected. Many organizations are obsessed with efficiency and try to ensure that every resource is fully utilized to its full…

    Read More

  28. 6 Tips To Help You Stop Trying Too Hard

    Less and less do you need to force things, until you arrive at non-action. We are brought up to believe that we get what we want in life as a result of what we do, by the actions that we take, that ha…

    Read More

  29. Your Point Of Focus

    Is It Helping You Or Hindering You? Your point of focus is the central point of your attention. Your point of focus is a binary choice and the result of that choice is critical to your happiness, your…

    Read More

  30. Your Secret For Success

    To accomplish any success in life, you must identify accurately what it is that you hunger for, thirst for and long for. The purpose of this article is to look at the foundation of the secret for succ…

    Read More





The Balanced Life



The Balanced Toolkit



3 Keys Solutions


Get new posts by email:



Support This Site