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.


Give Thanks In Everything. Respond To What Happens Don’t React. Photo of a refugee camp in Calais, France.

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. Love Your Fate.



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

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 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


Agape Love



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


The transforming power of 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.



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





English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. How To Benefit From the Unseen Margins - 5 Key Tips For Success

    These Unseen Margins Can Have A Very Dramatic Impact On Your Life. To understand how to benefit from the unseen margins we need to start by understanding what they are and where we find them. In this…

    Read More

  2. The Art Of Thinking Clearly - How To Do More Than Just Survive And Reproduce

    3 Key Tips The art of thinking clearly starts with the sobering realisation that our brains are designed to achieve two things: Survival and Reproduction! 98% of our thinking is unconscious, automatic…

    Read More

  3. Algorithms to Live By - 5 Useful Rules Of Thumb

    5 Useful Heuristics From Algorithms To Live By The thesis of the book "Algorithms to Live By" is that algorithms developed for computers can be used by people in everyday life in a wide range of situa…

    Read More

  4. Finding Signal In The Noise - How To Avoid The Noise Bottleneck

    The Art Of Being Wise Is The Art Of Knowing What To Overlook. We are blessed and cursed to live in the digital age. We have access to more information than we can possibly handle yet we struggle to fi…

    Read More

  5. The Checklist Manifesto - Your Personal Safety Net

    A Checklist Is A Safety Net That Encourages Better Results And Prevents Avoidable Mistakes. The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correc…

    Read More

  6. How Not To Be Stupid - 4 Key Tips

    How To Avoid The 7 Causes Of Everyday Stupidity. We are all capable of everyday stupidity as we undertake routine tasks in our business and working lives and also in our personal lives. This is not ab…

    Read More

  7. Beginners Mind And The Voice Of Experience

    Only The Experts Survived Evolution. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." These are the famous words of Shunryu Suzuki in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Min…

    Read More

  8. The Art Of Being Alone Is A Skill

    Let's Make Today A Good Day. You may not have chosen the condition of being alone, and it may have been imposed upon you by circumstances beyond your control, but your response to the situation is wit…

    Read More

  9. Intuition & Anxiety - Are There Angels Or Devils Calling Here?

    How To Tell The Difference Between Intuition and Anxiety. How do you know whether the voice of your intuition is real or just the product of your inner anxiety? We all struggle with these inner voices…

    Read More

  10. Like A Prayer - Life Is A Mystery

    It Isn't The Process Of Prayer That’s The Problem, It’s The Way It’s Framed. Regardless of what we feel about Madonna or her song the topic of prayer often arouses strong reactions. Usually, it is som…

    Read More

  11. Fear Of Missing Out - "I'll Have What She's Having!"

    We Follow The Herd - We Mimic Other People's Choices. Fear of missing out - or FOMO as it is popularly referred to - is the feeling that everyone else in your peer group is having much more fun than y…

    Read More

  12. Free - Self Improvement Resources

    Exercising Balance and Discernment. I have just updated these self improvement resources with a number of additional sources of material that are practical and can help you change your life. Check it…

    Read More

  13. Your Higher Self - Your Hardwired Portal To The Universe

    This Is The You That Is Beyond Your Thinking Mind. This is the big you, the transcendent you, the you that is often referred to as your higher consciousness or higher self. This is the you that acts a…

    Read More

  14. The Power Of Gratitude - It's Good For You!

    Gratitude And Attitude Are Not Challenges, They Are Choices. The power of gratitude quite simply is that it is good for you! Many of us were raised by parents who instilled in us the social niceties o…

    Read More

  15. Living With Your Thoughts - 4 Tools To Help You

    Develop A Good Working Relationship With Your Mind. The first step in living with your thoughts is to understand and develop a good working relationship with all areas of your mind. The key to develop…

    Read More

  16. You Are Not Your Thoughts - How To Escape This Ferris Wheel Of Suffering

    The 4 Stages To Dealing With Your Thoughts. You are not your thoughts, at least that's what your rational mind tells you most of the time, but that's definitely not how it feels at 3 am when you have…

    Read More

  17. Finish What You Start - Action Will Destroy Your Procrastination

    4 Key Tips To Help You Finish What You Start. So why do you fail to finish what you start? Or in my case, why do I fail to even get started? There is a wealth of information out there about how to avo…

    Read More

  18. Going The Extra Mile - The Power Of One More

    Life Is Non-Linear, Which Makes The Rewards Of Continued Effort Disproportionately Big. In the pursuit of a long term goal you have to go countless extra miles to set yourself up for a big success. Go…

    Read More

  19. Tao Te Ching - Connecting To Your True Source Of Power.

    How To Be Lived By The Tao. The Tao Te Ching is one of those books that many people read, few understand, and even fewer put into practice. The only way to know the Tao is to experience it, and it is…

    Read More

  20. Dying To Self & Dropping The Ego

    Everything Does Not Revolve Around Me. The two phrases dying to self & dropping the ego are Christian and Buddhist expressions of the same fundamental truth - the need to correct the inbuilt, hardwire…

    Read More

  21. The Confident Mind - 4 Keys To Peak Performance

    Peak Performance Is Meditation In Motion. Peak performance is grounded in the Tao practise of Wu Wei which means "doing with out doing". This is all about how you take action by being so immersed in p…

    Read More

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. 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

  26. 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

  27. 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

  28. 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

  29. 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

  30. 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



Get new posts by email:









Zen-Tools.Net





Support This Site