Be Grateful for Your Setbacks and Challenges

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on  Unsplash

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash

This is the week that the United States celebrates the Thanksgiving, and, in fact, this blog is being posted on the exact day this year. Although to many Thanksgiving is a great occasion to take some time off from work and enjoy some good food with family and friends, it also provides a great opportunity to reflect on and give thanks for the many blessings we have in our lives. Even more than that, it is an invitation to examine our lives and try and appreciate the things that we take for granted, and to cultivate gratitude not only for what we consider the good, but also for things that we have complaints about and may be dissatisfied with.

I certainly have much more than my fair share of blessings to be thankful for. I often want to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming! But then again, if I am, I wouldn’t want to wake myself up! I have been blessed with: a magnificent, wise, and virtuous wife for over 36 years, two wonderful children who have grown up to be excellent human beings that I learn from and I am inspired by constantly, a thriving practice that not only serves the purpose of making a living but helps me live my life in service of others, my physical health and a sound mind (most of the time!), and too many other blessings to list here.

I have found that giving thanks for those things that are right in my life has given me the strength to deal with the adversities and setbacks that have cropped up along the way. But there is another little secret that I have come to realize as I have gotten older, and that is that the greatest gifts I have been given, ones that have made so many other blessings available to me, are the gifts of resilience, growth, and development. Moreover, what is clear to me is that these fundamental gifts have only been made possible by overcoming the setbacks and challenges that I have faced along the way.

The doors to the greatest opportunities were made available to me when some other door closed. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, “Not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” That has indeed been the case for me on my journey. My self-awareness was deepened when I realized that I had to deal with pain that could not be blamed on anyone other than myself. It required me to look inside to see how I had created these negative consequences, how I could cope with them, and what I could learn to avoid them in the future. My confidence and self-worth were reinforced when I faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, at work and in life, that I proved to myself that I was able to overcome. My resolve to do a great job was strengthened when I learned that, in one case, my bosses had already drafted the paperwork to fire me, even as I was giving all that I had to lead a turnaround (which eventually became a huge success story). My book, which has now been shipped to close to 30 countries, took shape over the course of painful personal and professional growth that I was destined to experience during the hardest time of my career.

I could go on and on about how the adversities in my life have served me since I left my home country of Iran at the age 16. The trials and tribulations and the ensuing victories I have experienced along the way would shock and amaze a good number of people. (I detailed a scant few of these in my Independence Day video from a few years back, but it may be time for a sequel). The bottom line is, without these hardships, and the opportunity for growth they gifted me, I would never have become the person I am today, my firm would never enjoy the success it does today, and tens of thousands of people would never have had their lives touched by the transformative message that we aspire to convey.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good things that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I reflect on my life, I am clear that nothing “bad” has ever happened to me. In fact, everything that seemed like a bad thing at the moment, in due time has produced a harvest of plenty. As I like to say, stories that have a happy ending usually don’t feel like it along the way! I admit that at the time I was experiencing the setbacks, challenges, and unfair treatment, the last thing on my mind was to give thanks for those “bad” things happening! But looking back, as an older and perhaps wiser version of myself, I have come to realize that while my immediate and automatic response to setbacks still is and will probably always be one of, “Why is this happening to me?,” there is a reassuring voice in the back of my mind, whispering, “Your next breakthrough must be around the corner!”

All of our setbacks are challenges to grow, to become stronger than we once were. If you live a life of comfort, free of troubles, then watch out, because things will eventually go downhill quick. To paraphrase Jean-Paul Richter, “The virtues and one’s character, like the body, become strong more by labor than by nourishment.” But if you have challenges and setbacks to overcome, be thankful, because you have been given the opportunity to become better because of them. If you have stumbled or fallen on your journey, remember that the path of excellence is only traveled by those unconquerable souls “marred by dust and sweat and blood,” whose grit refuses to allow them to admit defeat no matter how dire the situation seems. And if you find that your best hasn’t been good enough thus far, then be even more grateful, because your best not being good enough is the only way your best becomes better.

I’d urge you to reflect on how your setbacks have served you and next time you have the inclination to express thanks for all the “good” things in your life, take the time to also be grateful for the seemingly “bad” things in your life. Set your intentions on turning “every test into a testimony and your mess into a message,” and be grateful that your challenges provide you with the priceless invitation to grow.

I’d also like to express my profound gratitude for you and all of my readers, listeners, and clients for supporting The Ghannad Group through your interest and engagement throughout the year. We would not be here without you, so thank you!

About the Author: Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results. Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.

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As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!

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