Most of us do whatever we can to avoid stress.
When something “bad” happens, we complain, get upset, and try to avoid it.
But since Suffering = Pain * Resistance, the power of acceptance teaches us that we needn’t suffer unnecessarily. When we experience pain—physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—acceptance is the all-healing salve that removes the suffering from our pain.
But what if you could take things a step further by alchemizing “negative” things into “positive” things?
What if what used to bring you down could build you up?
If you could turn every potential -1 into a +1, with a little bit of time, your life could get a whole lot better.
In this article, I’ll share a simple practice that can help make this happen.
But before we can do that, we have to look at one question:
What’s Your Relationship to Stress?
There are two ways to look at stress:
- Stress hurts me.
- Stress helps me.
When we hold the first mindset, we do whatever it takes to eliminate stress from our lives. Because if stress is like a poison, the sensical thing to do is avoid it.
And then we waste a ridiculous amount of energy trying to structure our lives in a way that eliminates stress.
But here’s the thing…
We can never eliminate stressful feelings from life. That’s a fantasy.
So if we go on believing “stress hurts me,” we’re setting ourselves up to get bent out of shape any time we feel stress.
Which, again, leads us to waste a lot of energy.
But what about that other frame?
“Stress Helps Me”
Stress is demonized in our culture. So this might seem a little crazy at first glance.
“What do you mean stress might help me?”
Well, think of it this way…
The body is amazing at adapting to stressors.
To get stronger, you need to stress your muscles. When you go to the gym and lift weights, your muscle fibers take on stress, tear in small ways, and then adapt to that stress.
The same thing goes for learning. New concepts often feel stressful + confusing. At first, you don’t quite get it. But after persisting through the stress, soon enough, you understand!
As Kelly McGonigal shares in The Upside of Stress,
“The latest science reveals that stress can make you smarter, stronger, and more successful. It helps you learn and grow. It can even inspire courage and compassion.”
Put more simply…
Stress is Your Ticket to Growth🚀
When we go outside our comfort zones, we have the opportunity to grow.
But it all depends on the mindset we have going into it.
- When we believe “stress helps me” then we’ll seek it out. Lean into it. Step forward into our growth!
- But when we believe “stress hurts me” then we’ll avoid that stress. Shy away from it. And step back to safety.
The mindset we hold dictates whether or not we find ways to grow from the stressors of life.
The more I’ve played with this mindset, the more I’ve learned and grown.
- When a prospective client says “no” to a proposal, I seek ways to learn from the experience. Then I get better for the next one.
- When I feel triggered, angry, or upset with another person, I use it as a chance to practice equanimity. And to shine the light of awareness on what caused me to feel that way. Then I can navigate those experiences more skillfully in the future.
- When I get sick or injured, I find how my actions (eating poorly, not sleeping enough, etc.) may have contributed to the situation. I learn about myself and am able to stay healthier moving forward.
Eventually, it led me to a conclusion:
We Can Use Everything to Fuel Our Growth
If you value your growth and self-actualization, then everything you encounter in life is an opportunity to grow.
Especially the difficult, stressful, and challenging experiences.
It’s not easy to approach life with this frame. But it is extremely powerful.
Typically we reserve gratitude for the “good” things in life.
But when you value growth, and you know stressors help you grow, you can be grateful for all the “bad” stuff too.
Which brings us to the practice, and the point of this article.
Radical Gratitude: Use Everything to Fuel Your Growth
When we resist the stress of life, we suffer needlessly at its hands. The “negative” stays “negative.”
When we accept the stress of life, we can eliminate that suffering. The “negative” turns into a “neutral.”
But we can take it a step further.
Radical Gratitude is a mindset that says “THANK YOU!” to everything in life.
Thank you for the pain. Thank you for the things that don’t go my way. Thank you for the hurt.
All of it can help us grow if we choose to find a way to grow from it.
Radical gratitude turns the “negative” into a “positive.”
Put it Into Practice: “Thank You”
“Thank you.” has become my favorite mantra. (Inspired by one of my mentors, Brian Johnson.)
In a workout and it’s getting really difficult? —> “Thank you!”
Had a poor night of sleep? —> “Thank you!”
Something else didn’t go my way? —> “Thank you!”
Broken down a bit further, the practice of Radical Gratitude looks like this:
- Notice when you feel uncomfortable, in pain, or under stress.
- Observe what arises in your body, without judging it.
- Shift your attitude from resistance to gratitude.
- Say “Thank you!” (Out loud, or in your head.)
- Get curious about how you can learn and grow from this situation. There’s always something you can use to feed your growth. It’s just a matter of finding it.
- Integrate that growth and learning so you can move forward as a stronger version of yourself.
That’s the challenge. This week, and every week!
No matter what happens —> “Thank you!”
Give it a try. And let me know how it goes.
Hugs + high-fives,