6 Things Everyone Hates But Should Actually Be Thankful For

by STEVE BLOOM

Things Everyone Hates But Should Be Grateful

Over the years, gratitude has been getting a lot of attention. As well it should. Counting our blessings has been shown in studies to improve health, mood and mental well-being. The benefits seem endless.

Making lists of what you’re thankful for is therapeutic because we can focus on the good and forget about the bad.

But are the bad things we leave off really that bad?

If we made a complete list of reasons to be thankful, it would have to include things people often complain about and actively try to avoid whenever possible.

These are things people would probably rank dead last on reasons to be grateful. But that’s only because people don’t realize that they should be thankful for them to begin with.

The truth is that a lot of good can come out of bad. Despite being the source of anger for so many people, these things can actually be very beneficial.

Things like:

1. Stress

No on likes stress, right? Even the name “stress” itself seems to have a harsh sound to it. And certainly, chronic stress can have negative consequences such as weight gain or depression.

Long periods of intense stress can be harmful, but short bursts of it actually has many amazing benefits.

Brief periods of stress can improve brain function and memory and boost your immune system. Added benefits include increased clarity, a general appreciation for one’s circumstances and better mental toughness.

Moreover the benefits of stress seem to increase based on your mental attitude. If you think it’s all harmful, it will negatively impact your health and well-being. But according to researchers adopting a “stress can be good” mindset actually increases the benefits you get from it.

So as weird as it might seem, taking the time to be thankful for stress can be good for your health.

2. Uncertainty about the future

The future is like a big question mark with plenty of uncertainty about what will happen. The unknown is fear-inducing as we worry about what troubles might be lurking around the corner.

But what would life be like if you knew everything that would ever happen to you? Imagine how boring and mundane it all would be. Yes, you’d be prepared for the bad times, but what about the good? If you knew everything that was going to happen, all those good moments waiting for you would seem less thrilling and less wonderful.

Uncertainty is a big part of what makes an exciting and fulfilling life. Not knowing what the future has in store for us can be scary, but that’s the fun of anticipation – seeing what happens.

3. Adversity and problems

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” – Bruce Lee

The University of Buffalo surveyed 2400 people repeatedly over a period of four years. Those who reported more adversity and difficulties actually had better mental health and well-being compared to those who had less.

The study highlights the connection between adversity and growth. It’s a sign that you’re pushing yourself to take on challenges others would simply avoid. Those who never experience adversity usually choose the easy life which is rarely exciting or fulfilling.

The only people who don’t experience difficulties are the ones who are standing still. Seeing your problems and difficulties purely in a negative light is misleading; they might just be signs of progress.

4. Pain

Some of us dream of a pain-free life. Some people are actually born without the ability to feel pain and would tell you that we don’t appreciate it as much as we should.

Pain is unpleasant and disruptive, but focusing entirely on the negative qualities ignores its positive motivational side. Would we change as quickly without pain?

Think of all the good things you’ve done because of pain. For example, you might have proposed to your girlfriend because the pain of losing her was too much. Maybe you pursued your dream because leaving it unfulfilled became too painful.

Seeing pain as entirely negative is missing the point about its purpose. It’s just a signal – that’s it. Yes, it’s an unpleasant signal, but if it pushes you in the right direction, is it really as bad as you think?

5. Our enemies

“We should value our enemies because they provide us with unique opportunities to practice patience, tolerance and forbearance.” – Dalai Lama

Just mentioning the name of an enemy can cause feelings of resentment and anger. But as much as you dislike your enemies, they can serve a real purpose beyond annoyance and frustration.

Your enemies are an opportunity to learn tolerance of others and the wisdom to respond to mean-spiritedness with kindness and compassion. Their irritability provides a chance to develop patience and calmness.

In addition, the competition you get with an enemy can be good for the mind. As they challenge your opinion or point of view, your mind quickly sharpens through debate and discussion. Each new verbal attack either strengthens your argument or reveals blind spots.

A good enemy can also be a major source of motivation. Striving to beat them, you work hard to make sure you reach your own goals ahead of them.

6. Making mistakes

It’s only natural to look at mistakes with some sense of regret. We hate making them and it’d be great if we just did everything perfectly. But as Alexander Pope famously stated, “to err is human.” Mistakes are going to happen – it’s a fundamental part of our nature.

But let’s get something straight. You become a better person because of mistakes, not despite them.

We can’t change much about making mistakes, but we can change our response to them. Continually repeating mistakes or failing to recognize them is misguided. Mistakes are only beneficial when we learn from them and use them as lessons to a better future.

Don’t regret mistakes; they’re valuable lessons in wisdom. That’s something to definitely be grateful for.
photo credit: Daniel Hoherd

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Comments

  1. Great post Steve!

    I too write a daily list of what I’m grateful for.
    Recently I started practicing an hour of solitude each day. It’s amazing!
    I dedicate a portion of time to gratitude for everything that I have. Good and bad.
    I believe there’s no such thing as bad.
    Sure, some things are truly bad. Things that are evil.
    But every bad seeming situation holds within it something that you
    can learn. Thus making it an opportunity to take something good from it.
    Each struggle, though may seem to be bad, is actually very good.
    It makes you grow. It makes you blossom.

    I like what you wrote about uncertainty. One of my favorite quotes is:

    “You tend to identify between fulfillment and being someone or achieving something. However, since you cannot control the future, it creates anxiety since your reward is not certain. The other option is the way of the Zen master, whose sole goal is to fulfill himself fully in every moment / Jonathan Harrison – Ending Stress”
    More about it can be found here:
    http://www.vibrantdad.com/shortcuts-strangle-happiness-instead/

    I totally agree with the benefits of pain that you listed.
    Sometimes you welcome struggle and grow through it. Or the pain of the current situation is greater than the pain of change. And that makes you change.

    You wrote that having enemies is good since it arouses competition.
    For me creativity is more beneficial than competition.
    Competition puts me in too much stress, and throws me out of ש grateful mind.

    I was told that a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. It makes some sense. But in my experience nothing taught me like the mistakes I’ve done myself.

    Thanks for the post Steve, it really made me reconsider several conceptions I had.

    • I’m thankful that so many people have reconsidered these concepts.

      It’s true that some things are bad; awful things do happen. But I see too many people see some things as all bad. Well, there aren’t many things that are completely bad. Some good can come out of most things even if you don’t feel like it’s there.

      The way I look at it is that if something bad can lead to something good, we should take another look at it and wonder if it’s truly as bad as we think.

  2. Steve, you are so right about these things. Not pleasant at all, but sometimes the impetus for great change – and very positive change at that. I can say in a heartbeat that five of your six are reasons why I am where I am today. I left a job situation that was toxic and much of it was for those reasons listed here. But I and my whole family are better for it. It was a long and painful process, but on this side of it, we are all so much happier. Kind of like childbirth, I guess – not fun at all, to make a huge understatement, and very painful but when you hold that child it all seems sort of insignificant.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    • I left a job situation for the same reason too. It was too toxic to be there anymore so I had to find something else. That was my impetus for change though and it made a positive difference in my life. As hard as it was to go through, it was good for me.

      I’m glad to hear that childbirth is like that too. My wife and I are going through that process for the first time so that will be a big change for us. I know it can be difficult and troublesome, but I also know it can be very worthwhile.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

  3. It is often the hardships that we encounter that promote the quickest or the longest lasting change in our lives. What I have found is that some of these things we all hate quickly provide us with a rewarding lesson, while with others the silver lining is a bit more elusive. For me, the speed of determining a positive result from a perceived negative is very dependent on my mindset. Am I willing to use the time away from a loved activity to build other skills or will I spend it wallowing? While the former is the obvious choice, sometimes the mind can’t see it at the time.

    • Good point.
      What helps me to get the positive from a negative-seeming situation is to BELIEVE that it is to the best. Even though I can’t see why at the moment.

      • I try to remind myself that there’s always something to learn. So when those negative seeming situations come around, I can persevere through them because I believe that I’ll be a better person on the other side.

    • It seems the best life lessons come from hardship. I don’t know why that exactly is, but we learn well from mistakes and problems. I can look back on some of my most difficult moments and realize that they taught me valuable lessons that I’ve kept with me for the rest of my life. And you’re right, mindset is important. I have friends who have gone through difficulties, but didn’t learn a thing from it. Learning is important to a good life.

      • Steve, you’re absolutely right.

        I know some very smart people, but they struggle aknowledging their own mistakes and learning from them.
        They don’t realize how much it holds them back.

        It’s frustrating you can’t help them learn because they are blind to their mistakes. Even when you point it to them.

        So learning is an invaluable quality. Bur you have to be able to aknowledge your mistakes first.

  4. Ha, ha, ha Steve. When you presented it in such a nice light I wonder why all we aren’t happy. Every single man has his fair share of all 6! 😀

    “The only people who don’t experience difficulties are the ones who are standing still.” I disagree. They just delay their problems.

    #5 In my church community we have Christ’s icon with verses from the Bible: “Love your enemies. I’ll be back soon.”

    #6 I agree with Benny. Not the knowledge itself, but internalization of knowledge (= experience) is beneficial. And mistakes are the best internalization tool in the world.

    • Weirdly enough, that’s why I like new experiences – it’s the opportunity to expand your horizons and make new mistakes. Believe me, I’ve made some big ones in my life, but I always look for ways to learn from and internalize the lessons I get from them.

  5. Swati Chandel says:

    Great post, Steve :)
    Really opposite values are complementary…

  6. Hi Steve,

    Interesting twist to gratitude. I grumble a lot and have decided to start a 365 days of gratitude and already on day 13 I am struggling on my website here http://shellydrymon.com/?cat=72

    Not sure I buy all the items on your list but I do agree with being grateful for mistakes. I am also grateful or learning to be I should say be, for my enemies.

    • I know it’s an unusual list, but I think it’s important to see the good in as many things as possible. There aren’t many things out there that are 100% bad, and I feel like this list shows that.

      That’s an interesting project you have going on. But there’s so much to be grateful for. I hope I might have given you one or two more to add some day.

      • Thank you and you have given me food for thought regarding all the things there are to be grateful for. It’s a matter of me learning to be grateful, well in part.

        Just wanna say I am a big fan of yours! I really appreciate your style and your insight.

  7. The perspective of “the only people who don’t experience difficulty are those standing still” reminds of one of my favorite Tony Robbins CD sets – Get The Edge where on the first CD he talks about problems and he says “the only people who don’t have problems are the people who six-feet deep in the grave yard.”

    I remember loving how he talks about putting problems in perspective and how some people feel like their life is ruined if Jack In The Box put pickles on their cheeseburger when they specifically asked them not to.

    Kind of reminds me of those fun “First World Problem” memes you see where they make a point of our problems being a dream for people living in third world countries where the struggle is real.

    • Yeah, I remember those “First World Problems” memes. It’s very true though and I still see that attitude in people today. We get really upset when simple things don’t go our way, but people in other countries are the ones with the extremely difficult problems.

      I think that’s partly why I travel. I do it to see other cultures and have adventures, but I also like to see how other people live. When I made friends with a poor Moroccan fisherman and I saw his house and how poorly he lived, it really put my entire life into perspective. It was an eye-opening experience.

  8. I love this, Steve. We sometimes think that the perfect life is one of ease and never struggling – but struggling means that we’re growing and becoming better. The process may be initially unpleasant, but we should be thankful for the opportunity to improve.

    • When I think back on all the things I’ve struggled with, I realize how much they helped me improve. I try to bring that perspective forward to problems and difficulties I may be experiencing today. It makes me more appreciative of the struggles I have.

    • Loren, great point!

      When I struggle with something I remind myself that I’m breaking my glass ceiling. It boosts my confidence.

  9. I didn’t know that stress could also have positive benefits. Although I do remember reading somewhere (I think it was a quote) that life without stress would be boring, like uneventful I guess. Basically saying it spices things up. Which I could definitely see, as long as it’s brief.

    You make a good point about the unknown future. People always think they want to know what’s going to happen but it would take the excitement out of things. I think I’d only want to know up to a certain extent, like good or bad, then I could still have some sort of thrill lol.

    I’m glad that you put mistakes on the list. I stopped looking at them as a bad thing also. I’d rather not make them but I do appreciate that I can learn something from them.

    ~Lea

    • I hear a lot of people say they wish they knew the future, but I like not knowing. I try to think of it in terms of travel. I never know what country I’ll visit next and each time I’m completely surprised. I like that part because it makes the time so much more fun.

      As far as mistakes go, I try to remind myself of all the things I’ve learned from them. If you can learn something from them, they can’t be all bad. They’re usually the greatest learning experience too.

  10. There’s a common misconception about stress, and that’s that it is always negative. Stress can be overwhelmingly positive too!

    I’m also with you on the idea that mistakes are something we should be grateful for. How else will we learn?

    • Mistakes are an important part of the learning process. It’s unusual to get things completely right the first time. It’s that whole idea of “trial and error”. Making progress can mean making errors.

  11. Wonderful post Steve, I’ve found trails and challenges cause me to stretch and become a better person/leader. It shapes me in a positive way even though at the time it might not be fun.

    • That’s why I like challenges – they help me become a better person. I like to take on big projects for that reason. Plus, you never know what you’re able to actually do unless you push yourself past your limits.

  12. Great post Steve. If things are comfortable and predictable it’s known as a rut. We need things to nudge us out of the status quo and be more adventurous. Life would be very dull without those “negatives” that push us onto better things.

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