How to Be Grateful When You're Miserable
Turkey comas. Minimum 3 days off work. Thanksgiving Eve, more affectionately known as Blackout Wednesday or Drinksgiving.
Perhaps the one and only national holiday that requires absolutely no gifts or effort, according to Andy Rooney.
In other words, true bliss. No tests. No projects. Just blissful nothingness mixed with parades, family-style sides, and red wine.
But what about that whole pesky gratitude thing?
And… what if you’re not feeling super “grateful” this year?
That job isn’t what you expected it to be. Life is a little more monotonous than you had hoped. And no matter what you do, you feel like you’re stuck in life’s version of neutral, spinning your wheels, and getting nowhere, while everyone else’s life passes you by.
How can you possibly be grateful for that?!
Trust me, I know how it feels.
In the fall of 2012, I was at my lowest of lows.
At that point of my life, I was 2.5 years into the best-worst-job-of-my-life. It was the “best” job according to everyone around me. I had the salary everyone wanted (coveted 6-figures). I had the stature everyone admired (hello, Wall Street). I had the surroundings everyone dreamed of (now you’re in NEWWWW YORRRRKKK).
On the outside, I looked like I was on top.
On the inside, I was dying.
I was working on a sales and trading floor for one of the top banking institutions in the world. And despite the fact that I had an expense account, access to free cars and fancy food, and clients who could bankroll sports teams, all that mattered to me was the miserable existence of my daily life. Eat, sleep, work. Eat, sleep, work. Eat, NyQuil, sleep, work.
It felt like I was slowly losing my mind.
Why was I miserable when everyone thought I should be… thankful?!?!
What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I happy? Why wasn’t I more successful? Why didn’t I feel the way everyone was telling me I should?
So, Thanksgiving rolled around, and there I was. Miserable. Depressed. Stifled. Stuck.
And completely without “thanks” to give.
Now, as a quarter-life career coach, I help people just like me get through these “dark nights” and find their way to happier, more fulfilling, more productive, and decidedly less miserable futures.
So, if you’re feeling a little less than grateful this year, this article is for you.
Here are the three easy steps to feel grateful for what you have, even when you hate that you have it.
Separate your life into its constituent parts.
Any division of life can be fairly arbitrary by nature, because our lives are more fluid than they are compartmentalized.
However, I’ve found that by breaking down our lives (rather than looking upon them as a less-than-ideal whole) gives us the freedom to love some parts while we despise others. Don’t be tempted to throw the baby out with the bath water.
For example, when I was working at the bank, I definitely hated my job. No doubt about it. But when I pulled my head out of the professional “sand,” I realized I had a lot more going for me than I first thought!
Divide your life into its individual parts and then make an OBJECTIVE assessment as to how bad it really is. Here’s a short list to get you started:
Treat yourself like you would a friend (aka, be nice!)
I once had a mentor tell me that sometimes you need to be your own best friend.
I had no idea what that meant until I found myself miserable at my job and judging every decision I made so harshly that I could never please myself. Try as I might, everything felt like a failure. Like I should have known better. It made me think...
If I had a friend going through this same thing, what would I say to her?
Most certainly, I would not start with, “of course that happened to you” or “just give up now”. I would have been encouraging. I would have told her that things would get better. I would have sat, listened, counselled, and loved.
I would have been a friend—not a critic.
Promise yourself that you’re going to stop with the constant negativity and condemnation. Give yourself a little love that you might get from a friend, but you definitely need to get from yourself.
Objectively evaluate good from bad
To take the “friendship” treatment one step further, imagine this:
If my friend were going through this same scenario, would it seem that dire to me?
You know how you can always address your friends’ problems, but never yours? Relationship advice, check. You’re a pro. Career advice, of course. You’re at the top of your game. Life advice, well duh. They might as well call you grandma.
But if you turn that lens inward… God forbid! It’s a catastrophic mess of apocalyptic proportions. You’re never going to meet someone. You’re never going to have the career you want. And of course, you’re never going to get your “stuff” together.
But is that really true?
Look at those 8 components of your life with a more objective lens, and see what’s really out there.
So what might you have going for you, that’s being clouded by your unhappiness at work?
These three simple—but sometimes difficult—steps will get you from “woe is me” to “praise be” faster than anything else I’ve ever tried. Really commit to them, and you just might find you have more to be thankful for this holiday season than you could ever have imaged.