It’s easy and logical to feel grateful for the good stuff that happens to us. When someone I love gets promoted, when I get a clean bill of health from the doctor, or when someone on my staff closes a deal, I am thankful that the universe rewarded me (or people close to me) with abundance. But, what trips me up sometimes is remembering to be grateful for the stuff that seems a nuisance at best, or downright horrific at worst—because as Oprah would say, What I know for sure, is that it is from the crises in my life that I have grown the most.

In the moment, when things aren’t working out the way I want them to, I feel scared and anxious; then typically some degree of anger and frustration. You see, I am a great big control freak and I believe that my world only spins because I am the conductor. In my mind, without me manning the helm, everything will fall apart. So, when things are going awry, I head right into fix-it mode, saying to myself, There must be something I can do to affect positive change RIGHT NOW!

Sure, some of the time we’re able to set things on a better course by sheer will, forethought and action. But, most of the time, we simply waste precious energy as we attempt to fix something that is just plain out of our control.

It’s because in the “real world” – not the one we think we control – some things are meant to be beyond our purview.

And that’s a tough lesson to learn if you’re a control freak like me. But there are two lessons here, and the first one is this:

It is our job only to do our own part in any given situation that is, work hard and plan appropriately and then let goso that the universe can work its magic.

This certainly doesn’t mean that you or I will always be granted our desired outcome. What it does mean is that whatever the outcome, it is one that was meant to be; the one that we are meant to have, learn from and most definitely be grateful for.

And that’s the second lesson:

Be grateful for the outcome, whatever it may be.

Grateful…yes, even for the difficult times, because therein lies the key to happiness and the strength that lets the universe with its wisdom, creativity and outlook far broader than mine, be in charge.

So after way too many years of railing against the bad stuff, today I am grateful for everything: the positive and the negative. Let me explain by way of example…

When I twisted my ankle two years ago, I was unable to exercise for 4 weeks. At first I was mad, but after a bout of sulking, I realized that I could use the time to explore other things that I never had time for: like taking 30 minutes every morning to sit quietly and journal, or enjoy breakfast with friends before work, or even to catch up on some delicious and much needed sleep.

OK, so we all hope for that period of time when we can catch up with friends or on some much needed sleep, and certainly I would agree that a sprained ankle is not catastrophic, but consider this…

When my husband – my soul mate – got sick 15 years ago, I felt terrified and alone. It made me recognize that while I could be there to support and love him, there was really nothing more I could do. And that feeling of powerlessness when your loved one is suffering is absolutely terrifying. But instead of completely allowing my fear and anxiety to paralyze me – which would have been of no help to him – I found a path to spirituality. And that path granted me the most freeing belief of all:

I am not in charge; but a power much greater than me is.

And for that I am grateful. Because when the universe is in charge, I become free to think, act and loveand to let go of trying to fix the things that are meant to be beyond me.

While I could support my husband, cheer him on and maybe make some chicken soup, I did not have the power to heal an illness.

But I did have the ability to express my love for him, to be the best “me” I could be, and then to let go with loving-kindness. And that, in and of itself, was incredibly empowering to us both.

15 years later my husband is healthy and for that I am enormously grateful. I let go and the universe healed him in a far better way than I ever could have. And, together, we are in a far better place because I let things happen as they were supposed to.

So now when I wake up every morning, instead of filling my mind with ways to fix all the things that seem to need fixing, or hanging on to frustration for the things I cannot change, the first thing I do is to express gratitude for my good health…for the love I feel for my husband, children, and family and friends…for the day that lay ahead…for the courage to live it with gusto…and for all the gifts I have been given…even the ones that may not look like gifts in the moment.

So let the universe go about its business expending its energy to fix those things that you cannot. You can then focus on making gratitude your go-to mode, living in the positive instead of the negative, and seeing goodness and abundance in all the world around you.

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