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Finding the gift: How to Reframe Your Struggles to Build Resilience
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: “The past is history, the future’s a mystery, but this moment is a gift and that’s why we call it the present.”
It’s one of my favorite sayings, because it reminds me that I’m getting all these super useful gifts from The Universe all the time. And even if you can’t see it, you’re getting them, too.
See, sometimes these gifts aren’t exactly the thoughtful present you were expecting. In fact, they can seem like the worst gifts ever.
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A sprained ankle, a missed bus, a particularly intense reaction to an otherwise delicious takeout meal… well, they’re not quite what you had on your wishlist.
So, what do you do when the world hands you one of these sub-par presents? It’s not like an ugly sweater that still has the tags on. You can’t return a sprained ankle to The Experiences Store. You can’t even throw it away. But you can use it. How? Let me tell you.
The first thing you need to do is stop and take a moment to notice your thoughts.
WAIT, WHAT AM I THINKING?
See, the first set of thoughts that pop into your head when something happens are what we call “automatic thoughts.” They’re your reptile brain kicking in, and engaging your fight or flight response. They’re almost always a “protect me!” thought.
Check to see if the thoughts you’re having are actually useful in this situation. Because sometimes, they are. Sometimes we’re really in trouble and our fight-or-flight response is doing the right thing. But a lot of the time, it’s not. A lot of the time, it’s holding us back from seeing something really useful.
So, If your current line of thought DOESN’T do anything to serve you right now, you can move on to step two, which is to say thank you for the Universe’s Gift.
THANK YOU FOR THE HORRIBLE GIFT!
Now this seems pretty counter-intuitive, to thank the Universe for something you don’t want and would prefer to not have. But when we say thank you, we snap our minds into an open and receptive state. We become grateful, just by saying that we are.
And when we’re grateful, we’re more able to understand the usefulness of the thing we’re receiving.
Which brings us to the third part of this exercise — find the usefulness in your gift.
WHAT CAN I USE THIS FOR?
Now, everything has some level of usefulness. And it’s important that you’re focused on USEFUL, and not HAPPY or POSITIVE. Because sometimes the things that are useful are actually really boring, or uncomfortable, or something that we don’t like. But still, they’re useful.
For example, what if the Universe gave you a sprained ankle?
Clearly this is not a gift you were asking for. But what can you use it for? Well, it’s going to get you out of any unnecessary physical strain for a while. “Gosh, I’d normally help you move your terrarium collection, but I’ve got this sprained ankle…” That’s useful. It’s going to force you to rest for a while, and that could be very useful as well.
There’s a game called “What’s In The Box?” that the Be Brave Team uses to exercise our usefulness-finding muscles.
Now, this is a rapid-fire game, so the key is doing it quickly, and doing it repeatedly. It takes at least two people, but you can play with as many more than that as you’d like.
FIRST: Player 1 hands a git in an invisible box to player 2, and tells them what’s in it. The gift can be whatever player one wants it to be and player 2 has to accept it.
SECOND: Player 2 says “thank you for the gift,” and then tells player one what they’re going to do with the item.
That’s it! That’s the whole game! Super easy, right?
Now, you might be tempted to state the obvious use for what you were given, but it can be a lot more fun to choose a less obvious one. It also gets you looking for unconventional ways to see your circumstances.
For example, if player one gifts you a hand-knit cap, you can say “thank you! I’m going to use this to keep my ears warm!” or you could say “thank you! I’m going to use this to keep my dog warm!” or even “thank you! I’m going to use this as a hammock for my stuffed animals!”
The best part is that you can play this game without being in the same room as the other players. It’s a great icebreaker for remote team meetings, you can play over the phone, it even works when you’re playing over chat or social media.
We want to know what’s in your box!
Play the game with some friends, and then come back and tell us what was in the box. Or, join us in the Be Brave Facebook Community and play along there!
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