During the holiday season, we are often reminded to “Be thankful for everything we have,” but how about exploring gratitude in a less conventional way this year? I am on a personal journey to be thankful for everything I experience, including things I would typically call problems, and discover how in each circumstance the experience is a benefit to me. With that being said, let’s talk about why I’m welcoming my problems with open arms.

Reason 1. The only problem with problems is that we see them as problems. The real problem would be if we never had any.

Do you think life would be ideal if we never faced adversity? I certainly don’t! We would be so unaware of what we are made of it would be crippling. Problems give us an excuse to flex our muscles, physically, mentally and spiritually, so that we never cease to amaze ourselves. The anxiety before an uncertain situation is no comparison to the satisfaction of making it through and flourishing. Once a problem is resolved, and it always is, I think we should make it a point to celebrate the outcome with more energy than we spent being uneasy about it in the first place.

GOAL #1: Pay more attention to the finish line than the hurdle.

Reason 2. Problems point out our preferences.

Ever been faced with a tough decision? Ever wished someone could make that decision for you? (Insert head shake) No you don’t, because that’s not what anyone wants. We were not built to hand over our freedom. That’s why children want to dress themselves, teenagers rebel against their parents and it’s also why most of us don’t like authority figures past a certain point of social safety. We don’t enjoy people telling us what we can and can’t do with ourselves.

For every difficult decision encountered, there is always an option you as an individual would prefer more than another. You may not clearly know which option you prefer going into the decision, and often times you won’t, but that’s how problems work. The purpose of a problem is to provide clarity. Once you have processed whatever caused you difficulty, you know more about yourself, what you want, and what you will not tolerate than when you timidly approached the situation in the beginning. If you were to let someone else choose for you, they MIGHT decide in what you would down the line call your favor, but they also might not. Maybe it’s me, but I would rather make a mess and live in my own beautiful chaos than to live by the expectations of someone who does not know how it feels to live in my skin.

GOAL #2: Enjoy having freewill. Enjoy getting to pick how things will go and own those choices (it’s life; you can’t get it wrong).

Reason 3. Problems provide preparation time.

Don’t you hate that repugnant feeling of not getting what you want? It’s basically just as frustrating as thinking about something you desire and then immediately feeling incapable of having it. Fear of disappointment, along with embarrassment, is often what keeps us from believing we can have what we want; but what we want is always on the other side of those fears. Not obtaining what you want when you initially ask does not mean you aren’t supposed to have it, however.

It often just means you were not as prepared to receive it as you may have thought.

If you are not a deliberate thinker, meaning you don’t consciously choose what you focus on, then while you were striving for what you wanted you probably thought a lot about how you might not get it and what that might feel like. In your core you knew what both outcomes could feel like; but you spent a good bit of time trying to protect yourself from potential disappointment by simultaneously discouraging yourself in the midst of striving. As human beings, we often view life through a lens of “lack” instead of “abundance,” and by doing so we get acclimated to lose before allowing ourselves to win.

The problem of not getting something you want as soon as you ask should really be seen as a gift of preparation time. If the universe prematurely gave you something you felt uncertain of deserving; you would ruin it before you even knew what it was, and who could blame you? Without some type of preparation time none of us would know how to manage our desires. By using the time between asking and receiving to get excited about the desire itself; we have the opportunity to experience the euphoric feeling of having the thing we want before it has even arrived. I find it good practice to test drive my desires before they manifest.

Goal #3: Focus on finding the desired feeling, not the thing.

Problems have no power other than that which we give them, so why not take that ancient power back? Let problems give you the power to pay attention to where you’re headed instead of distract you; and give you the power to take ownership of your decisions. Let problems refocus you on the gift of the feeling you want and not just the package it will arrive in.

Each of us can receive everything we ask for once we recognize it’s ours for the having; and yet we have a problem believing that. We think we are backwards creatures designed to spend our lives learning in reverse; but it has and will always be a choice to live that way. I’m asking you to consider living differently. Maybe I’m taking this positive lifestyle stuff too far; but I like feeling good all day, every day, and I just don’t see any problem with that.