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How to Be Grateful for All of Life’s Lessons

By Marcia Smalley November 21, 2023 Mindset

Life can feel like a litany of lessons learned. I bet I could fill a library with my lessons.

A lot of what I’ve had to learn came wrapped in suffering, fear, uncertainty. I resisted hearing the messages because of the hurt and sadness that accompanied those lessons.

Sure, I’m old enough to have acquired some coping mechanisms. Things like perseverance and patience. Optimism and faith. By this point in time, we’re all pretty good at managing the tough stuff.

Regardless, I’ll still put up a fight with some of that “necessary learning.” Shake my fist in the air when another unforeseen event brings one more unplanned thing I apparently need to know.

Arguing With “What Is” Feels Self-Defeating

Returning to peace when life hands you chaos can be challenging.

I want to be grateful for the little gems of wisdom I’ve gathered along the way. And, more importantly, I’d also like to soothe my heart with a balm of gratitude for the hard things I’ve had to learn.

A Simple Activity Takes the Sting Out of Being a Student

Practicing a simple activity is both a glaringly obvious and extremely helpful idea. Here’s how it goes:

Close your eyes and take several deep breaths.

Quietly list all the things you know for sure.

Allow yourself to lean into each lesson you know you’ve learned.

Embrace what you’ve come to realize. Notice how you feel.

What You Discover Might Amaze You

Here are a few things I know for sure:

  • Stillness is a sacred place.
  • A good laugh lightens any weighty problem.
  • Setting compassionate boundaries is a necessary form of self-care.
  • Real friends will challenge you but never abandon you.
  • Rest is not a luxury. It’s a requirement.
  • Heartfelt connections nourish the soul.
  • Courage is something I’ve earned by walking through the fire as it rages.
  • Death takes many forms. Some of them hurt us almost as much as the physical kind.
  • No event defines us. With any luck, we eventually realize they all happen for our highest good.
  • Some things just break. Hearts, lives, worlds. And sometimes all we can do is cry as we wait for the healing that will follow.
  • We can’t control anything except our own reactions. And that’s a relief.
  • My body is a trusted messenger, longing to be heard. I’m listening.
  • Becoming a wise woman doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how to play. My Inner Self gets younger every day.
  • And Thank you may truly be the only prayer we need to say.

When I sink into these lessons, my lessons, I’m comforted, surprised, and enlightened. All in the same breath.

I’m indebted to life for the opportunities it’s always giving me to grow, to learn… however difficult the messages are to receive.

And finding a way to that gratitude might be the most valuable lesson of all.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What lessons are you grateful for no matter how difficult they were to learn? Do you identify with any of mine? Let’s have a conversation!

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An excellent reminder!


So helpful and just what I needed. I was doing the fist shake just two days ago.


I’m always grateful not only for what I have but also for what I don’t have. Life is good!


thank you for this! so much wisdom, reiterated.

The Author

Marcia Smalley is a certified retirement coach and life coach, a writer and a teacher. She delights in helping mid-life women step confidently into their next act and design a joyous, expanded life. Marcia provides coaching support to women who are navigating retirement or other life transitions and writes a monthly e-newsletter to her entire online community. Please visit her website at

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