It was quite a day, yesterday. First thing in the morning, I had to write my bi-monthly column for a newspaper in Latin America and I felt uninspired. I was dragging my feet and developing ideas was like pulling a teeth. As I was typing the text, I constantly checked the number of words I had already written, hoping to get soon to the bottom of the page. “Come on! One hundred more words and you are done!” I was telling myself. This is certainly not the best state of mind, if you have to be creative.

Things got more difficult when I learned that doctors had decided not to operate on a dear friend of mine, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The family will now take him home and accompany him in the last days of his life here on earth. I was deeply saddened by the news and my heart felt heavy.

The next news I received further clouded my day. A news alert informed me that a friend and an activist was arrested by a border patrol in Texas. The news upset me and I worried about the fate of my friend. By the end of the morning, my energy level was slow and I didn’t feel productive at all.

In the early afternoon I was scheduled to meet with an actor that I am coaching. I realized that I was neither in the best mood nor in a productive state of mind to meet with my client. But I also knew that as human beings, we have the power to change our energy level, depending on the quality of thoughts our mind focuses on.

On my way to meet with my client, I revisited my morning experience and I resolved to cultivate gratitude. I felt gratitude for the opportunity I have to be a columnist for a prestigious newspaper of Latin America. I was grateful for having other platforms, such as Psychology Today, where I can share my ideas and experiences, and engage with my readers.

I thought of my dying friend, and I felt gratitude for our strong friendship, for the experiences and the conversations we shared. Thinking of all the great moments we had, I was moved, but at the same time I felt peace in my soul realizing what an amazing life my friend had. I also felt the certainty that death will not dissolve the strong bond we have built over the years.

I continued to think about all the blessings I received in my life. The clouds were lifted from my heart and I felt strong, happy and in a very positive state of mind. I had a great session with my client and I felt honored and grateful for having the opportunity to support his life project.

External events at times cloud our mind. Worries, deadlines, a strained relationship, a diagnosis are all external circumstances that can get us out of balance. If our mind focuses on them, we feel sad, powerless, and useless. What distinguishes us as human beings is our ability to give meaning to our experiences. That’s the power we have and we can train our mind to focus on thoughts that produce resourceful emotions. This way we engage in actions that will help us to transform a given situation and discover the opportunity we have in the challenges that life provides us with.

To cultivate gratitude, is one of the strategies we can adopt to create a positive state of mind. Every day, commit some time to be grateful and appreciative for everything that happens in your life, dedicate a few moments to be in contemplation and in awe for all you have in your life. Every day, generate a new list of all the things you are grateful for on that particular day. You will discover within you a fountain of wellness and happiness. You, and not external circumstances, decide the quality of your life.


Aldo Civico has spent the last 25 years working in conflict resolution and leadership development in troubled areas around the world. He is now applying the insights he learned in extreme circumstances to help individuals to achieve peak performance and clarity of purpose in the life. 

About the Author

Aldo Civico Ph.D.
Aldo Civico, Ph.D., is an anthropologist and a conflict resolution expert. He is an anthropology professor at Rutgers University and the founder of The International Institute for Peace.

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