Real Estate

This Is Fine. Everything Is Fine: How To Be Grateful When Times Are Tough

Broker Aaron Hendon teaches you how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, even when it’s tough to stay positive and productive.

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Maybe this has happened to you: I had a listing expire at the end of last year and the seller agreed that we would take it off the market and re-list in the spring. Well, I’m sure you can guess what happened next — not only did she call and tell me she was listing with someone else, but she listed it at $100,000 under what she had told me was her bottom line number. 

Gut punch. I was not grateful, to put it mildly.

But the pull to be “fine,” to “understand” was strong. Appearances are everything. We’re told, either explicitly or implicitly.

In today’s market, I know more than a few agents who are struggling. Keeping an empowering mindset is something every coach and guru on the planet talks about, but none really take the time to show you how you can do that. What are the steps? How can we move from our thrown, automatic, default relationship during tough circumstances to one of authentic gratitude and freedom?

Let’s fix that by tackling what gets missed in the most common practices.

Get over it

Our culture is full of this pull — from toxic influencers touting the power of positive thinking to gurus shaming us into thinking our negative emotions are unwelcome, unwanted, counterproductive and, generally, something nobody has time for.

We are told to let it go, but nobody gives us the steps, so we wind up stuffing those feelings and living like everything is “fine.”

This is more than just a function of Hustle Culture — the idea of hustling harder, grinding it out, it’s all a numbers game, let’s just move through it and keep pushing forward.

Most importantly, it’s also a gross misunderstanding of gratitude and our access to it.

‘Toxic gratitude’

I got this phrase from Mel Robbins, as she points to the most common barrier I run across in conversations around gratitude. Focusing solely on the positive, ignoring the real challenges and messiness of life, will never leave us truly grateful. 

The science is clear: Gratitude, when understood and practiced genuinely, transforms lives, nurtures relationships and significantly boosts mental health. 

However, not all practices labeled as gratitude yield positive results, and most of us have a hard time experiencing gratitude when we’re faced with hard circumstances. It seems when we need it the most, it’s the most elusive.

But that’s because we often misunderstand what it takes to be grateful.

This is hard because the loudest voices in the room are screaming to “focus on the positive” (I’m looking at you IG influencers). Pretending everything’s fine is like putting icing on a mud pie and saying it’s a cake. It’s not, and everyone knows it.

To access gratitude, like everything else, you need to start wherever you are.

Hard things are, generally, hard to be with, but if you don’t do the work of experiencing those feelings, authentically experiencing gratitude will be outside your grasp. 

The practice of sitting with your feelings is simple, although depending on your familiarity and facility with mindfulness, along with the depth of hurt/upset you feel may or may not be easy. But they are worth practicing because you always know when you’re bullshitting yourself into pretending to be “fine”. 

Fine points of being ‘fine’

So what does this look like?  Here’s a practice I use with my team and have found enormously effective:

  1. Start with writing out how you actually feel about the situation. 
  2. Allow yourself enough time to do this work, but not so much as you wind up dramatizing the situation. Five to 10 minutes is usually enough for ordinary business upsets. More challenging circumstances may take longer.
  3. With the feelings you are experiencing out of your head and clarified by writing them out, you are ready to sit with them for a bit. 
  4. Close your eyes. Settle into your body — take a few slow breaths, scan your awareness through the body to see if there are any areas holding on to excess tension and bring your non-judgmental awareness there. Don’t try to change anything; just notice how your body feels. 
  5. After you are fully in your body, bring your awareness to your breath — again, not changing anything — just noticing the breath. What’s the temperature of the air as it enters the body? How do your clothes feel on your skin as your body fills with air? How does it feel to let it all go?
  6. Now you’re just breathing and noticing — you are not changing anything — just noticing the breath. 
  7. When your mind wanders down some thought path, which it will, you can always just gently bring it back to your breath.
  8. After a minute or two of breathing this way, notice where in your body you are holding the feelings you wrote out. 
  9. Sit with those feelings for a bit — probably a little longer than is comfortable. Like I said, hard feelings can be hard to sit with, and we are often geared to avoiding them.
  10. If you find yourself wanting to move on, talk to your awareness the way you might to a small puppy: “Stay … staaaaay … staaaay.”
  11. As you sit with these feelings, notice how they feel in the body. Do they have a color? What color are they? Do they have a shape? What shape? Do they have a weight? Do they have a texture?
  12. You are just sitting and experiencing the emotions like an observer. There’s you, observing the emotion in the body.
  13. Stay until you have the emotion the way you have a shirt. There’s you and there’s an emotion. You are not the emotion. 
  14. At some point, either in this practice or a later one, that separation will happen.
  15. When you can see the emotion this way you can look around the edges of it and see what’s there.
  16. There will often be a crack, or a space, or an opening where you can look to see, if there is anything that you could authentically be grateful for in this situation. The loss of a loved one comes with gratitude for having shared life with them. The loss of a client comes with a lesson learned that will make you better. The fact you’ve gone through this and survived is something that you might be grateful for.
  17. Don’t worry if it’s not all resolved in this one meditation. Sometimes it takes a few practices before gratitude can be experienced. That’s OK. That, in fact, is the point. Until you go through this, all you have is a icing on mud.
  18. Take the time to celebrate yourself for going through this. Do not discount the effort this requires or pretend this was easy. You are doing real work here and you deserve to be recognized for that labor.
  19. Feel free to end the practice whenever you like. 

Final thoughts

While this does not require much more than a commitment to honor how you feel, and maybe 10-15 minutes, it’s unrealistic to expect this to be a one-and-done thing. In my experience of having been bypassed on the listing, it took me three or four tries over the course of a week. 

As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”  Every time you practice connecting with authentic gratitude you move a little closer to living an authentically grateful life.

Celebrate your efforts; celebrate the steps. The results will come.

Aaron Hendon is a managing broker, speaker, trainer and coach. Connect with Aaron on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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