The power of being thankful, even when things don’t go your way

Nobody knows how hard your life is but you. But chances are you have a lot to be thankful for.

If you learn how to be thankful, you can drown the bad in a big swelling well of the good.

Things weren’t going Elise’s way. She had had a great career in tech — she had worked for Apple. But she had a flu that wouldn’t go away. It lingered for months on end, and she couldn’t work anymore.

She had spent much of her life savings, and still couldn’t get over her “flu.” She didn’t know what was wrong. As if things weren’t difficult enough, her close friend and roommate died of a brain tumor.

At 42 years old, Elise had to move back in with her parents.

“I felt like a complete failure,” Elise told me on my podcast. “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” Watching television with her mother each night, she’d grip her hand, worried that she’d lose her parents, too.

“Mom’s Roast Turkey,” from Elise’s SimplyRecipes

But Elise focused on the things that were good in her life. “I felt incredibly thankful and grateful that I had these wonderful parents in my life.” Her parents loved to cook. Eventually, they let her help, when she had the energy.

She also knew how to code. She started posting recipes online—hand-coded in HTML.

“Every day, I could choose between feeling sorry for myself, or I could just take a deep breath, go with it, and add a recipe to the website….Whatever you pay attention to, you’re going to get more of that.”

Two years after moving back in with her parents, Elise had a relapse. She was spending almost the entire day in bed, but she kept posting recipes. She connected with her readers and other food bloggers, but she kept quiet about the mysterious illness that threatened to drown her spirits.

Elise told herself: “I’m just going to keep my mind focused on everything that is good and joyful and loving and wonderful in this world and in my life, and see what I can do to bring some of that to other people.”

“Cranberry Sauce,” from Elise’s SimplyRecipes

“SimplyRecipes was my ‘treasure place.’ It was my place where there was just goodness and love….Everything about that site for me was about love and family and this little bright spot in my life that — if I looked around, it just seemed really really really dark.”

Today, a decade and a half later, Elise Bauer’s SimplyRecipes is one of the most popular recipe sites on the Internet. Elise has personally posted about 1,600 recipes. And the illness that kept her in bed has passed.

If things aren’t going your way, concentrate on the things that are good. Like a crack on a sidewalk, or a snowball tumbling down a hill, they’ll grow and multiply. The next thing you know, the darkness will have been drowned out, and you may have built something great. That’s the power of being thankful.

Hear Elise’s full story behind SimplyRecipes, and some cooking tips for Thanksgiving, on her episode of my podcast »

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