Gratitude For Antagonists

I am friends with a young man named Rich. He suffers from depression and low-level paranoia. Although he lives in a safe neighborhood, he is certain that there are prowlers outside his home. Those thoughts keep him awake at night and I can’t but help wonder if part of the cause is a fear of antagonism – wanting life to be problem-free and these imaginary threats are a subconscious manifestation of that fight within himself. Rich is not alone: we all struggle with both real and imagined threats to our well-being.

These threats, which I’ll term as antagonists, are something that I am grateful for. I admit that on more than one occasion, I’ve wanted to run from the problems in my life. At the same time, it is not lost on me that such feelings are part of the fixed mindset, as set forth by Dr. Carol Dweck, as it is based on fear, self-imposed limitations, and maintaining the status quo. The issue is that when I focus on the negative, those thoughts multiply and loom in my mind. In my view, that much of what happens to me is a consequence of the thoughts that I think and the emotions that I feel on a regular basis.

The ironic thing is that antagonists are the source – or at least the catalyst of our greatest strengths. Although it is human nature to take the path of least resistance, it is also the path of least growth. Personal development comes from overcoming obstacles and tapping our inner reserves of strength to master the problems in our lives. Just as a person cannot gain strong muscles by doing easy exercise routines, we cannot grow by avoiding the antagonists in our lives. They must be faced and beaten or we will reinforce habits of fear and dodging that which challenges us, which in turn will keep us from achieving our goals and solidify a negativity-based mindset.

This is why for the antagonists in my life. I don’t seek out troubles. I have enough in my life without actively seeking them out. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to engage my positive mindset, to use creativity to solve any complications, and to practice personal courage and proactivity. Although it is a struggle for me, I know the reward is equal to – or greater – than the risk that the problem entails. My strength comes from the challenges that I seek, not in spite of them. There is no way around it. If I want personal strength, then I must stand up to the antagonists in my life and commit to doing my personal best.

Unfortunately, the mind latches onto negative emotions and thoughts more firmly that it does the positive. For me, this reinforces the need to start and finish the day on a positive note. I created a list of questions to ask myself at the beginning and end of each day. These questions are positive and success-minded. They are designed to put me in a resourceful mindset. I provide them in the hope that you will be inspired to come up with your own set of questions that will give you greater fulfillment in your life.

  1. What is great about today?
  2. What is my top priority for today?
  3. Who needs my help the most today?
  4. How can I best help them?
  5. What is my greatest obstacle today?
  6. How can I turn this obstacle into an advantage?
  7. What is my learning goal for today?
  8. How am I going to achieve that learning goal today?

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