The world appears to be caught in a relentless cycle of upheaval since 2020 – navigating the challenges of Covid-19, witnessing conflicts in Russia and Israel, and facing an unsettling rise in racism against Jewish communities across the world, particularly in NYC, home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel.

In the face of such relentless challenges, expressing gratitude may seem like a difficult task. But it’s precisely in times of adversity that adopting a grateful perspective becomes not merely beneficial but essential.

Can, or should, one feel grateful under such challenging circumstances?

My firm response is that not only can gratitude be helpful, but it can be indispensable. Gratitude has a remarkable ability to generate HOPE. In moments of demoralization, gratitude acts as a source of energy; amidst brokenness, it aids in healing; and when confronted with despair, it instills a profound sense of hope. In essence, this is a vital coping mechanism for hard times. Gratitude embodies resilience.

Admittedly, feeling grateful doesn’t come naturally or easily while in the midst of a crisis. It certainly doesn’t for me. Staying positive can be a challenge when you are focused on just survival.

There is a crucial distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. Most of us do not have total control over our emotions, I certainly don’t. It’s easy to feel gratitude for the good things, but losing a job, a home, good health, or receiving devastating news about the loss of a close friend doesn’t elicit a feeling of gratitude.

But being grateful is actually a choice—a prevailing attitude that endures and remains relatively immune to the ebb and flow of gains and losses in our lives. As I’ve said before, it’s easy to be a good sailor when the sea is calm. It’s only when the big waves come that the truly strong are able to navigate through the challenges.

While writing this, a funny memory from my days as a young soldier in boot camp comes to mind. Fatigue and exhaustion were a regular part of the experience, and I became adept at falling asleep almost instantly out of sheer necessity. I could fall asleep in seconds anytime I had the time to rest.

While we finished a particularly draining day in the field, a bus arrived to transport us back to the base. The heavy machine guns were placed in such a way that kept on poking my ribs and it forced me to contort my body. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. But I found something positive in this… I found that if I could lean my head on the guns, an odd yet surprisingly effective support system, I could steal a few moments of much needed sleep.

Sometimes remembering the bad times can refine and deepen our gratitude. Every night when I go to sleep, I am thankful for having a comfortable bed and a nice pillow…

Viktor Frankl (author, psychiatrist and holocaust survivor) wrote in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”: “In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

Trials and suffering, when viewed through the lens of gratitude, remind me not to take things for granted. 

Even Thanksgiving, a national holiday centered on gratitude, originated from hard times. It emerged after nearly half the pilgrims perished during a severe winter. Amid the uncertainty of the Civil War, it later became a national holiday in 1863.

Cultivating an attitude of resilience functions like a psychological immune system, acting as an antidote to stress, fear, and anxiety. Just think about the tough times you’ve been through, and then look at how things are better now. Remember the bad (as it’s said, “never again!”), but don’t forget that you overcame it and prevailed.

Spotting the positive side of things can be tough, but it’s worth doing. Many significant accomplishments in history began with a strong desire, a lack of power, and a feeling of helplessness. When we face and conquer these challenges, we grow and achieve success.

Take Krav Maga, for instance. It emerged in the 1930s because Jewish people in Europe were constantly under attack. Many of them didn’t know how to defend themselves initially. The Holocaust nearly wiped out the Jews, prompting the invention of a self-defense system that efficiently teaches valuable life skills in a short time.

If you don’t give up, you demonstrate strength greater than what has happened to you. Then, it happened for you. 

Wishing you all a joyful Thanksgiving! Spend quality time with your loved ones and take a moment to appreciate the good things in your life.

Even in tough times, there’s a lot to be thankful for. We have friends and loved ones who aren’t held hostage, which is a blessing. In my homeland, not everyone can say the same.

I’m both concerned and stretched to my limits, but I’m thankful for my health, my role in society, and the chance to make a positive impact on the world. I play a part in keeping people safe and well. Taking inspiration from Viktor Frankl, my struggles aren’t just hardships—they fuel my determination to do better and achieve more. I have a vision and a legacy for the future.

I also appreciate each one of you for being a part of the KME’s mission and for your loyalty.

Do something amazing,

Tsahi Shemesh
Founder & CEO
Krav Maga Experts

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