Hillary Clinton spent part of her International Women’s Day (March 8) accepting an award from the non-profit Girls Inc. After addressing the work of the advocacy group, which strives to provide mentoring, safe places for sisterhood in low-income neighborhoods, after-school programs, and scholarships, Clinton paused.
“Now the truth is, life hands all of us setbacks,” she said, nodding and smiling to acknowledge laughter and applause. “Now, we know that. And if you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced them, haven’t you?”
Without mentioning the notable setback of losing the US election to Donald Trump, Clinton expanded on some of her methods for recovering—”sleeping, a little soul-searching and reflecting, long walks in the woods.”
But then she moved on to one very important prescription for resilience: gratitude. Clinton described gratitude not as an emotion, but as an active practice—one that requires attention in good times and bad.
One of my favorite phrases that I came across in a hard time in my own life was to practice the discipline of gratitude. Now, it is easy to be grateful when things are going our way. But to exercise the mental discipline to be grateful in the face of setbacks, I have found, is one of the great experiences that give you that resilience and the opportunity to see your life, to see your community and the world much more broadly, and to keep going. [It’s] the inner strength, even the stubbornness to keep showing up every day, to refuse to quit or give up in the face of any setback. Sometimes the road to progress can feel like it’s two steps forward, one step back, particularly when it comes to advancing the rights, opportunities, and full participation of women and girls. It can seem discouraging, whether you’ve been on that road for a long time or you’re just starting out. But think how different the world would be today if the people who came before us had not just gotten discouraged but because of that had given up.
Clinton told the crowd that instead of focusing on setbacks, those fighting for equality for women have to remain stubborn and optimistic. She described feeling grateful for the community, friends, and family that supported her, and buoyed by the young women she had the opportunity to mentor. She pointed to the Jan. 21 Women’s March, and the scholars supported by Girls Inc. as reasons for optimism.
“Despite setbacks and stumbles on our long march to full equality, everywhere I look there are signs of hope, ” she said.
No word on whether Clinton keeps a gratitude journal. But as science—and the words of Hillary Clinton—have shown, gratitude is more than just a feeling. It’s an action, and a discipline.