THE BLOG
07/31/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The New Normal: No Whining Allowed

Welcome to the new normal.

Your 401(k) has tanked, your job is hanging by a thread, and purchases you once considered routine are now major life decisions.

Many have suggested the current economic challenges are causing us to rethink our values.

That may be true, but I'm also still hearing people talk about when we get over "this" and things get back to "normal."

Exactly which normal are they talking about? The normal where people saved money and their assets grew? Or the normal where people financed granite countertops with their home equity line or charged flat screens on their VISA?

I'm all for economic stability, but do we really want to go back to the way we were?

The Universe is an amazing teacher, and sometimes we get two curriculums for the price of one. In this case, perhaps we're getting more than just a tough lesson in fiscal responsibility. Perhaps we're also getting a lesson in gratitude.

My heart breaks for the people who don't know where their next meal is coming from. But many who are lamenting our losses have lost sight of just how good we still have it.

While we're crying over our brokerage statements, other families (including people in this country) are wondering how they can keep their kids safe.

While we're missing going out to restaurants, many families would love to sit down at an old kitchen table with a big pot of Spaghettios.

Just because other people have it worse doesn't mean that your problems aren't real and significant. My husband and I lost a family business in this mess, so trust me, there's been no shortage of pity parties at our house.

But if we're honest, and I certainly include myself in this, while we may be whining about what we lost, the truth is, we weren't very grateful for the good times when we had them.

When we whipped into Applebee's or picked up Chinese because we were too tired to cook, did we appreciate that we lived in a country where there was plenty of good food and that we had enough money to buy it? Or did we bemoan how exhausted and stressed we were?

When we got assigned yet another endless project at work, did we appreciate the fact that we had a job and that our paycheck didn't bounce? Or did we grumble about how misguided or demanding our boss was?

Times are tough. But how much more do we have to lose before we learn to be grateful for what we have?

People say that when God wants to teach you lesson, first he whispers; then he shouts; then he smacks you over the head with a two-by-four.

The reality is, we're only at the shouting stage. We haven't been hit by the two-by-four. Yet.

Losing your money or your job or even your home can be a devastating setback. But losing your sense of purpose or the people you love or the opportunity to shape your future would be even worse. And so far, that hasn't happened.

The lesson is becoming pretty obvious, or at least it is to me:

Be grateful for today, because tomorrow is uncertain. It always has been and it always will be.

Maybe this really is the new normal. Less stuff, more gratitude; I think I'll take it.

Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, syndicated columnist, keynote speaker, and business consultant. Her books include Forget Perfect and Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear. More information at www.forgetperfect.com.