11/23/2010 09:18 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Finding Gratitude in a Crisis

Life recently pulled me up short and drop-kicked me straight up into the air. During the ensuing freefall, figuring out how to land on my feet became top priority, knowing if I dilly dallied, ending up splattered on the ground cartoon style would be the unfortunate result. What is learned at top speed in a crisis cannot be duplicated in the classroom nor forgotten after the test is over. These rare and unforgettable experiences are seared into consciousness so best to make the most of them, even if they can be distasteful, scary and incredibly unpleasant.

So as we near the day of thanksgiving, here is a guide to surviving the drop-kicks of life and how to actually find something to be grateful for in the process.

Chances are that the biggest catastrophes are also the best opportunities. It may be hard to see at first but given time, the blessings present themselves. Be patient and be present. Missing them would be a great tragedy.

Pay attention to the response of those around you because you will never learn more about them any other way. In the heat of battle, some people are heroes and others run for cover. Some just hold their ground and do their part so that others may do the same. Once you identify the heroes and the good soldiers, thank them. Decide what to do with the others later. But don't forget.

Don't avoid sacrificing sleep and other necessary essentials during the crisis. It can be very satisfying to succumb to the challenge, put yourself on the line, and risk failure in the name of honor, survival or a noble cause. Get up early in a quiet house. Stay up late. Think until your head hurts. It is a privilege. You can go back to your comfortable routine when it is over.

Don't assume that those who have the power to judge you will be harsh and unforgiving. They may but if you do your job well and prepare with conviction, others may surprise you. Earnestness and hard work are their own rewards but being recognized and respected as a result is priceless.

Know the difference between being vindictive and holding those accountable who have contributed to the problem, knowingly or otherwise. Sometimes the best thing you can do is help someone learn that actions have consequences. If you skip this part, no lessons are learned and mistakes can be repeated. Avoid a repeat of your freefall at all costs.

March straight into your crisis head-on. Avoidance only makes it worse. Visualize a positive outcome and plan a strategy to achieve it. Put one foot in front of the other and keep marching until the battle is over, blisters and all.

Squeeze all you can from the experience and hold it close as you re-enter normalcy. With the passing of time, memory will soften the pain and reinforce the sense of accomplishment that comes with a successful outcome.

Be grateful for the exceptional part of yourself you discovered in the process and learn to integrate the best of you into peaceful times. Why let it sit there waiting for the next crisis?

While acknowledging the help and support of others along the way, don't forget to acknowledge yourself.

When it is over and you are not splattered onto the sidewalk, enjoy all the things you had before and failed to notice.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.