With an annual day set aside for Thanksgiving, it’s easy to try to cram gratitude into one day. But why not cultivate the habit of daily gratitude to make every day Thanksgiving?
Dennis Prager, author of Happiness Is a Serious Problem, reminds us that gratitude is more important than just a reason to share a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving: “There is a secret to happiness and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person. I try to be happy unless something happens that makes me unhappy, rather than unhappy unless something makes me happy.”
Albert Schweitzer knew the importance of gratitude for the people in our lives who make a difference: “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
Dag Hammarskjold, former Swedish diplomat and UN General Secretary, summed it up best: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.”
At the first Thanksgiving, the early Pilgrims found the strength that comes from community and giving thanks to God for what we have been given–the good, the bad, the ups and the downs. We can learn from them. Gratitude and praise are at the heart of faith.
Gratitude is one of the keys to happiness. In the midst of life’s struggles and challenges, taking time to count one’s blessings keeps one’s frustrations and setbacks in perspective. Stressful worry and thankful thoughts are incompatible. Instead of focusing on the problems on your to-do-list, try counting today’s blessings. Instead of complaining about what you’ve lost, focus on what you have left to use! Instead of dwelling on what might have been; look for the unexpected openings that have presented you with new opportunities.
Gratitude is also critical in building anticipation for the exciting adventure that the future can bring. It’s hard to look forward to the future unless you can appreciate your past. A recent news item focused on two teens who built a new business selling T-shirts with the positive message–”Life is good!” They can’t keep the T-shirts in stock. The media may make a living bringing you the worst, but the best leaders don’t have time to watch. They’re too busy inventing a future they want to live in!
Don’t forget to give thanks for the people who made a difference. Who were the people who were there at the right time for you? What did they do to light the flame within you? Sometimes they fan your gifts–a spark that encourages a career dream. Sometimes it’s a heartfelt compliment that lets you know you are valued. Sometimes it’s the wind that fuels the spark of creativity into an innovation that makes a difference. But in some way, they believed in you before you believed in yourself. Have you said thank you? If you can reach them, let them know while you can.
You make a difference, and you could do more. How are you lighting the flames of the people you live and work with? Do your people know you value their gifts? Who needs encouragement? Who can you brag about? As a leader, you are known by your alumni and how far they have soared because of your leadership. Leave your people better for having worked for you.
What are you most thankful for this year? Then think about what adventure you look forward to in the New Year. What are you ready to say “Yes” to? Laurie Anderson has said, “Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories.” May your stories this week be ones of thanksgiving and gratitude, and may you take the time to let those special people who have touched you know how much you are thankful for them. And, oh yes, see if you can help rekindle some fires this week and every week.