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In a year like no other, with all the challenges - medical, political, social and financial - it would be easy to focus on what we are missing. In fact, it is not hard to recognize the stages of a collective grief in our responses to the world as we know it today. Sometimes, we are in denial; other times, we are angry and at times, we're depressed. Our level of acceptance also ebbs and flows. And it's no wonder. We have lost our sense of normalcy; we've lost our freedom and our ability to socialize as we would like. Gratitude may seem like the last thing we can muster.
For that reason, I can think of no better time to ask ourselves the question: what am I thankful for?
I have spent time thinking about this. Part of my daily ritual is to end my day by recognizing three things that occurred during the day for which I am grateful. I believe it helps me to sleep better. In the spirit of this season of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to make a list of the things, people and circumstances for which you can express gratitude. If that seems difficult, allow me to prompt you with some areas on which to focus your attention.
What have you learned? Any period of challenge or difficulty provides important lessons, and this year provides a big opportunity. Maybe you learned some new skills, such as mastering new technology, or juggling multiple priorities while working from home and helping kids learn from home. Perhaps you've learned some unexpected things about yourself or your family or friends that you appreciate. And maybe you've learned some new ways of being - kinder, more compassionate, patient, or considerate. As you reflect on the year so far, what are the important lessons?
What did you accomplish? Did you take on a new project, a new team, a new challenge? Some people felt pretty good about the way they managed themselves, their family, their team, their organization through the unprecedented level of uncertainty. Others did a much better job structuring, then managing their overall agenda, including time for improving their attention to self-care. Still others were able to help out neighbors and family members who were struggling to cope. Take time to consider what you were able to achieve in spite of – or because of – the situation you faced.
Who do you appreciate? With all the various crises surrounding us this year, many people were determined to do a better job with the resources they have. Others resolved to find more ways to get together with family and friends that they have missed. While this has been very difficult, the silver lining is the renewed appreciation for the people in our lives that we may have been taking for granted. Were there people who offered support, advice, good shows to watch, and good books to read?
What about the people who are no longer with us? For example, I have a renewed sense of appreciation for my parents for keeping me safe as a child and their continual moral support, as well as the values they instilled, and all the sacrifices they made to ensure I had what I needed. I also appreciate my teachers, coaches and mentors for all the wonderful learning experiences and for challenging me to be a better version of myself.
What do you take for granted? This list includes things like gravity, electricity and running water, the internet, TV, music, art and nature. Maybe the roof over your head, the food on your table, and your good health, your family and friends, your job. And what about breathing? That's a big one. Slow, mindful breathing allows us to be more present, and also to calm down when we are angry or anxious or afraid. Once you focus on this, It is not hard to come up with an extensive list of things you tend to take for granted on a daily basis.
What opportunities helped you arrive wherever you are today? Many of us were born into circumstances that provided advantages in life. Maybe you had access to advanced education or teachers who saw untapped potential and helped you to develop it. Or someone may have taken a chance and hired you when you had no experience.
I'm extremely grateful that I've had the opportunity to visit over thirty countries and as many U.S. states, which provided exposure to other cultures and different perspectives on life itself. And the chance over the last fifteen years to work with global thought leaders in the fields of high performance, leadership excellence, the principles of success and personal transformation. I realize I’ve been quite fortunate in the opportunities that I’ve been given, even when they were disguised as challenges and obstacles.
There is no shortage of things to be grateful for when you choose to focus your attention on what is good and meaningful in your life. Yes, we have lost out on a lot this year - special events, like birthdays, graduations, weddings and even funerals. But we've also gained some things, including a fresh perspective, and renewed appreciation for things we have perhaps taken for granted.
In the spirit of the holiday, be sure to take some time to recognize this. I will be doing the same.