Grateful For Gratitude

(Note: This is a post that I wrote 6 years ago.  I found it when I was going through some archives as I work on my new Website. I\’m not sure what was going on in 2013, but this post feels not only more relevant today than it did then, but the circumstances around missing my retreat is just as accurate. It felt like a sign that I should revisit it and post it up again. It was a great lesson then, and it is even more so in today\’s world.\”)

Here in the United States, this is the time of year that we celebrate Thanksgiving – a time for each of us to express gratitude for the bounty we enjoy.  

This year because of some business commitments I’m missing my yearly spiritual retreat – in which I review, refresh, reflect and recharge for the year upcoming. Now, by the time you read/hear this, I will have already carved time (no pun intended) to make up for it.  But perhaps it’s because of the reason (so many opportunities so little time) that my gratitude for everything that’s happened this year is fresh on my mind.

One of the great quotes about gratitude (which I’ll put further below) comes from Albert Schweitzer – and encourages us that gratitude can actually be a great healer for us.   It strikes me that this is so vitally important right now when we feel as citizens, as business people and as humans that there’s so much conflict in our general universe.

It’s  been scientifically studied of course – that hugs, and general morality is good for our health.  There’s a wonderful Ted Talk  given by Paul Zak where he discusses how hugs generate more of a chemical called Oxytocin in the body.  Oxytocin is generally released by breast feeding mothers and is considered the driver of that “special bond” that parents have with their children.

And so – being thankful helps us too.  It lifts our self-esteem and improves our confidence to be better at our work.  It enhances our emotional capacity – and helps us to heal and repair faster from failures.  And it can simply help us live longer.   As Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy head of the biologic psychology department at Duke University said recently – “if thankfulness were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system”.

Thanks To Those I’ve Never Met And Even Those I Don’t Agree With

It’s relatively easy for us to be thankful for our families, our friends and our colleagues who continually give us the things we need on a regular basis.   But, this year, I find that in addition to those people (to whom I’m deeply grateful) I also find that I’m grateful to people I’ve never even met – and to some who I don’t even care for that much.

From political candidates and officials, to business leaders, celebrities, competitors and just people “in the neighborhood” there are many people that have impacted my life this year that will never know or understand their level of impact on me.  They’ve made me think differently, act accordingly and believe passionately about a great many things.  In short – they shape who I am at this moment in time – and I’m grateful for them.  Schwietzer said it well:

“One thing that stirs me when I look back at my youthful days is the fact that so many people gave me something or were something to me without knowing it. Such people with whom I have, perhaps, never exchanged a word, yes, and others about whom I have merely heard things by report, have had a decisive influence upon me; they entered into my life and became powers within me…. Hence I always think that we all live, spiritually, by what others have given us in the significant hours of our life.”
– Albert Schweitzer

What Eyes Are We Looking From

One of the key lessons that has helped me this year is to continually ask: What “eyes” am I currently judging this with?   I won’t belabor all the versions here –but you’ll know what I mean if I just say that there are “child’s eyes” and “adult’s eyes”, \”cynical eyes\” and “the ego’s eyes” etc…  Put simply, what lens is coloring my judgement in any given situation?

And, this can be so helpful for us as business managers, as friends – as humans.  Whether we are creating that next, great content strategy, or brand – or coding our next project – or just visiting with our friends at dinner – we can be aware that we can look at the enormity of conflict that we see right now and actually see it through the lens of gracious gratitude.  We can see that it in its own way, it represents change and – yes – hope.  We may or may not like the direction.  We may or may not like the source.  We may be discouraged and appalled at the deceit or violence it sometimes incites.  But we can have gratitude that it makes us all think or act differently.

In the wonderful book “Choosing Gratitude” author Nancy Leigh DeMoss suggests that “gratitude is a choice.  If we fail to choose it, by default we choose ingratitude”.

This Thanksgiving – I’m so deeply grateful for my family, my friends, my colleagues with whom I work, the clients for whom I do the work and all of the people I get to interact with on a daily basis (including you who read this).  But I’m also grateful for those who I do not know, those who I do not necessarily like – and those who will never realize what impact they have upon me both good and bad.

That gratitude feels good – and well… I’m selfish that way.

I hope you all have a joyous celebration. I give thanks to you all.

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