Giving Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I’m not sure how far around the world the tradition of Thanksgiving as a holiday stretches, but it is certainly important in North America as an expression of family, community and tradition. This year has been hectic for us at home

as we have gone through a succession of renovations, we have had the joy of (and involvement with) our new granddaughter Anadella. We have travelled together, and I have left home regularly for work. I’ve added the load of a hefty study program to add further complexity.

But Thanksgiving Day comedy nonetheless. With it came a request from our daughter that we invite a good friend of hers, her friend’s boyfriend, and her friend’s friend from Italy. At first it felt like too much. We’ve barely got our house back together, we have a debt of other projects to get done, there’s much stress associated with having new house guests and it really would feel good to chill out for a long weekend.

All in all, it would have been easy to say no to this request. Thank goodness for Thanksgiving! We have been presented an opportunity for us to truly understand gratitude. This request from our daughter is actually a blessing. An implicit statement

This year's turkey will be prepared by our son.
This year’s turkey will be prepared by our son.

that she values home, loves family and is proud to introduce her friends and even strangers to our way of being. I am grateful to have that depth of connection and love to draw upon. I am grateful that we have the ability to offer our home and hospitality to others who have nowhere to celebrate Thanksgiving. I am grateful to live in a country where we have such traditions, and that sharing can be so rewarding. I am looking forward to sharing our home with new people and making new connections.

Once I get on a roll, I like to keep going. There lots to be grateful for. My health. My family. The company I work for. The opportunity to grow as an individual that we enjoy in North America. My friends who always support me. The people who challenge me to make me better. The simple beauty in our world. People who want to make a difference.

A colleague at work has a tag line on his online presence within the office. It says “An Attitude of Gratitude”. Every time I see that I feel drawn to it. But I don’t always fall in line. There are times when I can be drawn to the other side, that which sees the half empty glass. It’s sometimes easy to go there, to see the accumulation of unanswered emails that demand attention, the things that didn’t go well today and the risk that it might happen again tomorrow. The questioning of decisions and intentions of others.

I'm grateful for a beautiful family
I’m grateful for a beautiful family

We go to this darker side somewhat naturally, as the physiology of our brain is set up in a way as to deal with threats first. Just as with physical threats, emotional or virtual threats can trigger a fight/flight/freeze response from our limbic brain. Did you know that when we are threatened, this portion of our brain will send a chemical to the reasoning part of our brain to shut down so that we can more primally deal with the threat? Of course when we go into “safety mode” we trigger others around us to do the same.

What if we all developed the skills to recognize when this autonomous response is at work and interrupt it before the reaction is in full force? What if by doing so we could insert this “attitude of gratitude” into our thinking? What if we all looked at someone’s new idea as a resource instead of a competition? What if we all brought this concept of “appreciative inquiry” I mentioned last week into the forefront … where we started to look for all of the great things we do right instead of focusing on the few things that go wrong? What if we looked for opportunities to pay a complement to someone instead of criticize? What if we all looked around us to see who can help us instead of trying to cover up our lack of knowledge.

What if, as leaders, we went into every day looking for opportunities to catch our team doing something spectacularly right? What if we said sincere thank you’s to people for who they are and not just what what they do? What if we asked people to contribute what they know instead of telling them what we know (something I am working on).

I see grace and gratitude in this light
I see grace and gratitude in this light

Again I am grateful that I work for a company that believes in this way of being. We have many people who live this way each and every day. We’re not perfect, but nobody is. The trick now is to do what I can to add to the momentum. To express more thanks for the environment we have. To recognize contributions more often, no matter how small. To look for all that is right instead of looking for “wrongs to right”.

As we go through the days following Thanksgiving, can we continue to give thanks and gratitude for all that is right in our world and for those that make it special to be a part of our communities. That way, nobody can stop us! Not as individuals. Not as an organization. Not as communities. Not as …. [HOW BIG DO YOU WANT TO THINK?]

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

12 thoughts on “Giving Thanks

  1. There is a process — The gift I see in you… — or, What I appreciate about you in this moment is…
    My daughters and I did this for years — where everyday I would tell them, The gift I see in you is… and they would respond. thank you for reminding me. I need to begin it again!

    It opens the heart to gratitude and appreciation and joy.

    Like this post Ian.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Ian – a wonderful post! This part spoke to me: What if we all looked around us to see who can help us instead of trying to cover up our lack of knowledge. What if, as leaders, we went into every day looking for opportunities to catch our team doing something spectacularly right? What if we said sincere thank you’s to people for who they are and not just what what they do?

    I was once part of an org. that I loved that began to go sideways. People became afraid and self-protective where we once all had each others’ backs. It really was ugly and dark and toxic.

    Someone once told me that Japanese business leadership teams respond to one of their team who has made a mistake; not by pointing fingers but by figuring out how, together, they can make a situation right.

    Thanks for this post and Happy Thanksgiving Ian!

    1. I appreciate your thoughts here Diana. They mirror reality with our desire for a positive space sometime interrupted by negativity or fear-based behaviour. What can we each do to keep ourselves on the positive side of the equation and in doing so pull others with us?

      1. I probably could have done more Ian. As it was, I stayed 1 1/2 years longer during a leadership shake up in an effort to 1. help transition my department and 2. help transition the organization. I worked hard to stay true to who I am and admittedly did not always succeed. Eventually I had to leave as it affected my health and was breaking my heart. Thinking back, I should have left earlier. My dad recently said to me in a conversation. Be nice Diana, but not too nice. That has stuck with me.

  3. Bang on Ian. Attitude of Gratitude, look for the rights instead of wrongs to right. Oh and I love the appreciative inquiry! Oh the things we can strive for one step at a time and together we’ll make the world a better place. I give thanks for people like you in my life. So pleased to have met you and had opportunity to work with you. I had similar thoughts on my thanksgiving today at a neighbours with 26 people phew busy! But alas the good people chat with, laugh with and moments to enjoy who can pass that up.

  4. “An Attitude of Gratitude” is a fantastic catch-cry to build on. Australia does not have a ‘Thanksgiving Day’ to prompt us into this action, so thanks for the reminder to me today.

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. Thanksgiving Day is historically driven in North America tied to the arrival of what are known as “the pilgrims”. Aside from that it has ties to our puritan Christian roots as a society, and has become a great time to check in with ourselves on how fortunate we are to live where we do. It is nice to get an annual reminder of the value of gratitude in our own approach to life.

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