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
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.
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).
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?]