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Mastering the Art of Being Thankful

Paul said to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.”

Seriously?  How is this possible?  I understand thankfulness during the good times but in ALL circumstances? During a nasty divorce? While receiving cancer treatments?  When a close family member dies? Fill in the blanks with whatever pain, trial or tragedy has seared you most. The reality is being thankful is hard.

However, Paul indicates that it depends on our decision to be so and is not contingent upon a particular set of circumstances. Most people dismiss this possibility, but what if Paul is right?  Your whole world could be turned upside down. You, your kids, your friends, your colleagues, and your legacy could be transformed.

How thankful are you on a scale of 1 to 10?

If your ratio of thankfulness to bitterness is low, you may need to reset your expectations. Stop making demands on conditions you have no control over. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s right-hand man who is nearly 100 years old, quipped, “The first rule of a happy life is low expectations. If you have unrealistic expectations, you’re going to be miserable your whole life.”Thanksgiving was never intended as a future hypothetical; it is always something to be experienced in the moment.

Current difficulties are traded for future difficulties.

They don’t eventually just disappear. Stop believing otherwise. Ask anyone older than you at a different stage, and they will tell you the same thing. Even if the turkey is dry, cranberries are gross, and a particular family member drives you crazy, you still celebrate the Holiday. You don’t cancel it if the weather is bad, especially when you know the pecan, pumpkin, coconut and eight other pies are waiting on the other side.

A Gratitude Survey conducted by the John Templeton Foundation in 2012 found that only 52% of women and 44% of men expressed gratitude on a regular basis. If I’m not careful, the markets flashing red or green can impact me in the same way. We have less than a coin flip chance of being thankful on an average day. How depressing is that? Their key findings offer some silver lining, most notably how much of an impact you can have on another’s sense of gratitude by expressing gratitude for them. The survey found that 93% of women feel most grateful when a spouse listens to them and is # 1 on their gratitude list, higher than showing affection or remembering their birthday. This one is worth highlighting. Husbands, you have the power to transform the world’s thankfulness overnight, and all we (I must include myself in this admonition) must do is duct tape our mouths and LISTEN! Can I get an Amen, ladies?

Are you feeling especially low?

Are you not stacking up well on Instagram and Facebook relative to the rest of the world (or at least the tiny unrealistic bubble you’ve made it)? Maybe it’s time to turn your phone off and list the things you are thankful for. Allow emotions, which lead down a dangerous path and off a cliff, to be trumped by reason.

Once you start, you’ll be amazed at the momentum that starts to build. Here is how the first 60 seconds of my unedited list begin…Wife, Kids, Pickleball, Fishing, Sports, Running, Parents, Colleagues, Allen & Company, Church, Pastor, Quinn, Work, Health, Competition, Small Group, Best Friend, Travel, Dogs, Bible, Books. In case you are wondering, I would not trade places with anyone in the world, though my deceitful emotions constantly whisper otherwise. By the time you finish your list (you won’t), you might start wondering if you aren’t the luckiest human being alive after all.

Creating and reassessing this list is a rabbit hole worth going down and revisiting frequently.

You may start feeling so giddy and thankful that you stop being as self-absorbed and begin using your hidden treasures to bless others. Draw a line in the sand this Thanksgiving. Instead of celebrating it once a year, embrace it daily.

November 2023

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