Thanksgiving isn’t just about giving thanks.
It’s about football, overeating, family feuding, travel atrocities, excessive shopping, more overeating, napping, more football, and most importantly, having the same three-minute conversation over and over again with people you don’t even like and should have unfriended on Facebook years ago.
Best. Holiday. Ever.
Anyway, it’s Wednesday night, it’s raining, and we’ve got a long weekend ahead of us.
But as I sit here in my parents’ house, stuffed full of food, writing away in what used to be my bedroom, I can’t but think about the topic of gratitude. It’s simply too important.
I’ve put together six ideas to think about during the forthcoming holiday season:1. Recall your roots of gratitude. Growing up, our family had everything. Everything. And for that very reason, my parents regularly reminded my brother and I:
“Look, we have things most families don’t. And because of that, it’s your responsibility to become a model of gratitude to everyone you encounter. When people buy you dinner, you thank them before you leave the restaurant. When someone throws a party, you walk up to the host as soon as you get there, look them in the eye, and thank them for inviting you. And the way we’ll know if you guys are doing a good job, is if the other parents come up to us and say, ‘Wow! Those Ginsberg boys are so grateful!’”
The message was clear: Ingratitude is absolutely appalling and unacceptable behavior. Especially if you have more to be thankful for than most.
The cool part is, instead of being known as the affluent kids – we became known the appreciative kids. Not because our parents told us to, but because our parents were people whose lives – at every level – gave evidence of gratitude. All we had to do was follow their lead.
What example are you setting? Your employees, customers, kids and members: What behaviors (that you have already shown them to be acceptable) are they currently mirroring?
Because if gratitude isn’t on that list, it’s not their fault. They were just following your lead. What do people think when they listen to your life speak?
2. Give compliments that matter. The first time I attended a yoga posture clinic, my body did things I thought only circus performers could do. Since then, my practice has never been the same. And I remember thinking, “How can I show gratitude for this accomplishment?”
Here’s what I did: After class, I approached our guest instructor with the following compliment, “Ren, thanks for giving me permission to impress myself.”
He was speechless. So was I. And it was a moment we’d never forget.
Sadly, several months later I found out than Ren had passed away. Apparently he had become extremely sick with cancer, even though none of his students could tell.
Wow. All the more reason to give compliments that matter: You never know when – or if – you’re going to see that person again. May as well leave them feeling essential to the world.
Oh, and if you’re concerned that your comment will “go to their head,” don’t worry – it won’t. It will go to their heart. And it will remain there forever.
That’s exactly what it takes to win: Trumping marketshare with heartshare.
Remember: People love to hear how great they are; but people long to hear how great you’ve become because of who they are. Where could you be more gregarious in your gratitude?
3. Cultivate a gratitude practice. Leah Dieterich’s mother always told her to write thank you notes. So, she does – to everything. Her blog, www.thxthxthx.com, is her daily exercise in gratitude because there’s always something to be thankful for.
From the important things like “Songs You’re Embarrassed to Like,” and “Heavy Eyelids that Tell You When You Need to Sleep,” to friends and family, love and loneliness, light and darkness, Leah sets out to acknowledge them all.
And that’s the secret: Gratitude isn’t a thing you do – it’s a virtue you embody.
In the same way that you cultivate a meditation practice, a writing practice or a yoga practice, you also need a gratitude practice. After all: No holiday comes once a year.
The way I see it, you don’t need a calendar to tell you when to care. Everyday is Thanksgiving. And if you’re only grateful for one month out of the year, you missed the point. The goal is to make gratitude like exercise: Something you just do, everyday. People will notice. Have you made giving thanks a non-negotiable?
4. A chicken ain’t nothing but a bird. If you’re under thirty-five, prepare yourself: The world will to attempt to conveniently place you into one of its nice little boxes. And they can call it whatever they want: The Entitled Generation, The Me Generation, The Why Generation or The Ungrateful Generation.
The point is: The deck is stacked against you. The stereotype does exist. And whether or not it’s true, it’s up to you project a pervasive tone of gratitude with everyone you encounter.
A helpful strategy for doing so is to define the whitespace around the idea. To consider what gratitude isn’t. Because in my experience, the opposite of gratitude isn’t forgetting to give thanks – it’s complaining when you haven’t earned the right to do so.
Don’t be one of those people. Be the exception. Be the minority. Look people square in the eye, mean every word that comes out of your face, and leave no doubt in their minds that gratitude fills your heart.
Your embodiment and expression of this virtue will be a mark of maturity and magnanimity. Who knows? Maybe customers will forget all about the fact that you’re twenty-five years old. Who assumes that you’re ungrateful?
5. Traditional thanking isn’t always enough. Gratitude isn’t an event – it’s an ongoing process. I learned this last month while celebrating the ten-year anniversary of wearing a nametag twenty-four seven.
Naturally, my mom had to bake a cake. And by “bake,” I mean, “order.”
But it was a blast. We had about sixty people over, including friends, colleagues, mentors and family members. And during my toast, I said the following:
“Tonight, I’m not going read a list of people I’d like to thank. That wouldn’t do them justice. Instead, I’ve decided to live everyday of the rest of my life is a thank you in perpetuity to the voices that have shaped me. I hope that covers it.”
And that’s when it finally occurred to me: Gratitude is more than just a few honest words – it’s a calendar of consistent action.
Your mission is to show massive gratitude to the people who took personal and professional risks to help underwrite your success. Next time you get a raise, win an award or land a huge client, present a visual representation of your accomplishment to the five people who helped you most. And be sure to include a sticky note that reads: “This is your fault.”
Remember: If you don’t acknowledge people’s contributions to your development, support will cease to flow your way. After all, gratitude is the great gravitator. And what you appreciate, appreciates. Are you still convinced that success comes unassisted?
6. Contribution is the greatest form of gratitude. Every human being has been commissioned to contribute. Interestingly, the word “contribute” comes from the Latin, contributus, which means, “to bring together.”
That’s your challenge: To figure out what you were made to make. To learn what you were designed to cure. To discover what God had in mind when she put you together. This is life’s most critical assignment. Ignore it at your own peril.
Besides: How dare you dedicate your days to anything else? Isn’t that the point? Isn’t the highest way to show gratitude for the gifts you’ve been given to regift them in the service of the world?
You better believe it. That’s how you pay your rent, validate your existence and offer thanks for your natural endowments. By contributing. By adding value. By leaving this cosmic campsite better than how you found it. Do that, and your customers won’t just thank you – they’ll throw your arms around you.
Remember: Usefulness is worship. Learn why you are, or risk losing who you are. What were you born with that you’ve been ungratefully denying?
REMEMBER: Gratitude isn’t just something you do – it’s something you are.
This week, as you sit down to break bread with your loved ones, and as you and celebrate all there is to be thankful for, keep one thing in mind:
What’s being served on the table isn’t as important as who’s sitting around it.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What is your life a thank-you in perpetuity for?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
Now booking for 2011!
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