Truly Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the United States.

… and to those in other countries, as well. After all, even if it isn’t your holiday, it’s never inappropriate to adopt, as the saying goes, an “attitude of gratitude,” being thankful for all we’ve received in life.

Three questions to consider this week:

Question 1: Where exactly, does gratitude happen? thanksgivingIs it strictly internal? An attitude? A mindset?

Examining the word “gratitude” and its meaning more closely, we realize that this isn’t the case.  To be truly grateful, thought is not enough. Gratitude is, in fact, a mode of action – being willing and ready to return kindness, and doing it. In other words, talk is cheap. Gratitude requires demonstration.

Question 2: For what are you grateful?  Most would say that they are grateful for the blessings they’ve received in life. The good things. And why not? We celebrate our abundance, our successes, the people who we love (and love us, which is really great). Our dualistic minds default to placing all the events, people and circumstances we experience into two columns, the winners and losers, pros and cons, the good and the bad. And, quite naturally, we proclaim our gratitude for the half of the list that highlights our winners, our pros, our victories.

If that’s the case, what are we supposed to do with the stuff that didn’t go well in our lives? What about the pain, the frustration, the disappointments, the hardships we have faced or are facing right now? Should we just ignore those, at least for this week? After all, it is Thanksgiving.

Let me present a radical thought. We should be grateful and give thanks for all of it. Everything. The totality of our lives’ experience … even the really crappy stuff. Why? Because your life is not a highlights’ reel. It is an epic mini-series with dramatic twists, tragic struggles, brilliant triumphs, and hilarious diversions. The end product of all of it becomes you – your character, your beliefs, your capabilities, your influence upon others, and your contributions to your world.

Gratitude for the good stuff is not sufficient. We must express, through action, that we are truly thankful for all the lessons and experiences, even those we cannot comprehend.

In Alcoholics Anonymous there is an expression of being a “grateful alcoholic.” This counterintuitive idea recognizes the reality that without facing the difficult challenge of alcoholism, manifested often in painful life circumstances, and damaged relationships, one would never undertake the course of change necessary to improve. And yet it takes work, and a new perspective that transcends not only the challenge or the pain, but the “self,” entirely.

This brings me to the Question 3: To what or whom are you grateful? Thanksgiving is, from its founding and at its essence, a spiritual occasion – giving thanks to God for all that we face, enjoy, and endure.  It is a simple, serene and spiritual recognition, which often gets drowned out in the noise of the Black Friday advertisements, elaborate preparations, bountiful feasts, and stressful travels. As you enjoy (or endure) these transient experiences, please take time to pause, keep it simple, and express your thanks: Through inward thought, through outward action, for good and bad, and with spiritual recognition to the mysterious and beautiful source of everything, which defies our understanding.

Gratefully yours,
Dan

About Dan Thurmon

Dan Thurmon isn’t just a world-renowned Hall of Fame keynote speaker. He’s also an author, workplace performance expert, juggler, acrobat, unicyclist (even on mountains – yes, really), drummer, and is (in his late forties) learning flying trapeze!

4 Comments

  • tak kurtz says:

    Hello Dan, happy thanksgiving from Japan ( where expats celebrate it and share it with our japanese friends).
    To be thankful as you mentioned, was an experience I had when I was 21 at a healing gathering in Oregon…a
    very new age gathering, where there was what they called a healing circle of about near a 100 people holding hands
    in a circle. The energy was quite amazing I thought. And every day they sang a song giving thanks to god for this and that.
    Thank you for our sister our mothers…our’ fathers’, I sang along knowing that I had been estranged from my father for years
    at that time…but I uncomfortably sang the lyrics with the huge group…singing thank you to a person that I had been hating.
    It opened something in me…a possibility that there is no good or bad that there just ‘ is’. And if we can be thankful for the ‘is’…
    then we can really be thankful for everything in our lives. And as you know it took more than 10 years of trying to connect again with my father
    after that and it often left me crushed. But I feel now that it prepared me for the challenge of marrying a person and not be
    excepted for many years by her family. There is a purpose in everything. It’s hard to see into the future…who would have thought that
    the tragic death of my mother would make my wife family except me. Even the unthinkable has gifts for us.

    • Dan Thurmon says:

      Thank you, Tak, for sharing your beautiful story, as well as your friendship. Thinking of you with yesterday’s news in Japan. Grateful that your family is safe. Continued blessings!

  • Elaine Holmquist says:

    Dear Dan,
    Thank you for your message to remind us to be grateful not only for the blessings in our lives, but also the challenges. Life is a journey, not a sprint, with many twists and unexpected turns. I’d learned that it is better to enter throught the narrow gate with all of its twists and turns. We know we are on the right path when we recognize that we don’t have control and there is Someone bigger who is watching out for us. It is when we are on the big, broad, and easy path that we become complacent and get into trouble.

    As a reference point, i was one of the participants in the 24th annual Administrative Professionals Conference held in Chicago this past September. You had given an inspirational talk regarding being off balance on purpose and demonstrated it through juggling, doing backflips, and riding a unicycle both on and off-stage. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! I know I will enjoy Thanksgiving with my family, including my son who is home on break from college.

    Best regards,
    Elaine Holmquist

  • Khalisie says:

    Hi Dan,

    I loved your position on being grateful even for the challenges. Too many times I forget that this is something I have to do. I want life to be as perfect as possible but this is unrealistic. You can imagine the frustration I have because of my own doings. May I learn to embrace the difficulties and respect challenges. Thank you for reminding me to be grateful even when things are not going the way I would like it to go.

    Blessings,
    Khalisie

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