Close your eyes.
Well, not yet, or you won’t know what I’m asking.
I want you to remember Thanksgiving dinner as it was in your childhood. If you’re not from the United States, or you didn’t celebrate the holiday, then you may need to suspend reality and make it up. If you had awful Thanksgivings, you may want to imagine the one you wanted.
Okay, try it. Now close your eyes and imagine early Thanksgiving dinners in your home.
When I think about the Thanksgiving of my childhood…
The laughter permeates the room. My sister’s voice is unmistakable, but I can’t hear what she’s saying. My brother is playing the piano, not the classical pieces his teacher wants him to play, but some rock song. My other sisters are playing a game. The TV is on in the living room. There are a few friends visiting and, as often is the case, a few that have nowhere else to go.
Our home, I’ve decided, was built on a secret geological magnetic force. Perhaps that’s why the military has testing grounds nearby. It must be some top-secret location because the magnet attracts all sorts of people to our home. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to who. Not the same age. Gender. Race. I suppose that one commonality is that they are all searching to belong somewhere, anywhere.
Well, look no further. We accept everyone. No judgment. Perhaps we will judge you if you don’t eat, drink, and laugh with us.
It’s rare that I’m so silent. I’m not usually an observer here, but a full-on participant. I guess when you’re imagining everything, then you aren’t watching yourself. This little exercise has me thinking, though, about many things in my past. I personally choose to think about the positive. Any negativity is something I choose to erase. Or, better yet, like an old cassette tape, I just record right over it.
As I open my eyes, I’m transported back to today.
How do you experience the spirit of Thanksgiving? How do you get all the lessons you can from the time with your family?
I think of 3 things: let go, fill up, give away:
Let go of the negative. Most of the gratitude exercises I read about don’t start here, but this is what works for me. I can’t be grateful for something if the voice in my head is whining about something else. Literally I imagine things disappearing, minimizing, or flying away.
Know that any negative experiences of the past happened for a reason: to build character, to make you who you are, or for you to just realize how things are better now.
Not only with food! Be filled with thanksgiving. That means focus on the positive for today. This attracts more positive. You’ve heard it’s important to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. You’ve heard about gratitude journals, about writing down ten things you are grateful for, all that. Do it. All good. What you do is individual, what works for you.
Express your gratitude—especially to those who don’t expect it. There’s amazing power in gratitude, but it’s turbocharged when you express it.
These three steps: letting go, taking in, giving away are important components of living a life of gratitude.
For those who aspire to be leaders, to be successful, and to live a life of meaning, it all starts in your imagination, a spark of thought that’s a choice of attitude and experience. To experience all that’s possible, cultivate the spirit of Thanksgiving every day.
That way, when you look back, decades from now on this Thanksgiving, you’ll have more positive memories than negative.
Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s to creating a spirit of thankfulness.