How to Be Truly THANKFUL at Thanksgiving

Nov 23, 2021

Thanksgiving is celebrated as a time for family, food and depending on the activities you include, a little, or a lot of fun.

Many of us had considerably less, or none, of all three types of celebration in 2020 as the world coped with the corona virus pandemic.

This year, I hope that the celebration will safely resume for as many of you as possible, and in light of all the events that impacted the festivities last year, I also hope that everyone takes time to honor this year's Thanksgiving (and all the ones to come in the future) with a renewed sense of "thanks".

Being Thankful

If you look-up the work "thankful" in any dictionary or thesaurus, you will find the words "gratitude" or "grateful".

Many years ago, I started a monthly habit of reviewing a note to myself about the things I'm grateful for.

It started out as just a few lines specific to my daughters, who were very young at the time.

I reminded myself to "Appreciate TODAY with the girls," "Enjoy their youth AND every stage of growth and maturity," and "Say 'I love you' every time it comes to mind."

Over time, I added items like "Good health," and more general appreciation for "Any good fortune I have had and will have in the future," "Goals I have already accomplished," and "Any opportunity in the future that comes my way."

Eventually I added a subtitle to my list, "Saving Private Ryan"....

True Appreciation

In the final scenes of the 1998 movie Saving Private Ryan, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) sits dying on the side of the road amongst the rubble of an all but demolished town in France.

Earlier in the movie, Miller told his men that if saving Private Ryan "earned him the right [to go home] and get 
back to his wife," then that was his mission.

When watching that final scene, I can't help but think about how sad I would feel, being far away from home and family, with good odds of never seeing my girls again, like Captain John Miller.

Thinking about that scene makes the "missing" and the "loss" feel very real for me, and therefore my gratitude for the time I have with my daughters... today... every day, feel much deeper.

In short, I've learned that to really appreciate the things in life that you value most, to be most thankful, you need to visualize, as vividly as you can, a situation where you would be truly grateful.

This is why the subtitle of my gratitude list is "Saving Private Ryan," so I never forget this deep feeling of appreciation.


 To really appreciate the things in life that you value most, to be most thankful, you need to visualize, as vividly as you can, a situation where you would be truly grateful.


As they say, the fear of loss is much greater than that of gain.

Learn to harness the power of this psychological reality, for your benefit.

We've all heard of people who make drastic changes in their life after suffering a loss of some kind, perhaps a near death experience for themselves or the loss of someone they love.

Or maybe they've had a major health challenge that has created a much deeper appreciation for a loss of site, or hearing, or mobility.

I attended a luncheon not long ago where the former Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken was the keynote speaker.

In the 1996 Summer Olympic games in Atlanta, Amy became the first American female athlete to win 4 gold medals in a single Olympics (Wikipedia).

In 2014, she was involved in a very serious ATV accident and was paralyzed from the waist down.

Amy is now an inspirational speaker and runs her own foundation to, among other things, "educate people about what it's like to live with a spinal chord injury."

I certainly don't want to endure the pain and tragic loss that Amy shares with her audience just to gain a deeper appreciation for walking or climbing stairs.

So I've taken Amy's message to heart, and think of her (monthly) to make certain that I always have a deep appreciation for the fact that I can walk and I can climb stairs.

After reviewing my "Saving Private Ryan" gratitude list for the five-hundredth time, I've learned to find deeper appreciation for all things in life, without having to suffer a loss.

This is what I hope for everyone this Thanksgiving.

That you will each learn to be truly thankful for all the positives in your life by considering, as vividly as you can, what it would actually be like to no longer have those positives....without actually having to lose anything.

By also appreciating, more than ever, that your glass of life is "half-full" rather than "half-empty".

Best wishes this Thanksgiving celebrating with family, enjoying wonderful food, and having lots of fun.

Please also remember to be thankful for the personal and professional freedom you do have, however much that is, while at the same time looking into the future and....

Staying focused on creating even more freedom for yourself, and those on your team.

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