Posted on 11/21/2016 by Mark Hutchinson
"Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving."
- Amy Grant
"Think not of what you have lost,
But consider that you have given back only a small portion
Of the great gains you have received.
Even as you lie down and give up your final breath,
Do not mourn the loss of your life,
For God has left you the priceless treasure of having lived."
- Mark Hutchinson
Most people underestimate the importance of giving thanks. It is easy to have a thankful feeling when you receive something that you already know you want but that is just the very surface of it. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches we usually spend a little more time at least recounting the various things we should be thankful for. Sometimes those items are not as cut and dried in terms of landing squarely in the “Yes, Thankful” column. Can you think of one thing where your feelings of thanks are a little more complicated? I bet you can.
I offer up today that a thankful state of mind is a necessary precursor to your most correct way of thinking and most powerful way of living. To say it another way, to be the best you can be and get the most out of your life you must always have a deep sense of thankfulness.
That brings us to the first critical element of developing that deep sense of thankfulness – you have to put energy into it. I was so thankful this morning to find this quote from Amy Grant. As things often seem to go in life, I just happened to be at her concert last night. I just love it when these happy coincidences appear. Don’t you? So, you do have to invest some effort to look around you, to dig down a bit, to spend some time with how you see the world. The more that goes in, the more that will come out.
The second point is about changing your perspective. A thankful mind is more calm, more stable, and more perceptive. In the martial art of aikido the participants practice thanking their partners for an aggressive attack and for finding a weakness in the person performing the art. At first it can be difficult to imagine being thankful to the person that is coming to hit you but that is exactly what you have to do. Not so much to try to incentivize the attacker to include you in their Christmas card mailing list but so that your mind can stay calm, and that you can behave in the way that you want to. So one cannot practice their aikido effectively without a partner that is willing to attack aggressively. So you work on becoming thankful for what is good even when on the surface it looks mostly bad.
Is there a hardship or other difficulty that really sets you off? Can you change your perspective and find something in it to be thankful for? If you can, then you are making great progress. I’ve provided my little poem above to highlight this change of perspective.
The third, and by no means least, important element of thankfulness is that it cannot be deep and powerful in your life if you try to exclude certain people or things from its reach. To be truly thankful means that that feeling must be like a lightbulb casting its light in all directions at the same time. Saying to the lightbulb to only shine on the things in the room that you enjoy most is ridiculous, but this is often how people approach being thankful. Not only is not effective, but building a habit of excluding others limits your own enjoyment of the world and of your life. Please don’t mistake having a thankful mind for being a cloying, over-exuberant person that comes off as being insincere and over the top. Deep, powerful thankful feelings will feel comfortable, calm, and completely genuine to anyone that comes in contact with you. If that’s not happening, then something is wrong. Make it your goal to know deep down in your bones that you are grateful for being in this world.
Yes, Thanksgiving is a great time to come together and celebrate those things we are already thankful for, but this year, go deeper and build a daily habit of being thankful for everything and everyone. I think you’ll be grateful you did!
Happy Thanksgiving all!