As we come together in the US to celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on what we can be grateful for, even in trying times shaped by the pandemic and other forces.
The source of our gratitude
Here’s the remarkable thing – virtually all of us can find things to be deeply grateful for, even though we may be very challenged and economically deprived. Why is that?
It’s because what we’re most grateful for usually doesn’t involve physical goods or financial assets. Our gratitude tends to focus on our relationships and the impact that we’ve been able to achieve with the people who matter the most to us. We’re grateful for our family and for our friends who stand by us in times of need and who provide us with the joy and fulfillment that comes from deep connection. We’re also grateful for our ability to help these people through actions that matter to them and to us.
Reflecting on our gratitude
Reflecting on what we’re grateful for can be especially valuable in trying times. In a world of mounting performance pressure, we can become consumed by a fear of the future. Fear can set a vicious cycle in motion – the more fear we experience, the more we tend to focus on the bad things happening around us, and that intensifies our fear. By making an effort to reflect on what we are grateful for, we can begin to see that there are good things in the world as well, no matter how challenging it might seem.
As we do this, we can begin to shift our time horizon. Think about it. Gratitude is generally about things in the present or the past. But perhaps we can also find ways to be grateful about our future as well.
I’ve written a lot about personal narratives as our view of the future and the actions that we and others need to take to address opportunities in the future. You can read about this in my new book, The Journey Beyond Fear, as well as in shorter pieces like this blog post.
We all have a personal narrative, but few of us have made the effort to articulate it, much less reflect on it and seek to evolve it in ways that can help us to have more impact that’s meaningful to us.
As we reflect on our gratitude, we can gain a lot by stepping back from the specifics and reflecting on what types of relationships and actions make us most grateful. What are the common elements that seem to be the most meaningful to us and why?
Much of our gratitude is about the people we are connected with. What is it about those people that makes us so grateful to be connected with them? What if we made more effort in the future to connect with other people like that? What is it about how we are connected with them that makes us so grateful? What if we worked to craft more connections like that? How rich could our life become?
Our gratitude is also about the impact that we have achieved that is meaningful to us and meaningful to others that matter to us. What if we could find ways to achieve much greater impact that really excites us and fulfills us?
Focusing on the future
By shifting beyond the past and the present and focusing on the opportunities for connections and impact that matter in the future, we have the potential to shape our emotions. We can help overcome the fear that consumes more and more of us today and cultivate emotions like excitement and passion that will propel us forward into a much more meaningful life.
Gratitude can become a powerful fuel to help us find ways to cultivate connections and to achieve more and more impact that really matters. We will begin to see the untapped potential that we have to lead much more fulfilling lives. Gratitude can lead to plenitude if we unleash its potential as a catalyst.