On this day before Thanksgiving, it is of course a time to reflect on what we are grateful for — and for many of us, family and friends top the list. But do we, and individuals and leaders, truly recognize, deep down inside, how blessed we are?
I’ll never forget a Thanksgiving celebration with a gym full of hungry souls listening to a youth choir when a young girl, probably about 10 years old, stepped up to the mic and, her lone voice strong and clear, sang “Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart.” This child had experienced more pain and suffering in her young life than many of us will ever know and yet, on that day, her sincere expression of thanks humbled everyone in the room. I want to be that kind of grateful.
The challenges of being a leader today cannot be denied. Ever-changing regulations, economic and financial volatility, business models that are no longer sustainable, never mind personnel challenges … feel free to add your own crisis du jour. Serious? Quite possibly. Something you have to deal with? Absolutely. Overwhelming? That depends. If you spend all your time staring at the challenges before you, it may feel that way. If you compare them to the many blessings you enjoy, maybe not so much.
How you think about things — the context in which you view them — determines their impact on your life. And the things you focus on most, grow in your minds eye. I don’t know about you, but from where I’m sitting that’s a pretty good argument for focusing on the things for which you are grateful. As a leader, you have a special responsibility in this area because your focus also becomes your people’s focus. Think back to a time when you were especially stressed … I’m guessing your people soon started mirroring your anxiety. Likewise, when you’re cruising on all cylinders it’s amazing how much your organization can accomplish.
I’m not suggesting you become a Pollyanna leader or ignore the difficult things before you. I am suggesting that in the midst of those things you also recognize the many gifts and graces you have been given to tackle such issues head on … creativity, a can-do spirit, a strong and diverse team, individuals outside your organization who are willing to lend a hand (feel free to add to the list.) When viewed through the lens of a grateful heart, “oh poor me” melts away and is replaced by a spirit of “we’ll figure it out.” That is the quiet confidence that comes with a grateful heart. Think of where our world would be if more of us approached our roles with that perspective.
So that is my wish for you this Thanksgiving. Look around at the things cluttering your desk and your mind. Take a deep breath and say out loud, “we’ll figure it out.” Then give thanks, with a grateful heart.