Last week, at our organization’s annual Thanksgiving feast attended by the children and families we serve, as well as staff and guests, our chaplain reminded all of us that we can give thanks in difficult times without giving thanks for the difficult times. While he may have been specifically referring to the challenging situations our young people have experienced, the message holds true for all of us who would aspire to be leaders.
Leadership is hard. As I have noted many times in this blog, walking through difficult situations is part of the process. And while scores of studies have proven that gratitude offers a range of physical, psychological and social benefits, sometimes it is hard to be grateful for the challenges that come with this role we worked so diligently to attain. Maybe that’s because the challenges aren’t where we need to focus our gratitude.
This week, and in the days and weeks to come, I hope you will pause to give thanks — not for the challenges before you, but in the midst of them.
- Give thanks that you have people around you who bring skills to the table that you may lack, and who are willing to walk alongside you on your journey;
- Give thanks for the privilege of being in a role that will cause you to grow and stretch in ways that you otherwise might not, and that will prepare you for new opportunities ahead;
- Give thanks that you have the experience to know with confidence that you and your organization are far more than any current situation, and you are up to the challenges before you;
- Give thanks for the occasional humbling reminders that it is not about you, that you are but a caretaker for a larger mission that requires your very best;
- Give thanks for the family and friends who sustain you, who allow you to vent or ponder, who can call you on your stuff and make you laugh until you forget the burdens of the day.
What would you add to that list?
Many years ago, I gave a colleague and friend a plaque that said, “I know God won’t give me more than I can handle, I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” Perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, but a good reminder to be thankful in, even on those days you can’t be thankful for.
That is my wish for you, when the days are long and the stress is high . . . that you can pause, take a deep breath, and focus on being thankful in.