Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, bar none. Some of my fondest memories come from celebrating Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house. The holiday includes all my favorites—food, family, fun, and football. For me, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time to reflect on your blessings. You’ll hear the cliché “attitude of gratitude” tossed around a lot over the next few days, and you’ll likely find yourself pondering at some point what you are thankful for in your life. Those thoughts will undoubtedly envelop you in a warm, pleasant feeling of content.
But what about what you are not thankful for?
What about the parts of your life that are keeping you from being the best version of yourself? Maybe it’s a job you hate, or a relationship that soured, or bad habit you have yet to shed.
An attitude of gratitude can ward off negativity. But an attitude of gratitude can also be a cage that confines you to the status quo. It can enable contentment that causes you to endure when you should be modifying.
In his book What Happy People Know, Dr. Dan Baker writes: “the threatening messages from your amygdala [fear center of the brain] and the anxious instincts of your brainstem are cut off, suddenly and surely, from access to your brain’s neocortex…It is a fact of neurology that the brain cannot be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time.”
In other words, humans can’t feel stressed and grateful at the same time. It’s not physiologically possible. For that reason, I understand why focusing on gratitude could be beneficial to a person’s psyche. Who wants to feel stressed? However, the parts of our life that stress us are usually the parts that need addressed, and not suppressed.
When you’re listing what you’re thankful for this week, be sure to include having the opportunity to change what you’re not thankful for.
I believe in the power of positivity and have, on many occasions, touted the influence that “but-statements” can have on attitude. (I hate getting up early, but I’m thankful I have a job. I don’t like cleaning my house, but I am thankful I have a roof over my head.)
I’m also generally a thankful person, yet the biggest and best changes in my life have come from my not being thankful. Sometimes, the most important but-statement you can make is: I might have to temporarily put up with this, but I’m not going to accept it.
May you have a happy Thanksgiving. Eat lots of turkey. Laugh with your family. And allow yourself to be grateful for the opportunity to change the parts of your life for which you are not thankful.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.