While engaged in a conversation with an international female student from Sweden, I asked her about her plans for Thanksgiving. Her reply, "We never have celebrated Thanksgiving," which I understand is an American holiday, prompted me into a teachable moment. As I began discussing the power of thankfulness, she listened very attentively, understanding that this topic, and the concept, went far beyond a lesson in American history. I explained that one of the foundational principles of leadership is thankfulness, understanding the calling and accountability to add value to others. As I spoke with her, I pulled my cell phone from my pocket, opened my Merriam-Webster app and read the definition - a consciousness of benefit received. The definition seemed to click with her as she looked at me and stated, "So as I have received the benefits and calling of leadership, I must recognize the benefits of executing the principles to others, to leave the world better than I found it." I replied, "You will do well as you leave college. You have begun your journey today in the first step of effective leadership."
As you stood in the dining room of your or a relative's home, and may have exclaimed what you were thankful for this Thanksgiving, we must not forget that the yearly cliche` associated with the holiday has a much more powerful meaning. Effective leaders do not rely on the feeling of thankfulness and its application once per year. They understand that it is a much deeper concept that guides the daily life. They understand that it provides nutrients in the soil of understanding that allows seed to die, grow, and produce.
Thankfulness is a Choice: Life is sometimes tough. We have to continually fight off a bombardment of struggles in our daily lives. It is difficult to choose to be thankful, especially when there seems to be an uphill battle, trying to navigate life, especially when there seems to be no end in sight. However, choosing to be thankful is a powerful concept that helps push you through those difficult times. Most adversity is temporary. A better side will eventually appear. Choosing to be thankful places you in the position of optimism that focuses on positives.
Thankfulness is an Attitude: You'll never rise above the level of your attitude. There are countless stories of individuals who faced strong adversity, yet held a positive attitude. The results were experiences that created learning. Attitude is also a choice. It is a cognitive state that one must choose to initiate. Your attitude will attract or repel others. Having and practicing an attitude of thankfulness will transcend your priority of leadership toward others. It will open your perceptions to needs and options for solving problems.
Thankfulness is a Way of Life: Effective leaders understand the power of thankfulness. They live each day understanding the accountability of the benefits received and the call of passing them along. Leaders do not look for opportunities to be thankful. You can talk to them during adversity and will hear positive outcomes. They exhibit a servanthood mentaility and understand that this call is about others before self. Thankfulness is not something that is turned on and off. It is a constant presence in every decision and activity.
Thanksgiving, as we celebrate it, is an event. We as Americans understand its significance in our history as a nation. Thanksgiving as a concept, and as a verb, is a conscious action in realizing the benefits we possess and the accountability that comes with them.
How do you exhibit thankfulness each day?
Do others see your thankfulness?