I just read an article, “Companies Redefine Success.” The reporter tells us that companies are not only presenting the usual financial information in annual reports, but are including “non-traditional” ways they measure success. Wow! That’s an idea we could all consider, particularly with Thanksgiving upon us.
Most families have traditions concerning the Thanks giving holiday. As my wife Jean comes up with most of the good ideas in our clan, for a number of years she has asked each person around our Thanksgiving table to name a few things for which he or she is most thankful. Declarations of gratitude can be a powerful practice.
And have you ever kept a gratitude journal? Studies show that people who write down daily several things for which they are grateful are better off than most–both physically and emotionally. They have fewer ailments and their emotional well-being improves dramatically. Apparently, it really works as a way of defining their success to themselves every day, keeping their blessings right at the top of their consciousness, right where they ought to be.
Unless our wiring is a little tangled, we are thankful for the emotional radiance that accompanies success. There is no question that we learn from mistakes and failures, but it’s difficult to be thankful for what befalls us – particularly when the dark shroud of failure first consumes our consciousness. In that sullen state of mind, we may fail to recognize all sorts of non-traditional successes that germinate from apparent missteps.
Understand, I am not suggesting that you should be thankful for the ability to twirl a plate on a stick; unless, of course you’re a circus performer, and then that gratitude is well placed. Nope, it’s the day-to-day victories we incorrectly catalogue as commonplace, not worthy of celebration, that are escaping our notice and thus are being “wasted” in their power to raise our sense of self worth. Yet they are on every hand, at all times. Our job is to notice them. I believe this misreading of miracles occurs because most of us have been saturated with “Hollywood” notions of success. In the make-believe world of TV and movies, success looks narrowly apportioned, a golden gift exclusively given to influential power brokers, those men and women rich beyond all measure or exuding a James-Bond-like mystique. In that venue everyone has a beautiful wife and a handsome husband – no need to explore their hearts and souls – physical beauty equates with real success.
Actually, it’s an irrefutable truth that happiness seldom attaches to those attributes. OK, physically attractive people can be happy, but that one gift is never enough. It’s a fact that folks who were depressed before they won the lottery are usually just as depressed six months after the guy delivering the four-foot check turns from their door. Why? Because what causes someone to be depressed is seldom caused solely by a lack of material wealth. Sure, we all need to feel secure – that we can care for ourselves and our families – but Tinsel-Town levels of wealth is never a cure-all.
My life prescription is simple. Recognize that happiness is a continuum of successes not always garbed in ermine and cloth of gold. We need to define, maybe even to unearth or uncover, these successes to ourselves, so that we come to realize that ours is a worthy life, one that’s well lived. And yes, that last phrase was written in the present tense! For which we give thanks, too.
So here is a drill to recognize non-traditional successes for your own personal “annual report.” First, think about the people in your life–lots of them, not just those that circle your core existence. Then uncover some of the neat things that exist in each of those relationships. Do this same drill with other aspects of your life, your work life, your charitable and civic organizations, your church. In seeking out the positives, cut yourself some slack! Make a list, but don’t check it twice for the myriad miniscule zingers you’ve emoted in the last year or the minor moments you didn’t show up or follow through perfectly. Remember, all we need are memories of small victories, of moments the light came on.
To prime the pump, here are a few examples of successes worthy of thanks and gratitude:
- I am on speaking terms with most all of my relatives. (Sometimes that’s a tough one!)
- I genuinely look forward to being with my family on Thanksgiving.
- I talked ___[ Name ]___ through a difficult personal problem and listened closely to his/her thoughts. (You get a lot of points for listening, as well.)
- I have chosen and meet regularly with a wise mentor.
- I find work rewarding and my co-workers genuinely concerned about my success and well-being.
- My children like me. (You get double points for that one–love is tribal, affection or “like” is huge.)
Here is my final piece of advice – If you want to generate lots of non-traditional yet substantial successes, start writing personal affirmations and forget about New Year’s resolutions. Thanksgiving is a far more relevant holiday to find ways to care for yourself than New Year’s, as it’s presently constituted, could ever be. Can you recall making a New Year’s resolution where you pledged to do something that was nurturing for yourself or someone else? Most resolutions either compel some action we don’t find pleasant or require us to cease doing something we enjoy.
Is that any way to start a new year? Rather, on November 22, 2012, create affirmations that will bring joy into your life. One way to get started is to learn from others. You’ll feel a lot better when you actually do something to help yourself. Here is a great way to start: Go to my wife Jean’s website, www.creatingpositiveaffirmations.blogspot.com. You’ll find scores of great affirmations and some wonderful advice as well. Try it and I’ll bet you’ll find much to be thankful for.