Tomorrow is a day for giving thanks. Most of us will, at some point during the day, show up to a gathering of friends and/or family, ready to say “thank you”. And, we will call that act – the act of saying thanks – gratitude. I disagree with that categorization. Gratitude is an attitude. It’s a mindset. Gratitude is not an action. Saying thanks is what you do when you show up. And believe me, saying thanks is important! But, gratitude is bigger than that. Gratitude is how you show up. And, in my opinion, how you show up matters… not just on the fourth Thursday of November, but all day, every day.
When we show up with gratitude, everything we do becomes about others. And, yes, saying thanks is part of that. But there is much, much more to a mindset of gratitude. Gratitude is about being present. Not being physically present (i.e., seated at the dinner table tomorrow night), but being in the moment, focused on hearing what others are saying, rather than just searching for your chance to say “thanks”. Gratitude is about optimism. That is, it’s about finding the “silver lining” in every situation, thankful to have the opportunity to learn from whatever difficult situation is before you. Gratitude is about showing up ready to give, rather than to receive. And, yes, gratitude is about actually saying “thank you”. But it’s about doing so as a gift to others… as recognition of others, rather than as a gift to yourself… to make you feel good.
We know gratitude when we see it. I think about the time I’ve spent in the mountains with guides who exude gratitude. They show up in rain, sleet, or snow, thankful that the mountains are their office. They show up thankful for my company. They show up thankful for the challenge that lies ahead. They show up open to new routes and ideas. And, when things to wrong, they are thankful for the challenge.
I think of Marines whom I’ve had the honor of serving alongside and underneath. They showed up, grateful to wear the uniform. They showed up on battlefields, knowing the risks and consequences, thankful for the honor of serving. They showed up, open to any idea that might save lives, regardless of the rank of the Marine with the idea. They showed up thankful for the responsibility of leading others. And, they showed up, even in the worst of circumstances, thankful for the challenge!
And, I think of the leaders of successful companies and organizations whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They showed up thankful for their position. They showed up thankful for the chance to lead. They showed up grateful for their customers. They showed up to serve. They showed up open to new ideas, new systems, and new processes. They showed up to listen. And, often, they spent time saying thanks.
Which brings me to my point. As you prepare to give thanks tomorrow, don’t confuse action with the mindset. Ask yourself how you’re going to show up, not just what you’re going to do when you get there. Are you going to show up open, present, ready to listen, optimistic, and focused on others? Or, are you going to simply say thanks when the opportunity arises. Are you going to listen to understand, or just roll your eyes at the relative who voted differently than you recently? Are you going to share their optimism, or sneer when your friend tells you about their new career? Are you going to tell someone what he or she means to you, or just be polite and say “thank you for having me”?
Gratitude matters because gratitude is a mindset…it’s how you show up. And, whether you’re in the mountains, on the battlefield, in the boardroom, or even at the table tomorrow, nothing determines success more than mindset. That, and at least for tomorrow, a healthy amount of wine.