My sister-in-law's mom, Ruth, died last week. She had been ill for some time and required 24/7 healthcare. She spent the last week of her life calling old friends and writing thank-you notes to those who had cared for her over the last several years. It seems to me that she died the way she lived – counting more than just her blessings.
Ruth's wonderful life teaches me that it is easy to be thankful when things go my way, but hard when people or circumstances fail to meet my expectations. Ruth wasn’t thankful just for her blessings, she was thankFULL for everything.
It is also easy to mourn someone with tears, but hard to honor them with action. This holiday season, I'll try to honor Ruth by practicing what she lived – being thankful all the time. Here are a few examples of “difficulties” for which I choose to be thankful:
2. Dirty dishes
3. Tough times
I hear people complaining about traffic and long commutes all the time. Of course, Los Angeles traffic bothers me too at times. Yet, it was those hours in traffic that drove me to turn my car into a rolling university 25 years ago when I worked for Siemens. I've listened to thousands of hours of educational audio programs during long commutes, traffic jams, and airport delays. I attribute a significant portion of my “success” to my dedication to lifelong learning… in my car and elsewhere. I invite you to check out www.teach12.com and learn from the best teachers in the world.
2. Dirty dishes
I used to hate washing dishes. My attitude changed one year when I realized that Ruth couldn't do the dishes because of her failing health. In that moment I decided that dirty dishes, especially during the holidays, represented an abundance of food, friends, and family. There are many who do not experience abundance during the holiday season. Those serving in our armed forces, suffering ill health, dying of hunger across the globe would do anything to wash dishes after a Thanksgiving meal with us. I encourage you to dirty a few extra dishes this holiday season by inviting someone who may have no place to go.
3. Tough times
The essence of growth is the management of anxiety during tough times. Nature, life, and research all teach us that hardship is critical to leadership. The ocean's reef is more spectacular on the side where the waves crash; those who fail to learn from difficulties are doomed to repeat them; eXtraordinary leaders understand that 70% of professional development occurs during challenging assignments.
Our challenging economy continues to cause anxiety in many hearts and homes. I too was anxious, especially at the start of the year after losing my largest (banking) client. I channeled my anxiety into positive energy by creating my new website (http://www.DaveJensenOnLeadership.com/) and the eXpansive Leadership Model (XLM) assessment tool (http://xlmassessment.com/). I am very thankful that these have been instrumental in the upswing in my business this year. It may be a stretch to say I am “thankful” for tough times, but it’s not a stretch to say that I’m choosing to GROW through tough times instead of merely going through them.
The holidays begin by giving thanks. I'm thankful that Ruth touched my heart. I am thankful that she taught me to count all things, not just my blessings. How about you?
P.S. Click on the link below (or paste it into your browser) to read about how my research on 171,000 leaders: