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Thanksgiving Year-Round

It’s easy to point fingers at others, isn’t it? “I’m not getting ahead because of my lame boss.” “I would have gotten that promotion if it hadn’t been for that backstabbing co-worker.” “I’m always in a bad mood because my kids are driving me crazy.” And we’re particularly gifted in the finger-pointing department when it comes to our romantic relationships—you know, where the other person is the one who needs to change.

A few years back, a friend of mine was complaining about his wife. From my observation, she was a terrific lady, and he was lucky to have her. I told him as much, but he continued to point out all the ways she was responsible for his unhappiness. That’s when I shared an experience that had literally changed my marriage. One Thanksgiving, I decided to keep a Thanks Giving journal for my wife.

Every day for an entire year I logged at least one thing I appreciated about her—the way she interacted with her friends, how she cared for our dogs, the fresh bed she prepared, a succulent meal she whipped up, or the beautiful way she styled her hair that day—whatever. I looked for the things my wife was doing that touched me, or revealed attributes, characteristics, or qualities I appreciated. I wrote them all down secretly for the entire year. By the end of that year, I’d filled an entire journal.

When I gave it to her the following Thanksgiving, she cried, calling it the best gift she’d ever received. (Even better than the BMW I’d given her for her birthday!) The funny thing was that the person most affected by this gift was me. All that journaling forced me to focus on my wife’s positive aspects. I was consciously looking for all the things she was doing “right.” That heartfelt focus overwhelmed anything I might have otherwise complained about. I fell deeply in love with her all over again (maybe even more than ever, as I was seeing subtleties in her nature and behavior instead of her more obvious qualities). My appreciation, gratitude, and intention to find the best in her was something I held in my heart and eyes each day. This caused me to show up differently in my marriage, which, of course, made her respond differently to me. Soon, I had even more things to write in my Thanks Giving journal! As a result of choosing to take a mere five minutes every day or so to document all the reasons why I was grateful for her, we experienced one of the best years of our marriage, and it’s only gotten better.

After I shared my experience, my friend decided to keep a Thanks Giving journal about his wife. Within the first few months, he completely turned around his marriage. Choosing to look for and focus on his wife’s positive qualities changed his view of her, which changed how he interacted with her. As a result, she made different choices about the way she responded to him. The cycle perpetuated. Or, shall we say, compounded.

Who are you going to pick? Your spouse, a child, a parent, an aunt or cousin, a boss, an employee, someone on your team or even someone you observe from a distance (the President, your minister, a teacher). Just pick someone and take 5 minutes at the end of the day to record one thing you appreciate or are grateful for about that person. Again, the person that will be most impacted by this exercise will be YOU.

When you change how you look at a situation, the situation changes.

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