Resources Newsletter Archive Thanksgiving: An Opportunity To Increase Your Success (November 2006)

Thanksgiving: An Opportunity To Increase Your Success (November 2006)

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Thanksgiving: An Opportunity To Increase Your Success

Issue # 44
November 2006

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

~Melody Beattie

If you count all your assets, you always show a profit.

~Robert Quillen

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to gather with loved ones, eat super-sized portions of turkey and a wide assortment of carbohydrates, relax, and watch football or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Many people say that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. Others find the stress of hosting guests, preparing food, coping with traffic or long security lines before flights to make it difficult to enjoy the day. If you're unable to escape your office, it may be a day of frustration.

And, of course, Thanksgiving is the day before "Black Friday." If you can bear the crowds, the holiday is a prelude to a shopping spree.

Although by now we all know that the Pilgrims were the Indian's worst nightmare, most of us grew up thinking of Thanksgiving as having something to do with being thankful for a time of plenty after a period of hardship.

For too many Americans, the focus on gratitude has receded into the background of Thanksgiving. This is a significant loss. It may surprise you to know that gratitude is an experience with multiple benefits, including greater professional success.


Gratitude is essentially being aware of and thankful for the good things in our lives. We consider the things for which we are grateful; we count our "blessings."

Psychological research [1] indicates that the experience of gratitude makes us happy, and that the regular experience of gratitude can actually enable us to elevate our typical level of happiness in a sustained way.

Imagine intentionally focusing on the things in your life for which you are grateful. These might include significant relationships, your own achievements, or the contributions others have made in helping you accomplish your goals. On Thanksgiving Day you might consider how much you appreciate the delicious smells from the kitchen, small kindnesses from loved ones or even just the experience of sitting quietly for a while without the intrusion of your phone or Blackberry.

Gratitude augments well-being because it promotes the savoring of positive experiences. When we contemplate our "blessings" we squeeze the most out of these experiences. We stop taking things for granted and notice small things with a sense of wonder and appreciation. Gratitude allows us to get the most from the good things in our lives.

If you intentionally try to focus on your "blessings" you'll notice that it is impossible to simultaneously feel negative emotions. The first time I experienced this was a week after a hurricane had knocked out our electricity. I'd been preoccupied with all of the things I couldn't do (cook meals, dry my hair, work at my computer.) But when I considered what "blessings" the circumstances provided, I noticed that without TV my family enjoyed much more conversation. I became aware of the beautiful glow of the candlelight. I recognized that we were fortunate to have escaped trees falling on our home. My entire experience of the situation was transformed while I focused on those things for which I could be thankful.


Perhaps you're beginning to feel impatient with me for being so "touchy feely." So gratitude makes you happier - so what?

The fact is that happy people benefit from their positive state of mind in many tangible ways. Research demonstrates that people who experience relatively more positive (joy, interest, pride) than negative (anger, fear, envy) emotions are more successful and accomplished across most areas of their lives. [2] They:

  • Are more likely to marry
  • Have more satisfying and longer marriages
  • Are less likely to divorce
  • Have more friends
  • Are more cooperative, charitable and helpful to others
  • Earn higher incomes
  • Are more productive at work
  • Produce higher quality work
  • Receive better work evaluations
  • Are rated as better managers
  • Have richer social interactions
  • Are more self-confident
  • Are better able to cope with stressful circumstances
  • Have better self-control
  • Are more creative
  • Experience more energy and "flow"
  • Have better physical health
  • Live longer lives

Psychological research indicates that these characteristics are not simply associated with happiness - experiencing more positive emotion actually leads to this success. [3]


Many of the people I've coached have experimented with gratitude exercises and found them to have a significant positive impact on their professional and personal lives.

You might consider using Thanksgiving time as an opportunity for such an experiment. Here are two methods that research indicates can have sustained positive effects:

1. Keep a gratitude journal. Once a week contemplate the things in your life for which you are grateful. Be specific. You might appreciate sizeable things like your good health or how well you did on a client pitch that week. Also consider small "blessings" such as the brief expression of gratitude from a client, or watching your toddler stand alone for the first time. [4]

2. Write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who has made a positive difference in your life but whom you never properly thanked. You're likely to find what feels like a risky endeavor to produce multiple and lasting dividends. [5]


1. Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003) Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1040-1048.

2. Lyubormirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005) Pursuing happiness: the architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111-131.

3. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. & Diener, E. (2005) The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803-855.

4. Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M. & Schkade, D. Ibid.

5. Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. S., Park, N. & Peterson, C. (2005) Positive psychology process: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.



I want to express my gratitude to the many loyal subscribers to "Beyond the Billable Hour." I am grateful for all of the email so many of you have sent. Thank you for your feedback, suggestions and expressions of thanks.

I am grateful to so many people who have helped Lawyers Life Coach LLC grow into the successful coaching and consulting business it has become. My thanks to all of you who've made referrals, suggested the website to colleagues and passed along the newsletter. I am most grateful to the clients I've had the honor to serve. You are extraordinary lawyers and people.


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