Three years ago, on Thanksgiving (it feels like 10 years after what we experienced in 2020), I was sitting at my dining room table with over 20 relatives of all ages.
The guests included my mom (who was a spry 93 and is now a spryer 96), my wife and kids, siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces.
There might have been a stranger or two who wandered in because they heard the legend of Aunt Elaine’s sweet potato casserole–the secret recipe handed down to us, complete with marshmallows, pineapple, cherries and whatever extra gluten and sugar could possibly be added.
At some point during the meal, I looked around the table, feeling grateful for my family, their health and general well-being–but noticed most (if not all) of the millennials present were looking at their smartphones under the table.
I went out to the other room where my phone was parked, came back, and texted one of my nephews (the youngest of the “kids”):
“Could you please pass the salt?”
The response was exactly what I was looking for: An abrupt head turn towards me, a quick pass of the salt, and a smartphone falling to the floor. 🙂
I got my stuffing seasoned appropriately and immediately and was also able to get the “kids” to put down their phones (for a few minutes anyway) and partake in some lively banter instead of looking at pictures from their Facebook friends (who were also not paying attention at their Thanksgiving celebrations), posting food and other nonsense.
Of course, the only restriction on the banter was “no politics.”
My mom was the happiest of all with these developments because she doesn’t own a smartphone and she couldn’t text if she had one…BUT she can talk about anything and everything (including politics, unfortunately) as long as someone will listen. We made it work.
I still can’t believe that was three years ago.
This year, after the void of 2020 (there was a pandemic in case you were lucky enough to sleep through it), being together in person was clearly different…and there were welcome improvements.
Not everything was ruined by the pandemic.
You can’t keep a killer holiday like Thanksgiving down for long.
Obviously, everyone was so grateful to partake in all of the gluten and sugar that is Thanksgiving…and we picked up right where we left off with all of that lively banter…and to my surprise, everyone’s smartphone was in silent mode, only being used as “place cards” for seating.
There was unanimous consent around the table on the issue of Thanksgiving is not a time for “resolutions” –those are reserved for the New Year—because with New Year’s resolutions it seems as if you are one chocolate chip cookie away from abandoning your resolution to lose 10 pounds—on January 2nd.
And if we went with the old reliable Thanksgiving resolution “to be grateful, thankful and kind to everyone around us,” we’d be off that wagon a day later on Black Friday as we trample our neighbors in the mosh pit leading into Wal-Mart.
So, we agreed that Thanksgiving is more of a time to make “declarations” rather than resolutions because a public declaration would seem to have more legs…at least longer than a day.
We proceeded to go around the table and declare what we were all thankful for at that moment…and hopefully forever.
Taking everyone’s “happiness temperature,” short term and long term.
Note that this was also much more inviting than taking everyone’s body temperature, which was not a COVID mandate for entry into my house.
The younger set preferred to send a thankfulness group text…bad habits die hard (if ever) I guess…but we got them to leave their phones on the table and share verbally.
What’s the difference between resolutions and declarations?
I define resolutions as micro changes you want to make in your life–and you make them on January 1st every year–and if you’re lucky they last until February 1st.
I define declarations as macro statements that can encompass many micro resolutions within them.
For example, it would be a resolution to lose 10 pounds; a declaration would be a commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
And if done right, declarations can last a lifetime. Or at least a full year perhaps?
Declarations are only short lived if you allow them to be…just the act of declaring them in public creates some built-in accountability.
Resolutions become short lived because they are rarely spoken (i.e. declared) in a big crowd of loved ones…and they just run their course when we get bored with them.
Maybe it’s just a semantic distinction (for the purposes of this post).
All I know is that gratefulness and thankfulness are not “Thanksgiving resolutions.”
They are so much more, sentiments that go way beyond Thanksgiving Day into every day the entire year.
For the past 6 years I have used this “Thanksgiving blog” to explore various aspects of gratitude and appreciation and how they do battle with their arch enemies, jealousy and envy.
Four years ago I wrote Gratefulness is not a Thanksgiving resolution (and have repeated that post on Thanksgivings since)…and it told a story that created a hack on how to deal when jealousy or envy creeps into your brain…and then immediately flip the switch to gratefulness and appreciation.
If you haven’t read it before, or if you are new to my online family, read it here and let me know your take.
Thanksgiving 2020 was no different when it came to these sentiments…however most of us practiced our thankfulness in smaller crowds…or on Zoom…and we were forced to share our respective feasts independently with no hugging.
It was lonelier as many of us were cooking for four rather than forty.
While it was still meaningful, our declarations were heard by far fewer family members, loved ones and friends…and I hope you made up for lost time this year (as we tried to in my house).
No more COVID excuses. 🙂
And since Thanksgiving resolutions…er…declarations…span an entire year, we can now all get back on the gratefulness/thankfulness train for the next 365.
I want to encourage you to at least make Thanksgiving gratitude last more than a day.
Pro tip to make it easier to block out envy and replace it with gratitude:
Stay off Facebook and refuse to take in everyone else’s glamorous front stage (which is designed to make you envy them) as the truth.
Instead, make the assumption, because of their need to brag so much, that their back stage is a hot mess.
I see this play out every day and, in every way, among the members of my Titans Xcelerator virtual mastermind and with my private coaching clients as well.
When high-achieving entrepreneurs and business leaders allow their emotions, specifically jealousy and envy, get in the way of doing their best work, it can be tragic…and some of the most meaningful work I do with them is to keep those kinds of distractions away and only focus on the tasks at hand.
I can’t stop them from paying attention to the myriad of “look at me posts” on social media or in their email In Box…but getting them to dismiss them as more fiction than fact is a solid first step.
Then, I encourage them to seek advice from some of those fiction writers rather than stew in laments of, “why can they do that and I can’t?”
If you find yourself being envious of a perfect stranger, stop that right now.
It’s not worth the emotional energy when you don’t know all of the facts behind what seems like their perpetual, wonderful lives.
Assume they are not as wonderful as they sound and walk away.
Your default position should be, “It’s all probably crap.”
But when you are envious of someone’s feats of strength who you know well, there’s an opportunity to get some advice from them…rather than throw your hands up in futility (whether in envy, jealousy or even anger).
Ask them questions like:
“How’d you do that?”
“Are there tips you can give me how you got there?”
“How do you think I could do that too?”
If it’s going so well for them, they will be willing to share their magic formula when you ask them. I guarantee it.
And then you simply drink up the knowledge as good karma on their part—that is, drink up the knowledge they share with gratitude as opposed to going down a rabbit hole of misplaced jealousy.
It’s all upside for you (and them).
Don’t forget to thank them with sincerity for all of it… discard what’s not useful later…with no judgment and zero envy.
The result will be that you will love them rather than envy them while picking up some free wisdom in the process.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? I know it’s not. But it is simple.
When you conquer eliminating envy from your life, it is so freeing.
Envy is an emotion that causes illness…and I didn’t make that up.
According to the Brazilian psychoanalyst, philosopher and social scientist Norberto R. Keppe, in his book, The Origin of Illness:
The envious person has inverted values because he rejects what is positive: goodness and happiness—and then when he has made a mess of his life, he complains that he doesn’t feel well…In order to be healthy, we must be grateful, but if our envy is too strong, we will reject any feelings of gratitude.
I maintain—and again, it’s not easy—to allow your emotional state to go to gratefulness for those you are envious of by recognizing you are envious and then getting them to share with you their simple human trick.
It’s tough to absorb the trick but very worthwhile.
It’s sometimes especially difficult in the marketing world because most braggarts on social media are only showing you the front stage about their business (and life exploits) and don’t give you any of the bad news that comes with it…and believe me, there is plenty of bad news where there’s good news.
I’m not saying we should wish bad things on people…but know that they exist.
Plus, most keep score based on the money they are making or the material wealth they are accumulating…which for me, gets awfully tiring.
Chances are if they are bragging about how much they have made or accumulated with their “toolkit of perceived enviable tricks,” I cut everything in half and walk away.
And it’s often less than half.
I can’t prove this…I just know it’s true.
On the other hand, if they are legit in their deeds and cash balances, then you’re back to asking them about it, and allowing them to teach you what they have learned to get there.
Why be sick with envy when you can find joy with gratefulness?
In summary, I want to share this video from actor Mathew McConaughey (which I shared with you last year on Thanksgiving) where he makes a distinction between “happiness” and “joy.”
It is another spin (of sorts) on envy vs. gratefulness but it is about the results you get from the day-to-day journey of life…and he expresses his thesis much better than I expressed mine.
Hey…give me a break…he’s a professional actor.
And I am not envious of that…or that he nailed it better than I ever could.
I am grateful to have found this video and to add this important distinction as wisdom to use in a variety of ways in my life, beginning with this post.
It will take you 9 minutes to watch it or listen to it.
If you don’t have 9 minutes, here’s the gist (but Matthew is sooooo good with his delivery that I encourage you to watch it, in a quiet place, with no distractions):
We’ve all got two wolves in us:
A good one and a bad one.
And they both want to eat.
Happiness is an emotional response to an outcome…it is a standard we cannot sustain…because we immediately raise it every time we attain it…it is result reliant.
Joy…[is] something else. Joy is not a choice. It’s not a response to something else. It’s a constant. Joy is the feeling that we have from doing what we are fashioned to do. No matter the outcome…joy is always in process. It’s under construction. It is in constant approach. The easiest way to dissect success [through joy] is through gratitude.
How this pertains to this Thanksgiving email:
Be grateful for the good stuff going on in others’ lives (and incorporating as much as you want into your own life).
That’s instead of being jealous of other’s successes, leading to less happiness and joy…culminating in the origin of illness (which is envy).
How McConaughey differentiates happiness and joy is the most cogent and insightful explanation I have ever heard and it also relates to my previous (somewhat semantic) difference between resolutions and declarations.
A successful, short-term resolution is happiness.
A successful, long-term declaration is joy.
At a minimum, this is at least worth thinking about on Thanksgiving, isn’t it?
And if you want to take the advanced course in gratefulness…and creating joy…feel free to extend this lesson to the entire year, the next decade or the rest of your life.
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in my online family.
I wish you happiness today…and joy forever.