Two years ago on Thanksgiving (it feels like 10 years after this past 2020!), I was sitting at my dining room table with 20+ relatives.
The guests included my Mom (who was a spry 93 and is now a spryer 95), 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 my late 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 be added.
At some point during the meal I looked around the table, feeling grateful for my awesome family and their excellent health and general well-being–but noticed most (if not all) of the under 30 year olds were looking at their smartphones under the table.
I went out to the other room where my phone was, 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 (including an immediate and abrupt head turn towards me).
First, I got to adequately season my stuffing…immediately.
Second, I woke up everyone in the room and got the “kids” to put down their phones and go for some lively banter instead (anything but politics of course).
My Mom was the happiest of all since she doesn’t own a smartphone, doesn’t know how to text BUT she can talk about anything and everything as long as someone will listen.
There was unanimous consent around the table on the issue of Thanksgiving is not a time for “resolutions” (and that those are only for the New Year).
And there was further agreement that whenever you make New Year’s resolutions, you are only a day away from abandoning them at any time after you make them.
We also agreed that Thanksgiving is more of a time to make “declarations”–and we proceeded to go around the table and declare what we were all thankful for at that moment.
Of course the younger set wanted to send a group text.
Bad habits die slowly (if ever) I guess.
So what’s the big 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 all of the micro (resolutions) within them.
Declarations are only short lived if you allow them to be; resolutions become short lived naturally (i.e. they just run their course when we get bored with them).
Resolutions to lose weight or stop smoking are important health considerations and should not be tossed away lightly (but often are).
A declaration proposing, “Health to the entire family,” (physically and emotionally), is an umbrella over the micro details; but on Thanksgiving when you declare it, it’s in the moment, everyone agrees on it (yet it rarely has legs, like short term resolutions).
These broad declarations may not even last one day, when you abandon “shopping etiquette” on Black Friday (which we all know is very unhealthy). ☺
However, macro declarations deserve to last a full year, every year…yet we cast them aside just like the lies (i.e. resolutions) we tell ourselves every January 1st.
For the past 5 years I have used this “Thanksgiving blog” to explore various aspects of gratefulness and appreciation and how they do battle with their heinous foes, jealousy and envy.
Three years ago I wrote Gratefulness is not a Thanksgiving resolution and told a story that illustrated a hack (although I may need to develop an app) on how to deal with jealousy or envy creeping into your brain…and immediately flip the switch to gratefulness and appreciation.
Maybe a cranial input might be more efficient than an app so it’s automatic.
Because with any hack, or an app, you still need to be aware when it’s happening.
The cranial input may take a few more years to develop.
If you haven’t read it before, or if you are new to my list, read it here and let me know your take.
Thanksgiving 2020 is no different when it comes to these sentiments.
This year most of us will be practicing our thankfulness in smaller crowds however…or on Zoom…and sharing our respective feasts long distance. But it can be just as meaningful.
I want to encourage you to make Thanksgiving gratitude last more than a day.
Maybe even through the entire weekend? That would be a start.
How is it that you can spend much of the year with feelings of envy, jealousy, anger (and all of the emotions that stop us in our tracks)…while on Thanksgiving you are so “thankful” and “grateful” for everyone and everything in your life?
I am even more convinced this year about the importance of “gratefulness over envy” after a year (mostly virtual) of coaching marketers, copywriters and entrepreneurs through the gauntlet of funnels, copy platforms and scaling (among many other topics).
Many of their issues come back to envy and jealousy even while being in a marketing conversation.
I see it every day and in every way imaginable in my Titans Xcelerator virtual mastermind and with my private coaching clients as well.
When high-achieving entrepreneurs and business leaders let their emotions 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 focus on the task at hand.
I can’t stop them from paying close attention to the myriad of “look at me posts” on Facebook or Instagram for example…but getting them off those platforms might be a good start for many.
“Why does that jerk look so happy all the time while I’ve got so much mess in my life?”
If this happens to you, the first step is to not read those posts.
Remember that everyone’s back stage is not as rosy as their front stage (that they are portraying on social media).
I can’t prove it. I just know it’s true.
However, if you can’t look away and you think you need Facebook, you must deal with these kinds of things differently (and that includes going beyond Facebook and, dare I say, delve into “real life”).
And the answer is not the opposite–to look for posts or stories about people’s ugly back stage rather than their braggadocious front stage– to make you feel better about yourself.
O.K.—here’s the hack to go for gratefulness over envy—and you don’t need to read that other previous long post.
It’s a two part hack.
First, the “recognition stage”: Whenever envy or jealousy– or any other emotion creeps into your brain about someone else that can set you back (Facebook OR real life)– you need to get your mind to switch over, once recognition is established, that this is happening…it’s not real…and move immediately to gratefulness.
To recognize it you have to be mindful…and you need to be on the lookout for it at all times.
Remember…it’s not all unicorns and rainbows for those who are strutting their stuff as mentioned above and that might be the way to get it out of your head.
Being interested instead of interesting is the key to good relationships– and taking a “far too interesting person,” far too seriously, is not healthy for you…and we also know it’s not their full story.
So another way to dismiss it is to see the behavior (or success) you think you want to emulate as only interesting…and know that they are probably not interested in you anyway.
The second part is a bit more subtle and advanced; but you need to do the first part before moving on the advanced part of the hack.
If you recognize you are envious of a person you know well, especially if they are a friend, or maybe a student of yours or even a mentor, think about the ways they could teach or share with you the things that led to, or are leading to, their success, happiness, contentment.
You actually can do this with a perfect stranger but it’s more likely you will be envious of someone you know rather than someone you don’t know.
Whatever you are feeling anxious about, which is causing envy, ask them about it instead of simply stewing in your own brain trash about it.
“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—that is, drink up the knowledge they share with gratefulness.
Thank them with sincerity for all of it… and discard what’s not useful later.
The result of part two of this hack will be that you will love them rather than envy them.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? I know it’s not.
But 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.
It’s a tough 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 exploits and don’t tell you anything about the bad news about their business.
Plus they are keeping score by the money they are making.
You need to turn all of that off if possible.
Chances are if they are bragging about how much they have made with their toolkit of (perceived) enviable tricks, I simply cut the amount in half and walk away.
And it’s often less than half.
I can’t prove this either. I just know it’s true. ☺
On the other hand, if they are legit in deed and cash, then you’re back to asking them about it, allowing them to teach it to you.
Why be sick with envy?
There is an ultimate hack, when your thoughts of envy and jealousy take hold of you, and you feel trapped and can’t get out.
Lean on an old reliable:
Every day above ground is a reason for gratefulness
I knew this before almost dying from a massive stroke in 2019.
And I am much more aware of it now.
In this video from actor Mathew McConaughey, on “happiness” vs. “joy,” is another spin on all of this…and it’s much better than mine.
It will take you 9 minutes to watch it.
If you don’t have 9 minutes, here’s the gist (but Matthew is sooo good 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:
Being grateful for the good stuff going on in others’ lives instead of being jealous of other’s successes, is critical to creating joy in your life…and avoiding 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 relates almost perfectly to resolutions and declarations.
A successful, short term resolution is happiness.
A successful, long term declaration is joy.
I think I just found the Holy Grail! (And not Monty Python style☺)
That may be a bit of an exaggeration…sorry about that…but isn’t it at least worth thinking about on Thanksgiving?
And then the entire year?
One more quote that tells us why it’s important to work towards gratitude over envy–from Keith Cunningham, author of The Road Less Stupid:
“Hell on earth would be to look in the mirror and meet the man I could have been.”
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, my online family.
I wish you happiness today…and joy always.
P.P.S. My New Year’s Resolution(s)–a bit premature I know!:
To continue to send a blog to your InBox every Sunday at 6:00 a.m. (U.S. EST) with a focus of being interested in you…and not just interesting to me.
And…to lose 10 pounds.
And…to not start smoking. ☺
P.P.P.S. My Thanksgiving Declaration:
“Contribute to connect”: Contribute 100-0 everywhere I can…then connect to people…then connect people to people…but always beginning with contribution.
“Connecting the dots” (in addition to people): Be the bridge connecting marketing fundamentals from the past…to the present…and on into the future. Forever.