In this special episode, we explore the origins and meaning of Thanksgiving through time. We also go through Forbes’ 7 scientifically proven benefits of practicing gratitude, the etymology of the word gratitude, and how gratitude can improve several areas of our lives like energy level, relationships, academics, and even tragedy and crisis.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to the Becoming Your Best podcast show. Wherever you may be in the world today, it is a total delight to have you with us today. And I’ve really been looking forward to this episode. It’s a great time of year. And I’d like to just start this particular episode by sharing an experience I had almost a year ago when we had our Synergy annual meetings as we prepared for 2021. And we held a leadership component, really emphasizing three things we could each do to have a great 2021. Here are the three things: show up – be ready to get after it, in other words; number two is align with the 12 principles of highly successful leaders – in other words, be true to character, lead with a vision, manage with a plan, have your annual goals in place and do these basic things that create excellence; and the third thing that we discussed was to make gratitude part of your life and personal vision. We had a great time talking about each one of these. And one of the blessings is that 2021 has been a great year with solid performances and progress. And as we finish the year, it’s been really a great year. Our discussion on gratitude was deeply felt, and it continues to impact me today. So, with the season of Thanksgiving upon us, it’s a good time to reflect upon that discussion now.
Steve Shallenberger: So, well, first of all, what’s the meaning of Thanksgiving in today’s world? Well, right fresh out of the internet, here we go. It is that family can gather together because it is a national holiday, at least in the United States and a number of countries throughout the world even though they might be on different days. And for the United States, that’s right about now. Initially, this holiday was celebrated as a harvest festival or a period of giving thanks for the autumn harvest. And the reason for Thanksgiving really is gratitude – gratitude for the people who are in our life and for what they mean to us. And it’s also a time of remembrance for the good things that have happened. Gratitude really enriches human life. It elevates, it energizes, it inspires and transforms. And those who practice it will experience significant improvements in several areas of life, including relationships, academics, energy level, and even dealing with tragedy and crisis. Dr. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at the University of California and author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, has been researching gratitude for over eight years and states the following:
“Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing, and impoverished. Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms, and those who practice it will experience significant improvements in several areas of life including relationships, academics, energy level and even dealing with tragedy and crisis.”
Steve Shallenberger: That’s what he found. So, what’s really interesting is that despite all of this scientific evidence and research that demonstrates the ability of gratitude to impact positive change to mood, motivation, and mindset, the daily practice of gratitude is not a widely accepted habit within our quick fix, instant gratification society. Here’s what Forbes magazines last year published in an article entitled 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round, and listed the following benefits:
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
- Gratitude improves physical health.
- Gratitude improves psychological health.
- Gratitude improves empathy and reduces aggression.
- Grateful people sleep better – oh man, I need to be more grateful.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem.
- Gratitude increases mental health.
Steve Shallenberger: So, as we think about this, I’d like to just share what the Harvard Business School had to say about gratitude:
“Each holiday season comes with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year. However, for many, this time of year is tinged with sadness, anxiety, or depression. Certainly, major depression or a severe anxiety disorder benefits most from professional help. But what about those who just feel lost or overwhelmed or down at this time of year? Research (and common sense) suggests that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually lift the spirits, and it’s built right into the holiday — being grateful.
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways, gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Steve Shallenberger: Now, today, they have a little fun. I’m inviting a few members of our Becoming Your Best team to share some things that they are grateful for or experiences that they’ve had in life that they’re thankful for. So, I’ve invited four of our team today: Clayton Snyder, first; Jamie Thorup, famous Jamie Thorup; Hanna Fabrizio; and wonderful Tommy Shallenberger. So, Clayton, you’re first up.
Clayton Snyder: Well, as I was thinking about what to share today, I had a specific experience coming to mind. I was living in Japan at the time. I lived there for two years. And at this point in time, I was about 19 years old. And I was sitting on a bus going to meet up with some friends. While I was sitting on the bus, I reflected a lot on my life. I felt like I was almost watching a movie inside of my head of experiences that I had throughout my life with my family, with friends, sports, just the different things that I’d experienced in my life. And it just really helped show me how much I have and focus on the things that I have the things that I didn’t have at the time not being able to see my family and hardships that I was going through. So, it really just showed me the power of reflection, reflecting on the things that we have and being grateful for what we’ve been given and the good things in our lives.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, Clayton, that’s terrific. Thank you so much for taking a moment. All right, Jamie, looking forward to your thoughts.
Jamie Thorup: Well, it was so wonderful to have this opportunity. And I’ve always felt like I was born under a lucky star – so, there’s been so much to be grateful for. But without a doubt, as I reflected, I thought back to an incredible moment that some people that listen to this may know but while the thousands that don’t know it will find very interesting. 23 years ago, I had the chance to meet Steve Shallenberger while we were living in Spain. And I was young, prime of my life, right before I was entering my 20s. And it was incredible at that age to learn these time-tested principles that Steve has now spent most of his life helping others to apply – the Becoming Your Best principles. I learned these principles at a young age. And I cannot express how grateful I am for that. They transformed my life. They helped me in my collegiate career. They helped me in my early years of profession. They helped me in my early years of marriage, and now with a growing family. But one of the things that Steve taught me 23 years ago was that your gratitude directly relates to your level of happiness in life. And that gratitude is a choice – a choice we can all make regardless of our circumstances. Those have stuck with me among so many other things that Steve taught me. And I’m grateful for those teachings and the power that we all have to take principle-based knowledge and make it a part of our life.
Steve Shallenberger: Thank you, Jamie. And I want to thank Jamie for being such a dear friend and associate. We’ve had such a great time. And I appreciate the light that he is and the example for so many. So, thanks, Jamie. Okay, Hannah, there we go.
Hanna Fabrizio: Like Jamie and Clayton both said, they both have so much to be grateful for, and so do I. But I am grateful for the opportunity that I get to move out of my parents’ house and live with my friends while getting a college education. And then I ended up landing the best job with the best co-workers and the best boss. And I’m grateful that I feel healthy, happy, and terrific.
Steve Shallenberger: Hannah is the best – oh my goodness – she’s so fun to work with. We’re grateful for you, Hanna. You really bring such a great spirit. All right, Tommy – son number four.
Tommy Shallenberger: Lucky number four. Happy Thanksgiving to you all. What a wonderful time of year. It certainly is a boost and a lift. For me, I wanted to share my experience. I was looking on my phone through some memories, it gives some pop-up memories. And it popped up the day my first child, Forest, was born. And he’s in one of those little covered NIC units. And I put my finger in, and he was holding on to my finger. It was a picture of his face, and his hand holding on to my finger. And then one of the next pictures was my mom as she was close to her death with that same son, Forest, and a few years later. I was thinking about the gift of life and how grateful I am for the gift of life. So, everything between this day I was born to the day I die, from the cradle to the grave, and all the experiences and memories in between, the battles won and battles lost, the relationships, you have marriage, you have kids, and you have so many fond memories, just that gift of life, everything that happens between that cradle and grave is just a gift, every memory, every up and every down. Just such a wonderful experience to have that gift of life, and I’m grateful for that.
Steve Shallenberger: It is so fun to work with Tommy. He just adds so much to our lives. That’s such a good insight, Tom, from birth to the end of our lives and the blessing, the very gift that life is. So, thank you for sharing that. Well, those are wonderful. And I wish that we could hear from you – our listeners – some of the things that you had to say about this. So, I’d like to end this podcast today with the same experience that we started with, which was Synergy’s annual meeting. We focused on showing up to do what’s needed. Also aligning yourself to 12 principles. But then to have gratitude be a way of life and have it included in your personal vision. And as we talked about that experience and lined it up, we shared this scripture that is found in Thessalonians 5:18: “give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” So, in other words, I like that advice; give thanks in all circumstances – what wonderful advice. And so with that in mind, we distributed a clean sheet of paper to each person and invited them to take three minutes to write as fast as they could and see how many things that they could come up with that they were grateful for that they could place on the sheet. And then from this, we invited these wonderful employees and leaders and associates to consider making these things part of their personal vision.
Steve Shallenberger: So, today, as I wrap things up, I’d like to share what I added in that session on that sheet during three minutes, and at the end of my vision that I’ve actually included it now as part of my personal vision. Here it is: “Each day, I pause to reflect on the blessings of my life. I realize the source of those blessings. Each day, I recognize people that have blessed my life. I note this in my planner. I keep it in front of me. I am grateful for so much, specific things that I’m grateful for include life, food, water, health, friends, family, faithful children and grandchildren, a home, warmth, safety, security, modern technology. Or do I love living when we live in this great time of so much advance, so much technology, so much new knowledge. What a great time to have a front-row seat that I have the hope to see that goes along with this technology. I’m blind in one eye, and I am hopeful that I’ll be able to see in both eyes, a brain that works, the capacity to grow and learn, the beauties of the earth. And all of God’s creations, memories, clothing, prayer, fitness, taste, smell, sight, faith, repentance that I can get things right, examples, the opportunities to serve, freedom, liberty, the sacrifices of others to preserve those things and provide me with what I have today, education, scriptures, the seasons of the year, and fresh days, weeks, months and years.”
Steve Shallenberger: Well, during this wonderful season, I invite you to get a clean sheet of paper. And in three minutes, write down everything you can think of that you’re grateful for. And then consider including this in your written personal vision of life. May this practice bless you in every way possible: personally, in your relationships, and in your professional responsibilities. And during this time of year, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving now and throughout the years to come. This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best, wishing you a great day.