My approach to the Thanksgiving meal is one of excess.
Regardless of my good intentions to practice restraint, I begin shoveling food onto my plate: a scoop of sweet potato casserole here, green beans soaked in butter there, broccoli and cheese, a hot, buttered roll, a few slices of turkey and ham, all topped with cranberry sauce from the can (yes, I am one of those people)—I just have to try it all!
The food begins to pile high and take over the plate until it threatens to spill over the sides! This happens every year. It is so hard to say “No” and possibly miss something delicious. In the end, my belly is uncomfortably full and I collapse on the couch, craving naptime.
“Excess” describes the holiday season for many of us. There are more opportunities to engage in community and family, from Christmas Parties to holiday meals. There are more responsibilities at work as we finish our yearly goals and project into the year ahead. The blitz of holiday marketing and shopping increases the background noise of daily life.
Each aspect of life increases its demand for our attention and time. Very quickly, our plate is piled high and spilling off the edge. Tension, stress, long hours at work, fights with loved ones, disillusionment, and the weary feeling of bouncing from one commitment to another obligation can have our lives overflowing to the point we want to crawl in bed and cover our heads until it’s all over.
“Your greatest danger in life is letting the urgent things crowd out the important,” says Charles Hummel in his book Tyranny of the Urgent.
This season is so full of urgent things that we often miss out on the important. It happens every year to the best of us! Our plates fill up to overflowing despite our best intentions and efforts.
“Your greatest danger in life is letting the urgent things crowd out the important”
– Charles Hummel
So how can we stay present and engaged in what is important rather than being distracted by the urgent? I offer a reminder of something we already know, with the encouragement to be intentional in living it out: gratitude.
Gratitude serves as an anchor to what is important.
I am not talking about the politeness of polite appreciation, like saying, “Thank you, I love it,” to grandma when she gives you that sweater she knitted as a Christmas gift. No, I am talking about gratitude that comes from a humble understanding of what is important.
G.K. Chesterton said, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Gratitude shifts our perspective from what we strive for to what we already have. Gratitude focuses our eyes on what is truly important and causes us to appreciate our current reality. It brings a sense of contentment, wonder, and a clearer perspective of what matters.
Gratitude shifts our perspective from what we strive for to what we already have.
Ways To Practice Gratitude
To cultivate gratitude, I encourage you to practice these:
- Start your day by listing on a post-it note three things for which you are thankful. Keep the list nearby where you can see it throughout the day.
- Do not ignore the small things. (i.e. The coat that keeps you warm; the taste of hot chocolate; the stranger who let you merge ahead of them into heavy traffic).
- Smile and say “thank you” as often as you can.
- Write a letter to family and friends expressing gratitude for the relationship you have with them.
- Ask friends and family to share what makes them grateful.
These develop a humble mindset of gratitude that allows us to celebrate more freely, experience joy more fully, and find deep contentment in the present.
Be encouraged and combat the excess “urgent” with gratitude this holiday season.
Speaking of Gratitude
We’re thankful for you!
Seriously, thank you for reading!
We hope this holiday season is a time to slow down,
and to enjoy what’s truly important to you.