Why We Love (and Lament) Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, as it is practiced in the countries that celebrate it, is a nationwide day of gratitude. We are called to stop our busy lives and reflect on what really matters to us most. Extra credit is granted if we actually spend time with the people who matter to us, doing the things that matter to us and living in the present moment.

Something inevitably gets in the way. A relative makes a misplaced comment. A loved one would rather watch the football game than engage in heartfelt conversation. (Or, conversely, a loved one would rather talk than turn on the TV.) The food isn’t ready on time. We eat too much and feel like we are going to burst. The dog steals the pie right off the table. A work issue draws us away from the celebration.

Or occasionally, a true, pressing emergency arises.

Each of these distractions, disappointments and interruptions can take us away from the present moment by highlighting a gap between how we imagine Thanksgiving and the reality of what we are experiencing. I know that has happened to me. For many years, I had an idealized version of the holiday, and I worked very hard to meet it.

Distractions, disappointments and interruptions can reveal the gap between our idealized and real experiences.

This year, I stopped working so hard. In fact, I put aside the “work” mindset altogether. I took each moment as it came, each interruption as an opportunity to experiment and each person as they arrived that day.

The dog ate all the pie…? Now what?

If you will laugh about it next year, laugh about it now.

It would be superficial and misleading to say that this mental shift was achieved in one day. I have spent most of 2019 – and indeed, good parts of prior years – peeling back the layers of why I feel the need to work so hard. If I were to universalize the main discovery, it is this:

To simply be present with who and where we are, we need first to be content with who and where we are.

We love (and lament) Thanksgiving because it brings us face to face with this truth. It is the same with every holiday, celebration or tradition that purports to stop time. If we are stuck in cognitive and emotional dissonance – knowing and feeling to our core that our outward life conflicts with what we want and know to be true for our lives – we will not be able to live in the moment. We will constantly be trying to fix things, but they will be the wrong things, because we have not yet closed the gap between our ideal and reality.

Serenity and yoga practicing,meditation at mountain range

When we are not content with our reality, we set up a dichotomy. We imagine that somewhere far away, we could experience a reality that would truly allow us to experience the present moment. Yet the only way to bring that far away place and truth into our current reality is to first be content with where we are today.

Otherwise, we can climb every mountaintop but find no inner peace. We can transverse the globe or drive across three states to visit relatives, friends or sacred spaces yet return tired and spent rather than refreshed. We can do lots of “work” to create an idealized holiday, while we would be better served by embracing the day. We can continue to leave no stone unturned, on a restless quest, ignoring the rich stones in our own gardens.

As we move through the final days of November, turn the page for December and start the New Year, let’s look ahead but also stay present in NOW. Whether it is Thanksgiving weekend for you now, or a regular weekday now, how can you allow your reality to be closer to your vision? What large or small steps can you take to grant yourself freedom, forgiveness, expansive breath and emotional space?

What large or small steps can you take to grant yourself freedom, forgiveness, expansive breath and emotional space?

In my coaching practice, when clients wish to change jobs, we often start with what they can change in their current situation. Sometimes it is an outward change, such as asking for more responsibility in a competency that is highly relevant for their careers and in which they wish to grow. Sometimes it is an inward change, such as creating better boundaries or growing their influence across (and outside of) the organization. We also ask what is working, so they do not lose sight of what they already have.

Taking it back to the holiday season, what feels like an unsurmountable gap between your ideal and reality? How can you close that gap? How can you reflect on the lessons of yesterday and today to create a present moment that serves you?

Feel free to leave a question or comment below.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, business and resume writer and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She served as a corporate attorney for 15 years before launching her coaching practice, including roles at White & Case LLP and a hedge and private equity fund manager. Anne Marie is based in Stamford, CT and serves an international clientele. 

Image above: Adobe Images.





Stuck at the Office? 5 Quick Ways Holiday Downtime Can Benefit Your Career

If you can motivate yourself to do it, a few minutes invested now can yield significant benefits in the New Year. Think of it as a present to your future self.

no meetings

Sometimes, for whatever reason, you’ll be the one stuck at the office in late December while others are away on vacation. You may have even volunteered for it, hoping for a bit of quiet. But then sometimes it’s too quiet….

If there’s not a lot to do workwise – and you have already gotten yourself ahead on some tasks for 2016 – here are some thoughts on how to use that holiday office downtime (other than the trifecta of news trivia, Facebook and online shopping). 

If you can motivate yourself to do it, a few minutes invested now can yield significant benefits in the New Year. Think of it as a present to your future self.

Ready for some ideas? Feel free to add your own.

1) Write yourself a 30/60/90 day plan for 2016. What do you want to accomplish in the first three months of the New Year and who needs to get on-board to make that happen?

2) Brainstorm for leadership opportunities within or outside of your organization, such as speaking engagements or writing.

3) Write down five words to describe your personal brand, and check your online presence to see if it matches what you have described.

4) Clean out some portion of your inbox. If it’s very full, don’t have the goal of emptying it all at once. Great an interim goal – say 250 emails – and try to make it into a game or find a helpful reward if you get it done.

Bonus: If you are even more motivated, get up from your desk and clean out some files you don’t need any more. N.B. This has the added benefit of getting your tush out of the chair and some blood flowing to your extremities.

5) Have lunch (or a short phone call) with an important networking contact. If the opportunity presents itself, ask him/her if there is anyone else he/she can introduce who can bring you closer to your 2016 goals.

All the best for the end of 2015!

Anne Marie Segal is a résumé writer and a career and leadership coach to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. You can find her website here.

WRITING SERVICES include attorney and executive résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, bios, websites and other career and business communications.

COACHING SERVICES include career coaching, networking support, interview preparation, LinkedIn training, personal branding, leadership and change management.

Originally published on LinkedInPulse.

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