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How to Be Thankful on Thanksgiving & Not Just About Turkey

“A Mindful Leadership Story by Cathy Quartner Bailey”

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what
you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough
.                             –  Oprah Winfrey

 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays – we have the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what we’re grateful for and share the day with family and friends. I wrote this story when my father was alive – it continues to stay with me – and I’d like to share it this Thanksgiving in his memory….

Thanksgiving 2007

This year is especially meaningful for my family as my father and mother drive to New Jersey to share Thanksgiving with us. We are grateful that my dad is with us, because as he often says, “I’m damn lucky to be here ….almost bought the store, and not just once!”

Thankfully my father’s situation has improved and he is on the road to better health as he recovers from aspiration pneumonia and the complications of his illness. Now I watch this man I love find the courage to deal with life on new terms, one where he wears a “trach,” uses a feeding tube, and is dependent on oxygen – maybe for the long term, hopefully for the short. He shows gratitude for each new day: a walk around the neighborhood, a good night’s sleep, a visit from a friend, or the occasional sip of ice cold water he sneaks when he thinks no one is watching.

There is amazing power in recognizing what we are grateful for. Recently a few of my clients have expressed they were “stuck” in a negative mindset. We talked about keeping a gratitude journal.

I’ve learned from the experiences of clients, as well as my own, that writing in a journal helps bring better energy and perspective to our lives. If you feel “stuck” and are not enjoying life as much as you’d like to, try keeping a “gratitude” journal, and see what shifts for you. Over time you’ll see the impact that focusing on the things in life you’re thankful for has on improving your positive mindset.

In addition, we know based on research that going into a state of gratitude helps us gain perspective, show up happier, and be more mindful. Mindfulness is the ability to tune into one’s self and others & show up more centered.

Consider taking a few minutes each night and journaling about the following questions:

What surprised me today?

What moved me today?

What inspired me today?

My journal entry from November 25, 2007

I was surprised by how much my mother needed my father in her life; anyway she could have him. And by my dad’s courage to fight for his life, even when it meant putting aside his ego and living in a way he would have never thought he could or would have to.

I was moved by my father’s courage and wonderful sense of humor during a challenging time. On many occasions when the nurse showed up with yet another needle, my father jokingly referred to himself as a “human pin cushion.” And when one doctor told him he had lung cancer and 6 months left to live, Dad walked out, laughed, and said, “Don’t think I haven’t heard that before – if I heard it once, I’ve heard it a dozen times.” Thankfully the doctor was wrong.

I am inspired to give more to someone in need because I have learned that while I thought I was the one giving, I was really the one receiving.

I am especially grateful to my family, friends, work associates, and clients who supported me during this time so I could give to my dad what he needed and help him get stronger.

Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving!

The Right Thing at the Wrong Time is the Wrong Thing

“A Mindful Leadership Story by Joan Spindel”

“I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything…at least not at the same time. So think in terms of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.” – Dan Millman.

In my twenties, finding a job to pay the rent, learn, expand my social network and travel the world were my only objectives. Timing in life is everything and thankfully it was the 1980’s during the technology boom, and while I had no real work experience, hard workers were needed, and I successfully talked my way into and landed my first job.

In my thirties, I transitioned out of my individual contributor role and started leading and managing teams. I was often the only woman leading a meeting or presenting at a conference; no female role models nor mentors existed for me, but despite that, I did okay. I never really thought about “leaning in or leaning out.” There were no fancy formulas – I worked hard, learned new skills, and delivered results. So, while it wasn’t part of any grand plan, I ended up working for organizations like EMC, Lotus and IBM – early pioneers and innovators in the world of technology. In time, I became Chief Marketing Office for a sexy technology start-up. Life was good.

It was also during this time that I met my husband (another technology geek!), fell in love, got married, and decided to start a family. There was a sudden shift in my values – excelling at work seemed less important and having a baby became my new focus. Unfortunately it didn’t go as planned and I learned I was not able to conceive. It was a difficult and painful time for me. But in the end, my husband and I decided to explore adoption. It turned out to be the best decision of our lives. We soon welcomed a beautiful baby boy into our family. It was love at first sight.

Ironically, when our son came home, I was also offered my dream job at a Fortune 500 company. It quickly became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to honor my family values and be an executive at the same time. Despite really wanting the job, in the end I turned down the offer. I knew I needed flexibility and that that role was not where I would find what I needed.

After much internal debate, I decided to go it alone and set up my own tech marketing consulting firm. It wasn’t so easy to leave an exciting job with benefits, steady income, and fancy title that commanded respect.  And given my introverted nature, I was not sure I had the chutzpah to make it on my own. But over time, my professional network and diverse work experience helped me land clients and fortunately for me my business grew.

In my new role as an independent consultant, I redefined personal and professional success. The ability to scale business up or down in order to meet my own personal needs became more important than titles, teams, and steady income. I have come to learn, and truly appreciate, that while not always easy, honoring my own values versus allowing others to define what’s important to me, is what true success looks like.

My family life is rich and my son is a flourishing teenager. Because I met life on my own terms, I have been able to be mindful about how I want to show up as a mother, wife, daughter, friend, and professional woman. And ultimately define and live my own definition of success.

 

Joan Spindel, General Partner of the Scarsdale Group, has 20+ years of experience creating and developing marketing strategies and tactics for both high technology and services led companies.  She provides consulting services to a variety of organizations including Fortune 100 firms, start-ups and non-profits. She helps organizations launch new products/ventures (“Launch It’) or solve problems (“Fix It”), often filling in as acting CMO for companies in transition.

In her spare time, Joan enjoys hosting parties, working out at the gym, painting, and spending time with her husband and son.

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