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10 Unexpected Reasons to Give Thanks

Forget the turkey. This Thanksgiving, be thankful for a few things you might not consider blessings--but should.
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Although for many people, Thanksgiving means family and friends and turkey and stuffing and stuffing ourselves, the day is also a reminder to give thanks.

This Thanksgiving, take a second to be thankful for a few things you might not have considered blessings:

1. Failure.

For most of us, failure isn't the end of the world. Failure is just the end of an idea or a possibility or a dream. When we fail, we can move on to something else, with luck a little wiser and a lot more likely to succeed.

For some, though, failure means going without--or worse, possibly forcing their children to go without.

Failure sucks, but never being able to take a chance on your skills, your experience, and your vision is much, much worse.

Be thankful you have the opportunity to fail on terms you at least partly set. Many people do not.

2. Criticism.

People criticize only when they care. While people still care about you or your business, you have the opportunity to do something better, to do something differently, to change their minds--or to just meet in the middle.

Apathy is much, much worse.

3. Sadness.

When you're sad, that means you care, and caring is the mother of changing things for the better.

Apathy is much, much worse.

4. Respect.

Think of people you admire. Think of people who have earned your trust and esteem.

Be thankful those people are a part of your life. In fact, don't just be privately thankful. Tell them how you feel.

That will make them be grateful for people like you.

5. Options.

You might have so many options and potential choices, both business and personal, that you feel stressed and even overwhelmed.

Flip it around: Imagine how it would feel to have few, if any, options. Imagine how it would feel to have few, if any, viable choices.

Be thankful you have options--the more, the better.

6. Struggle.

Not unintentional struggle. Intentional struggle: like choosing to work incredibly hard or to push through a mental or physical barrier or to make sacrifices for the good of the people who rely on you.

When you struggle and fight and endure, you not only stretch the limits of what you believe you are capable of, but you also sometimes enter a state of grace that you find only when you strip away what is truly nonessential (which turns out to be most of what you worry about).

Struggling helps you learn who you really are--and who you really want to be.

7. Delay.

Remaining patient is rarely fun, but having to wait can be a good thing.

For example, research shows that where vacations are concerned, the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning to get away. And this vacation anticipation boosts happiness for an average of eight weeks.

After the vacation, though, happiness levels quickly drop to baseline levels--usually within days. Soon the people who went on a vacation were no happier than the people who had not.

Be thankful you need to wait--especially for something you really want. The anticipation alone is worth it.

Besides, waiting for what you want--not what you need, but what you want--is a luxury only those who are already blessed can afford.

8. Regret.

Think about something you wish you had done better. Or handled differently. Or think about something you wish you had done but for whatever reason, you didn't.

Painful? Sure. And motivating.

Use that motivation today. Call a friend you've lost touch with. Mend fences with a family member. Be the bigger person and say you're sorry. Do something you wish you had done.

You'll be thankful you did.

9. Family.

Take a look around the table. I know: Uncle Johnny is overbearing. Aunt Shirley can't stay out of anyone's business. Your brother resents you, and your mom can't stop babying you.

They can be terrible--and you'll miss them terribly when they're gone. Smile, see the good in each of them, and be glad you have a family.

Many people would love to have a terrible family like yours.

10. This moment.

Because you have the time and resources to do something like reading this post, that means you have time: to improve yourself, to consider new ideas, to try to be a better person, to build better relationships with family and friends.

Time is our most important asset and what we should all be most thankful for. Time makes everything else possible.

Don't waste it.

Last updated: Nov 21, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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