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Four Steps to Have Your Best Thanksgiving Ever

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela


Do you feel like you are bearing the weight of stress and bitterness from some of your circumstances?

Whether professionally you are inundated by the needs of demanding managers, shareholders, coworkers or clients or personally you are struggling with your faith, family, health or finances: at times you inevitably feel bound by these circumstances.

When you feel bound, it’s impossible to live your most joyful, purposeful and gratitude-filled days.

Today I remind you that what happens around us and to us matters far less than what happens within us.

As a speaker, I’ve had the good fortune of sharing my message with fortune 100 companies to start-ups; from an amphitheater in China to a living room in my neighbor’s home; with CEO groups and Girl Scout troops.

One event that will always stand out in my mind is one that had me speaking behind bars. This event was wildly gratifying. Let me explain.

I was teaching leadership workshops to the inmates at Fort Leavenworth Prison. In the these sessions, we discussed learning from mistakes, uncovering talents, discovering passion, setting goals, overcoming adversity and being on fire for life both while incarcerated and after.

At the end of the day, I challenged the men to ignite the gift of gratitude in their lives. I shared the remarkable, specific blessings I’ve discovered in my life after being burned as a child. I shared how the formation of character, strength of faith, growth of friendships, increase in resilience and celebration of life all came because of a seemingly terrible fire.

After sharing my gratitude list, I asked the inmates to do the same. The men made their list of everything they’re grateful for as a result of being in jail. They were given four minutes.

After the exercise, the men were invited to share their list and two hands went up.

The first gentleman stood, paused and then said: “Not one damn thing. I hate this place.” He sat down to laughter from his fellow inmates.

The next gentleman stood. I asked if he had better luck and he said, “Yes, I got 43.”

He had 43 reasons for being grateful because of being stuck in prison! I asked if he’d share with us and his list included: three square meals, a bed to sleep in, a warm shower, time for reflection to increase his faith, air condition in the summer, access to the library and a second chance.

The last two bullets on his list were: my last breath and the hope for tomorrow.

The first gentleman sat down to laughter. This man sat down to applause.

My friends, real freedom isn’t merely casting off your chains, but also living in a such a way that encourages others to do the same. [Tweet this]

Certainly we all know individuals who seem to have everything, except a good outlook on life. We also know individuals who seem to have nothing, but exude possibility, peace and joy. Our ability to be truly happy, truly content, and truly free is bound by our ability to be grateful for what we have.

Today, kick down the walls holding you back from thriving in life. Break through whatever mindset is keeping you chained up. Unlock the opportunity to fully wake up, take back your life, ignite your possibility and change your world.

It’s not walls that keep you locked in. It’s the mindset that gives the illusion of walls.

What would your most gratitude-filled Thanksgiving look like? How willing are you to ensure this is your best (and your family and friends’ best) Thanksgiving ever? Share your thoughts in the comments on my blog and find out more about the Rising Above Gratitude Kit (which includes 4 “steps”) – designed to help you prepare for your best Thanksgiving ever – below.


0 replies on “Four Steps to Have Your Best Thanksgiving Ever”

I just finished the first section in Gratitude. Today is the anniversary of my moms death and it has been a hard day for me. I am also taking care of my brother-in-law who is suffering from three kinds of cancer, has only one kidney and has recently been diagnosed with diabetes. This journal will and the words of encouragement will help be get through the month of November. Do you have something in mind to help during the month of December?? Thanks again – you have already helped on November 1. Gail

Gail, thank you for sharing and for ALL you do. I hope you find comfort and hope as you focus on all that you are grateful for this month & while giving so much to your brother-in-law. We hope to offer audio reflection sets regularly – but do not have a specific plan yet. Reply with topics you would be interested in – we’d love to hear how to best serve you in igniting your possibility.Have a great weekend. J

I heard you speak yesterday at Emory Healthcare’s Quality Conference. Your story is incredible and your presentation was mighty powerful! My outlook and perspectives have been positively altered because of your messages. I will be ordering the Rising Above Journal and can’t wait to make this Thanksgiving the best ever! Thank you John for your will to fight and overcome, your resilience, sharing your story and most of all for giving inspiration and motivation!

Cindy – thanks for your kind words. They mean more than you know, especially during the busiest month of the year! Thansk for joining the Rising Above community. Always let us know how we can better serve you in igniting your possibility. Continue boldly and remember the best is yet to come. J

Hi Denise, now is a wonderful time to count your blessings and it is always easier to count ours when we help others see their blessings too. The Gratitude Audio Reflections in the Rising Above shop take a deeper dive into this topic one in particular is about my dad finding gratitude as he struggles through MS. If you need a coupon code to get the reflections – just shoot me an email. Thanks for all you do and continue boldy, Denise! J

I heard you speak awhile ago at St. Peter Catholic Elementary School in Kirkwood, MO. I AM HAVING A DIFFICULT TIME WITH PRIMARY PROGRESSIVE MS and my family life. Ineed to count my blessings and help others to see theirs.

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