“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
So much stress, bitterness and bondage results from the circumstances we experience around us.
Professionally we are inundated by the needs of demanding managers, shareholders, coworkers, and clients. Personally we struggle with wanting children, aging parents, absent spouses, broken relationships and unfulfilled dreams.
And today, Thanksgiving, many of us will struggle with dried-out turkey, family schisms around that table, or the pain of having no one to join us at dinner.
Yet, I remind you that what happens around us and to us matters far less than what happens within us. [Tweet this.]
As a speaker I’ve had the good fortune of sharing my message with organizations from fortune 100’s to start-ups; from an amphitheater in China to a living room at a neighbor’s house; from CEO groups to Girl Scout troops. One of the most gratifying locations to share isn’t for men and women behind fancy desks, but behind metal bars.
I’ve been invited several times to teach leadership and share inspiration to the inmates at Fort Leavenworth Prison. In this program we discuss learning from mistakes, uncovering talents, discovering passion, setting goals, overcoming adversity, and being on fire for life both while incarcerated and afterwards.
In one of the final exercises of the day, I challenge these men to ignite the gift of gratitude and the joy of thanksgiving. I share the remarkable blessings and learnings in my life because of being burned.The formation of character, strength of faith, growth of friendships, increase in resilience and celebration of life were all multiplied because of a seemingly terrible, tragic fire. After sharing my list, I ask the inmates to do the same. The men are challenged to make a list of everything they’re grateful for because of being jailed. Yes, they’re challenged to make lists because of the high fence, regimented days, and inability to go where they want when they want. They’re given four minutes.
At one particular session I asked if anyone was willing to share his list. No volunteers.
I asked again.
Finally a hand went up.
The gentleman stood, paused for a moment, and then shared: “OK. Ready? Not one damn thing. I hate this place.”
He sat down to laughter.
Ok. Thanks for sharing! Anyone else?
Another gentleman raised his hand, stood and said, “I’ll share.”
And he began to share: “three square meals, a bed to sleep, a warm shower, increase in faith, air condition in the summer, heat in the summer, access to the library, a second chance.” He had 43 reasons for being grateful because of being stuck in prison! The last two bullets on his list were: my last breath and the hope for tomorrow.
The first inmate sat down to laughter. The second gentleman sat down to rousing applause.
My friends, real freedom isn’t merely casting off your chains, but also to live 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 bonded to our ability to be truly grateful for whatever we have.
Today, kick down whatever walls are holding you from thriving in life. Break out of whatever mindset is keeping you chained up. Unlock the opportunity to breathe life and possibility into every moment.
For you see, it’s not walls that keep you locked in. It’s the mindset that thinks it is.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. The best is yet to come.
PS: Take the challenge today to not just eat turkey and watch football, but to take time to gratefully count your blessings. Start now! Share a list of five things you are grateful for in the comments below. We’ll randomly select a friend who shares to win our holiday gift set including our book, DVD and three wristbands.