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A Time to Give Thanks

Today's post is from Commonwealth's Chief Investment Officer Brad McMillan's blog The Independent Market Observer.  As usual, he says it better than I ever could.  Take it away Brad!

It has been proven that being grateful is one of the best ways to make your life better—to be both happier and more successful. Here on the blog, I try to focus on gratitude a couple of times a year. Of course, Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion to take a break and think about all the things we have to be grateful for.

Grateful every day

One of the best ways to show gratitude is simply taking a couple of minutes, every day, to write down three things you are grateful for. They don’t have to be big. My own, on occasion, have included a nice hot cup of tea. The value comes from focusing, even for a short time, on the good things in life, rather than the problems.

I have been doing this since 2012, when I was lucky enough to see Shawn Achor speak at a Commonwealth conference. I have never been one for self-help, but something about what he said—the simplicity, the supporting research, or just the message itself—spoke to me, and I decided to try it out. Three gratitudes a day, written down every day since 2012.

This practice has changed my life, which I don’t say lightly. But there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am now had I not made that decision. I am a better, happier, and, yes, more successful person than I would have been. Thank you to Dr. Achor and thank you to Commonwealth.

A day of thanks

Thanksgiving, of course, is a holiday centered around gratitude, an entire day that we are supposed to give thanks for our many blessings. Three a day is valuable, but a day spent explicitly in celebration and gratitude, with those we love, is just as valuable in a different way.

The holiday is at our house this year. There will be 12 of us around the table , including my parents, my sister and her family, as well as a cousin and his family. As always, we will speak and offer our gratitude, and I will close (as I usually do) with this observation: “If the only prayer ever offered was just this—‘thank you’—that would be enough.” Giving thanks means you have things to be thankful for, and that is the point. Saying thank you makes you concentrate on those blessings, and, if heartfelt, it really is enough.

What I’m grateful for

But even if it is enough, that doesn’t mean we can’t do more. So, in that spirit, here are some of the things I am grateful for as Thanksgiving approaches. I invite you to think of your own and, if you like, to share them in the comments. Let’s all celebrate this holiday by focusing on the many good things in our lives.

From the top down.

My country. We live in one of the most prosperous and powerful countries on earth, and we are privileged to live here. Add in freedom to that prosperity, and we are very blessed. I am grateful to be an American, with everything that goes with it.

My work. Commonwealth has given me more opportunities than I ever could have imagined when I joined. The people I have met, the places I have been (often taking my family), and the things I have had the chance to do are all beyond compare. I am grateful every day for the chance to be here and for the wonderful people I get to work with, both staff and advisors. You, the readers, are definitely included here as well. Thank you all.

My family. Could but won’t go without saying: my wife, my son, my parents, my sister/brother-in-law/nephews, and my in-laws all are healthy, happy, and reasonably sane. I could not ask for a better family than the one I have.

My life. I can get up in the morning and do what I need to do, without pain. I am well fed, sleep in a warm home, and have everything I need and almost everything I want. I could not ask for a better life than the one I have.

Celebrate the good!

Reading back on this, it sounds like bragging. Maybe so but, unfortunately, there really is no way to list your blessings without, in some sense, bragging. Not everything is perfect, of course, but this is not supposed to be a balanced listing, just a celebration of the good. And I have a lot to celebrate.

I also think it’s useful, every so often, to celebrate nothing but the good. When you think of your own life, take some time and just list the good stuff. This isn’t the time to worry but to celebrate. Please do just that.

And, if you like, share it. Even if you don’t, take some time to appreciate it yourself. Life is good.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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