Giving Thanks: How to be Ambitious & Content

Successful people often ask the question: “Can you be content, while also being ambitious?” Part of what drives successful people to work hard and take risks is our desire to bend the world to the vision we have in our minds.

And while this determination to create what we imagine is powerful, it can also keep us from seeing the beauty of what’s right in front of us.

So on this Thanksgiving Day I thought I’d share a few ways to appreciate what you have now that can also help you create what you don’t.

1. Savor the moment –

Victory is only 1% of the path; the other 99% is walking the path, overcoming obstacles, and searching for our next step.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that the 1% will make the 99% worth it, but the 99% is where you live most of the time. Which is why it’s so powerful when you can learn to love and savor it.

Don’t focus too much on the moment the product will ship or the moment the whole family is around the table, instead take little snap shots of every step along the way: interviewing the customers, making the stuffing, setting the table.

If you can learn to savor all the moments, the joy of victory will be ever present.

2. Give credit –

Don’t just be grateful after the fact — lift up the members of your team throughout the process. Tell them what they did really well. Tell them what surprised you. Take the time to give credit for the little things that will make you so grateful when it’s all said and done.

This will give them more reasons to show up as their best selves and do their best work.

3. Focus on what’s there –

It’s so easy to see the things that are missing; how the mashed potatoes are different this year, how the team used to be more passionate when you got started. Instead of focusing on what’s not there, take some time to praise what is.

Make a point of noticing all the things that are pushing you towards the place you want to be and appreciate them along the way. This will highlight your successes and get you through those hard mud trudging days.

4. Assume the best of intentions –

Your family wants to have a good Thanksgiving. Your team wants to create something amazing. It’s easy to forget this in the trenches. Make a point of assuming that the people on your team has the best of intentions. This will help you adjust to problems faster and keep you in the mindset you need to come up with creative solutions.

5. Love the imperfection –

Sometimes the turkey is dry. Sometimes the team gets caught in the weeds. You can spend all day crying about this or you can spend ten minutes laughing about it.

What is so amazing about human beings is that our combined imperfections often create truly amazing and innovative things. If you learn to appreciate the quirks, laugh at them, and then mitigate the ones that are slowing you down, you’ll be more fun to work with and you’ll get a lot more done.

6. Be grateful for whatever you despise –

Being grateful for the best parts of the project–your team, your dinner, or your family–is easy. It takes real compassion to be grateful for the things that get under your skin.

  • Be grateful for the success of your competition and use it to inspire you to innovate.
  • Be grateful for the mistakes you make because they teach you how to adapt.
  • Be grateful for the things that make you uncomfortable because they help you grow.

Do you think the Pilgrims and Native Americans felt comfortable? They were scared and strange bedfellows, but they ate together anyway.

Thanksgiving isn’t about being grateful for obvious things, it’s about finding gratitude in the challenges.

Thanksgiving isn’t about being grateful for the obvious things, it’s about learning to find gratitude in the challenging places in our lives and in our work.

Use this day as a reminder that everything from your most passionate project to your most frustrating task is part of this big gift of life. You don’t have to love every moment, but you can also find gratitude for the moment you’re in.

Tweetable Quote: Thanksgiving isn’t about being grateful for obvious things, it’s about finding gratitude in the challenges. @unexecutive

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