What I’m practicing, other than gratitude.
Gratitude is good, but this Thanksgiving I challenge you to tap into something greater.
It’s Thanksgiving Day and everyone is talking about gratitude. We go around the table during the feast sharing what we’re thankful for; often it’s family, our homes, our safety, our health. And I don’t disagree that these things are important (heck, see this recent post). But this year I want to experience Thanksgiving differently. So I’m not going to do the traditional gushy gratitude — I’m thankful for — post.
What I want to talk about is courage. For me, it comes way before gratitude on the list of emotions I ask to show up each day. And it’s not just because I’m an entrepreneur and taking risks is part of the job description. It’s because courage is the only thing that got me, and I’d say all of us, to a place where we have a lot of be grateful for.
Think about it. All the great things in your life came because you, your family or your ancestors had the courage to pursue better. To decide that the fear of change wasn’t greater than the promise of opportunity. Going on the interview to get a better job. Starting a life together with someone. Braving conceiving, carrying and birthing a child, not to mention keeping them alive and safe for a couple of decades. Moving to a safer place to live, whether that was the town next door or halfway around the world. It’s courage that helped you step into something new and that then bore the fruit of opportunity you enjoy now.
Last week I was visiting some of my mom’s family elders in the Central Valley of California. They are all from the Azores, the islands off Portugal. I learned that my great-grandfather came to the US as a stowaway on a banana boat by way of Brazil. I tried to picture what that must have been like. In the 1800s, hearing of this place called America and spending months crossing oceans, hiding, surviving and then arriving with just about nothing. Generations later, the offspring of my great-grandfather are all doing well and thriving. Many humble, hardworking millionaires, which you’d never know by seeing how they live or by looking at the car they drive. They all owned their own businesses, mostly in agriculture and dairy, skills that were passed down. Courage is what my great-grandfather had, and that courage has paid dividends for generations.
What about you? How did you arrive where you are now? For all the things you’re thankful for, did you or your family (even generations ago) have to rely on courage to experience them? Be in awe of your own or your ancestors’ courage. Be grateful for that and learn something. This Thanksgiving leave dinner table a few pounds heavier and a lot less scared. Because it’s only when we live with courage and a belief in possibility that we can experience gratitude to the fullest.
I wasn’t there when my great-grandfather first set foot on American soil. Or when he met his wife. Built his first home. Met his first baby. Looked at his stash of money and thought, wow, I did it. What an immense feeling of gratitude. One that can only be felt when everything you have wasn’t promised, but rather, was earned, through pure belief that it was possible. That’s the kind of gratitude I’m looking to experience. So instead of just being thankful for what we have (which can make it seem bad to want more), let’s be thankful for the leap of faith that went into our good fortune, transforming ambition from something to be ashamed of into the greatest reason for our gratitude.
And if you feel you’ve skated by, playing it safe without ever going out on a limb, think what could be possible if you harnessed the courage of great ancestors. It’s within you, it’s there for you to access, you just need to welcome it to the surface. Speak to it. Tell it you’re ready to walk with it into great opportunity. We are built for this. For the unknown. For creating something new that makes us thrive.
So this Thanksgiving, I challenge you to skip sharing what you’re grateful for and instead to share how you’re going to use your built-in courage to create incredible possibility — to believe in the magic and magnificence of life and to welcome the best life you ever thought was possible for you and those you care about. Now that is something to be grateful for today, and every day.
May you have the courage to pursue your dreams to benefit your life and the generations that come after you. Happy Thanksgiving.
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