I used to think that Thanksgiving was a blissfully simple holiday: Everything focused on the making of a feast that celebrated a good harvest, whether grown or bought, and then there were delicious leftovers sure to last you through the weekend.
No cook participating in preparing the feast would call it ‘simple’ I know, but the good harvest = good food premise kept everyone so aligned in what the holiday was all about. You demonstrated how thankful you were for your family mostly by merit of spending more time with them. Staying home to clear that refrigerator meant there was no need to go out, and in our house, the football games entertained just fine. None of those leftovers were wasted; we were grateful for them and showed it by eating every morsel.
Then I learned more about the value of Mahalo, and Thanksgiving blew up.
Saying ‘thank you’ blew up, and showing it blew up.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that seems to get bigger and bigger, at least to me. Adding appreciation, thankfulness, and gratitude to what was a simple day of feasting can be a bit overwhelming once you’ve stretched your vocabulary to give that trio of words more distinction and separate focus.
I’ll admit to you that there have been a few Thanksgivings when I’ve asked myself, “what have I done?” by throwing Mahalo into the mix, and pushing Thanksgiving tradition further and further into our workplaces. What was relatively easy and entirely reasonable got kind of complicated. As things tend to do in business, Thanksgiving got so serious.
Celebrating Thanksgiving beyond harvest, food, and feasting can easily backfire on you. We fall into that trap of trying to do way too much. The busier you feel as a manager, and the more responsibilities you try to juggle, the longer your list of people and things to better appreciate seems to get, and the further behind you feel. You feel (gulp) ungrateful, yet you’re trying so hard! Sour notes can creep in, where you begin to feel like the one who’s not appreciated.
So in recent years, I find that I consciously try to slim down the Thanksgiving holiday, getting it to be simpler again. I recognize that there’s no going back in some ways — the trifecta of appreciation, thankfulness, and gratitude gets increasingly value-mapped, value-verbed, and otherwise value-aligned for me — however I can focus on parts of it, and not get overwhelmed in the whole of it.
This year for example, I decided to put all my focus on just 2 things:
1. Rally my whole family, no matter where we may have to travel to make that happen — and mission accomplished! We’re already together as you read this. (As an ‘immediate’ family we now live in 3 different states.) I am thankful we can be together in all our easy-to-be-ourselves-around-each-other quirks and glories, and there will be no forced ‘what I’m thankful for’ roundtable sharing around our feast (believe me, there will be lots of food). Mahalo in its naturally valued spontaneity will be great, and I am very confident it will be there, but we won’t be structuring it in.
2. Our family has this tendency to widen the circle in a naturally gregarious way, and there will be several others with us throughout the week’s happenings. My promise to myself, is that I will practice my skills as Mea Ho‘okipa, and have as many different conversations as I can, all focused on joy. This will be a lighthearted holiday and not a serious one.
“Be a good date.”
— Kurt Vonnegut
Lucky me, I don’t have to cook a thing this year (in case you’re wondering how I can skip over that part)! I am happy to do the dishes… you can have great conversations whatever your hands are busy doing in the kitchen.
My coaching for you this Thanksgiving is equally simple: Be kind to yourself, and enjoy this holiday however it happens. Did you notice, I haven’t even linked up this posting with subtle reading hints for you! Shut down your computer and get up close and personal with those around you.
Live with Aloha this Thanksgiving. We’ll get back to the working with, managing with, and leading with Aloha when your tummy and spirit is full.
Eat and be merry.