Too Much

My husband was carrying our two-year-old daughter up the stairs at the end of a long Thanksgiving Day, which had started with watching the Macy’s parade, continued with learning the game of hide-and-seek from her older cousins, and finished with a delicious feast.  Our daughter was exhausted, and when my husband commented that it had been a busy day, she sleepily replied “Too much!”

She probably meant that there had been too many activities crammed into one day, but her comment started me thinking about having a special day for giving thanks.  One day a year isn’t really enough; most of us have so many things we should be thankful about that if we really tried to give thanks for all of them in a single day it would indeed be too much.

I’m not talking here about giving thanks in a religious or spiritual sense, though that can also be important.  I mean giving thanks to people who have helped you with your job or your life, and made you the person you are.  Of course, common politeness prompts you to say “thank you” many times a day – when you receive your change at the grocery store, a co-worker holds an elevator door for you, or your spouse passes the salt at the dinner table.  But while such daily thanks are an important social lubricant, generally only the most trivial services get thanked in this manner, and sheer repetition robs the phrase of much of its meaning.

Make a regular practice of thanking people who help you

Pick some regular time – once a week, once a month – to thank someone.  It could be your boss for giving you some good advice, or a co-worker who got you the information you needed to complete your report.  It could be your neighbor, who always plows your sidewalk with his snow blower when he is plowing his own.  Or it could be your eighth grade English teacher who introduced you to Jane Austen – though you may have to do some searching on the internet to track her down.

Of course, giving thanks shouldn’t be limited to this regular schedule – any time you encounter exceptional service or assistance is a time for thanks.  We’ve all had the experience of poor, inattentive service at a retail store or an airline check-in counter, and may have grumbled something about writing a letter of complaint to the management.  But it’s when you receive great service, and the salesperson or check-in clerk goes above and beyond to find the shoes you need or get you on the right flight, that you should be writing a letter, to let the person and their manager know how much you appreciated the help.

At this point in the newsletter I would usually give a client story, a concrete example of how one of my clients followed my advice and it helped his or her career.  But I’m going to break from tradition here because career advancement is not the reason for this suggestion.  Sure, thanking people is a great networking tool, allowing you to keep in touch with people and making them feel positive towards you, but that’s not why you should do it. 

Instead, you should thank people because it makes you feel good – it forces you to remember how many people have helped you and continue to help you every day, and showing gratitude can take you out of yourself and give you greater enjoyment of life.  And you should thank people because it’s the right thing to do; too many people do a great job of helping people and never receive a word of thanks.

So I’d like to end this holiday edition of the newsletter by thanking all of you, my faithful readers, for allowing me to share my views with you over the years, and for the many encouraging comments you have sent me.  Thanks, and happy holidays!

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