Norton: The Thanksgiving habit (column)

You may be asking yourself why you are reading a Thanksgiving article the week after Thanksgiving. The reason is that too often, the minute after we say goodbye to family and friends who we just shared our holiday with, the feeling of gratitude escapes us as if it were Harry Houdini himself. After all, it is now “game on” for Christmas and Hanukkah.

As a matter of fact, we may even hear: “Thanks for dinner, save me some pie, I will be back for dessert and family time right after I hit a couple of these stores that are open tonight.”

Research shows that it could take anywhere from 18 days to 254 days to create a new habit. One study in particular states that it takes 66 days, and then there is another finding that claims that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. It is subjective in that the variables are the people and their behaviors.

Well, this was a three-part series and this is my third and final column about Thanksgiving, gratitude and appreciation. For those of you counting, that was three weeks or about 21 days, depending on when you read each column, and just about enough time to start forming a new habit. The reinforcement of this topic is so important because it feels like gratitude has become a momentary emotion or a fleeting feeling as we are already anxiously awaiting the next thing that is coming our way. What’s next? Or what’s in it for me?

“Actions speak louder than words; so it’s occurred to me that today’s environmentalists might be wise to heed the words of my good friend Cal, who in a recent conversation with his 16-year-old environmentally conscious daughter said, ‘Before you begin saving the planet, Trisha, try cleaning up your room.’”

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Many of us, myself included, really look forward to the Thanksgiving Day meals. I mean everything from breakfast through the multiple courses served throughout the day, and of course the desserts. Notice I said desserts, plural. But there is something that is more important than our meals because isn’t it true most of us tend to eat pretty well every day?

What’s more important is the gratitude that others who aren’t so well-off feel when they too get to have a meal. The appreciation they have for the meals that must be provided for them. And whether we funded those meals, made those meals, served those meals or delivered those meals, my hope would be that we all felt grateful for having had the opportunity to serve others in some way.

You see, being grateful isn’t just reserved for when we get things or assistance; it is also about having gratitude and appreciation for when we have the opportunity to bless and serve others. It is an incredible feeling to give, to give cheerfully and thankfully. You know the feeling I am talking about don’t you? The smile on someone’s face when we help; the firm handshake of the people we are lifting up; the tears of joy in their eye; the warm embrace and hug. And remember what “hug” stands for: Having Unbelievable Gratitude.

What I am talking about here is developing and maintaining the spirit of Thanksgiving and creating a habit of gratitude and appreciation that goes far beyond the holiday. I hope that it is a habit that we will never want to break. We can all show our appreciation more, we can all demonstrate gratitude and we can do it through the simplest of ways, too. A simple thank you, a quick note, a card, a smile, a call, a text and maybe just doing something to help out in return or pay it forward. Our world could use more people with an attitude of gratitude. Our community could use more people developing a habit of gratitude and appreciation. Our families can all become stronger and closer when we recognize each other and share how blessed we are to be a family.

A habit starts when we do. What if today, we all set a goal to live out Thanksgiving each and every day? What if we could change someone’s minute, hour, day or life by showing them a little more gratitude and appreciation?

So how about you? I hope you won’t be too surprised if I say “happy Thanksgiving” if I run into you somewhere in February or April, or next September. And I do hope that you will try and create a new attitude of gratitude habit for yourself. As always, I would love to hear your story at and when we are successful at creating that new habit, it really will be a better than good life.

Michael Norton is the president of the Zig Ziglar Corporate Training Solutions Team, a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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