Our minds are incredible things – capable of achieving wonders, of creating great works, and of changing the course of history. However, they are also capable of being deluded. Somehow they are more prone to recognize that which is wrong than which is right. While all of us have our share of challenges, overall, we are possibly more fortunate than any people in history. Yet, I feel like so many of us – myself included, too often – lose sight of what we have to be grateful for.
I heard a statistic once that said the average teacher has 15,000 interpersonal exchanges a day, ranging from conversations with colleagues to responding to a question in class. Let’s say 1% of them are negative to some degree. That’s 15 negative exchanges. I know from experience that at night as I’m getting ready for bed, I often find myself rehashing those 15 exchanges and losing sight of the 14,885 positive ones I had. Here’s a second example. I ask my Ethics class to keep a journal, documenting things they have done that they feel were ethical or unethical. It’s an attempt to get them to be conscious of what they’re doing, to learn to identify the values they believe in, and to help them connect the philosophies that we study to their own lives. By a significant amount, students often focus on the things they think they did wrong rather than what they feel they did right. These are wonderful people – kind, smart, responsible, helpful – and yet they focus more on the negative than the positive.
I’m not an expert in neurology, nor in psychology, so I’ll leave it to others to explain why many of us do this; however, I’m using today to make an early New Year’s resolution. I am going to try to be conscious of all I have to be thankful every day, not just the fourth Thursday of November. To remind myself come the doldrums of February, when my spirits sometimes are at their lowest, here’s my list of what I’m thankful for:
- I have a wonderful wife who is smart, kind, and a terrific partner and friend in every way.
- I have two amazing children who bring more joy to my life than I can possibly quantify.
- I have a mother and sister who are terrific people who I know are there for me if I ever need anything and who love (and like) my wife and kids.
- I have a mother and father in law, 2 brothers in law, and a sister in law who are people I would choose to be in my life. They are all simply good people.
- I have good friends – some I’ve known for just a couple of years, others who I’ve known for decades – who make me smile, make me laugh, and inspire me continue to grow as a person.
- While I have the aches and pains of any 44 year old, my body is good to me and allows me to do lots of the things I love.
- I live in an exquisitely beautiful place.
- I work with tremendous people who are so intelligent, so committed, so hardworking, but who also understand that hard work and fun are two concepts that SHOULD exist together.
- I work with students whose passion, whose intellect, and whose desire to learn makes me feel wish I had a do-over at being a teenager, and who make me proud and hopeful for the future every single day.
- I have spent 23 years working at a school that has allowed me to grow as a professional and as a person, that has mentored me, guided me, supported me through a variety of life events and life phases.
There’s more I’m sure, but that’s a pretty good start. If you see me and I seem down, remind me to read it again. To all of you, may you and yours have a wonderful holiday this week, may it find you with much to be thankful for, and may all of us in the world work together so that the coming year is one where all people can be grateful for the lives they lead.