As Thanksgiving time rolled around this year, I couldn’t help but think of Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939. If you’re a sports fan, the chances are good that you’ve probably seen footage of that historic speech.
The words that most of us remember are when Gehrig said, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” What an amazing statement from a person who knew that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This insidious terminal illness is now commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
As Thanksgiving Day approached this year, I found myself thinking about Gehrig’s uplifting words. When the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, it wasn’t for the purpose of focusing on their hard life. It was to give thanks for the bountiful harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony following a severe winter.
It took many years, but Abraham Lincoln eventually declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. Now, like most people, I love the festive atmosphere of Thanksgiving. The spirit of this food-oriented holiday seems to put everyone in a good mood. (Except for the turkey, of course.)
But, like so many of our national holidays, I doubt that many people reflect on the purpose of this special day. Did you think about your blessings on Thanksgiving?
In this regard, I’d like to share with you something personal about myself that has become a centerpiece of my life. For many years now, I have made it a ritual to think of every day as a day of thanksgiving.
I do so by beginning each morning consciously thinking about my blessings. Because everyone’s glass is both half empty as well as half full, I could just as easily choose to think about my misfortunes.
Since every negative has an offsetting positive built into it, and vice versa, you always have a choice as to whether to focus on the abundance or the scarcity in your life. My firsthand experience has convinced me beyond all doubt that if you want more negatives in your life, all you need to do is think about the negatives that already exist.
Likewise, if you want more positives in your life, focus on the positives that you already have. You’ll be amazed at the number of new positives that will almost magically make their way into your life as a result of focusing on the positive side of the equation.
But the truth of the matter is that there is nothing magical at all about this phenomenon. On the contrary, it’s scientific. What makes it possible is the fact that (1) all atoms are connected and (2) atoms vibrate at tremendous rates of speed.
This is why when your thoughts are positive, science works its wonders and causes those vibrating atoms in your brain to draw positive forces into your life. I feel obliged to point out here that I believe science is an extension of the Conscious Universal Power Source, or what people variously refer to as God, Yahweh, Allah, Supreme Being, etc. And because you are always connected to this Conscious Universal Power Source, you have infinite power at your disposal.
But even if you’re an atheist, I think you will find that focusing on your blessings is a cathartic way to start each day. If you choose not to give thanks to a Conscious Universal Power Source, then just be thankful in a general way for all the good “luck” you’ve had in your lifetime.
Sometimes, I purposely think about the negative of a situation first. Then I say to myself, “BUT, here’s the offsetting positive.” (And I then describe it.) In really grim situations, it can sometimes be difficult to find the positive offsets. Rest assured, however, that they are always there.
Case in point: My eldest daughter has had multiple sclerosis for about 15 years. That is certainly a half-empty glass.
However, the half-full glass is that she does not have chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis, which causes a person to deteriorate very quickly. As a result, she is not in a wheelchair, nor does she have to use a cane.
Further, she is attractive, intelligent, and personable, and has been able to lead a relatively normal life, raise two children, and continue on a successful career path. She attributes the success she’s had against this crippling disease to proper diet (lots of fish!) and a positive attitude.
Case in point: As the result of a freak gun accident, I haven’t been able to straighten my left index finger for the past 23 years. Even so, I almost never think about it.
The reason I don’t focus on my permanently disabled finger is because I see so many people every day, especially on television, who have much more serious physical problems than just a slightly bent finger. For example, I recently saw three U.S. soldiers on TV who looked like they were wearing Halloween masks. All of them had their faces mangled as a result of skirmishes in Iraq, and one had already had 28 operations.
What was incredible about these three soldiers was their upbeat attitude — no bitterness, no hint of feeling sorry for themselves, no desire for sympathy from others. They were pleasant to a fault. And the one who had 28 operations on his face was the most pleasant of all.
This was one of those rare times that I did think about my crippled finger. And what I thought about was how full my glass is. Had I accidentally been shot in the head instead of my finger, I probably wouldn’t have been around to write this article.
Case in point: My mother is 94 years old, and she hasn’t been doing well lately. She was vibrant and full of energy until about 90, when she was struck down by shingles. Amazingly, she made a 90% recovery.
A couple of years later, she broke her hip. Then she fell again. And a few weeks ago, she suffered a minor heart attack and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital.
All this makes me feel very sad. But there is a half-full-glass aspect to this situation, as well. Maybe more than half-full. First of all, I feel fortunate to have been blessed with such a wonderful mother, especially while growing up. Second, I am grateful that she has managed to live into her nineties. Third, and perhaps most important, throughout most of her 94 years, she has enjoyed incredibly good health.
o, while my sadness is quite normal, overall I still feel blessed where my mother is concerned.
If I were to make up a list of all of the blessings I’ve had during my life — including minor, medium, and major blessings — such a list would be in the thousands. I don’t know you personally, but I strongly suspect that your list would be just about as long as mine.
I’m no Pollyanna. I realize that it’s not easy to focus on your blessings when faced with such crises as medical problems, financial upheaval, or a deteriorating marital situation.
Nevertheless, it’s in your best interest to make the effort do so. Just remember . . . the more you focus on the adversities in your life, the more adversities you are likely to get.
I don’t have a double-blind study to prove it, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that being thankful for what you have every day of your life is a powerful tonic for the mind. I’m not talking about just speaking the words. I’m talking about thinking the thoughts.
Start each day by celebrating Thanksgiving, in solitude, and it will change the way you look at life. And, as they say in quantum physics, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
(Ed. Note: Robert Ringer is the author of seven books, including three No. 1 bestsellers: “Looking Out for No. 1,” “Restoring the American Dream,” and “To Be or Not to Be Intimidated?” The latter two works have been named by The New York Times as two of the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time. Ringer’s most recent book is “Action! Nothing Happens Until Something Moves”. In it, he offers insights into why action is the key element in determining how successful you will be in your life.)