The end of the year is a great time to be thankful for the blessings and good things in our lives. In fact, I believe that if we don’t take time to stop and be thankful – to God or to someone or to some thing – or all of the above, our future-thinking will be significantly hampered, and our ability to achieve goals limited.
What does it mean to be thankful? One dictionary uses two expressions to define the word. The first is “aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful.” The second is “expressive of gratitude.”
Why should we be thankful? For Christians, it is scriptural. I Thessolonians 5: 17-18 tells us:
17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Thankfulness is certainly not solely a Christian principle. Thankfulness is one of the cardinal principles of all faiths. For those who are not religious, being thankful is at the very least practical. No one does everything for himself or herself.
If we “should” somehow be thankful, what should we be thankful for? I can’t speak for you, but here is a list of ten things to be consciously and, for me, prayerfully, thankful as 2013 draws to a close. I’ll be generic to facilitate readers’ thinking. But you will see that this list is really much larger than ten.
I am grateful to my God for life itself. Some may believe that the universe was created by something other than a universal force, but I don’t. I’m grateful for my church, Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, in Memphis, Tennessee. This small piece of “one holy, catholic and apostolic church” has been my church home since 1975. I’m thankful for Reverend Richard Lawson and the staff of the church. Most of all, I think, I’m thankful for the people of my church home. We have lived together in community for almost forty years (for me, and more or less for others). I’m thankful that after many years of searching, I’ve found through Father Lawson and a church friend a means of daily prayer that works most of the time for me – Morning Prayer. It is easier for me to have a thankful attitude if I keep thankfulness at the forefront of each day. Try it!
2. Husband/Wife/Significant Other
Having not done so well in this category as I would have preferred, I think I have learned the importance of nurturing my relationship with my significant other. Man was not made to be alone – at least this one wasn’t. And I’ve found myself in that position too often. I’m thankful to have a wonderful lady in my life after my previous sidesteps. The presence of another in one’s life changes things for the better, or so I believe. What I’m still learning is how to show thankfulness and appreciation every day, even in little things. No, especially in little things. I’m thankful.
I am grateful for my children. If you think about this category, don’t just think about “children.” Every child has a name and a history and has created special memories for you and me. When I pray for my children, I pray for them individually, by name, asking for specific blessings or guidance for them, or to help me help them become the people they need to be. One year ago, my oldest child was undergoing a treatment regimen for breast cancer and facing surgery in early 2013. I’m grateful that today she is a survivor and her physicians say she is cancer-free. I wear a pink wrist bracelet to remind me to continue to “pray without ceasing” and of how grateful I am to have spent Christmas with her and my other kids. I’m thankful for my children.
Children are family, of course, but we all have extended families to some extent. I have two cousins in North Carolina that I spent enormous time with when we were children. I haven’t seen them much in recent years, although we talk occasionally. The other day, I took a chance and called one of them using Facetime. As luck would have it, Tana had just recently gotten an iPhone because her phone had been stolen. I had to tell her to take the phone from her ear and to look at it! We saw each other for the first time in several years on our iPhones. There was further luck. Her sister and most of their kids and grandkids were together having Christmas Dinner. Tana took her iPhone to everyone and I got to see and speak to them all. I’m so thankful for that unexpected treat. And tonight, on New Year’s Eve 2014, I’m in Port Orange, Florida and will spend the evening with my lady, my sister and her guy. I’m truly grateful for these family opportunities this Christmas season.
Friends to me are of two kinds – those with whom one is very close and others where there is a true relationship, but where we don’t have the closeness of lifetime friendship or of circumstances that molded a deep friendship. I’m grateful for both kinds of friends. I have a best friend, and I’m grateful every day for that relationship. I have played handball or tennis with a small group of guys for many years. I regret every Saturday morning when I’m unable to be with them. I have cooked breakfast every 5-6 weeks with another group of guys at church for more than thirty years. I’m so grateful for these two groups of friends. I have friends I have worked with at Mercer Capital for 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30+ years. Where would I be without them? Thankful isn’t a big enough word. I have many friends that I’ve met through work at Mercer Capital or through other professional and personal involvements. I’m grateful for these friends, as well. I’m grateful for every opportunity for interaction and for the times I can help a friend – or when a friend is able to help me in some way. Life would be less meaningful without all of these friends. Thanks to you all!
Health is precious. I’m thankful every day that I wake up and feel good. I am a few years past my twenties, but truthfully, most of the time, I don’t “feel” the difference, although I do know it. I’m thankful that I can walk and do walk at least 10,000 steps most days, which is about five miles (or more). I’ve used a Fitbit to count steps for the last two years, and I recommend the same for you to try. I’m grateful that, unlike many my age, I do not take any prescription medications, which says something about cholesterol, blood pressure, and a variety of other issues I’ve luckily dodged or worked around so far. And I’m grateful for the luck to have dodged a lot of other bad things that have happened to friends, acquaintances, clients, and others I know or know about. I just got word that the “minor” surgery to remove a pre-cancerous mole from my chest was successful. They say they got it all. I’m grateful for that news. It is wonderful to be alive and to have an attitude that helps me try to stay that way. By the way, I used the word minor in quotes above because if it had been done for you, it would have been minor. But it was done to me and any time someone cuts me , its “major”! I’m grateful for good health and the willingness to work to maintain it.
I have been blessed to work at Mercer Capital for 31+ years. I am thankful every day to work in the place that we have created. The folks there are smart, hard-working and above all, nice. As I mentioned above, some of my friends and co-workers at Mercer Capital have been working with me for many years. I enjoy going to work every day (okay, almost every day!). I am grateful that others manage the business, while I have the opportunity to work on what I enjoy. And I am thankful that Mercer Capital is a place where lots of folks have built and continue to build very good careers, including me. I’ve been fortunate to travel a good bit internationally and domestically over the years. Wherever I go, I see folks less fortunate than me and any likely readers of this post. All this to say that, regardless of our degree of happiness with our jobs or careers, it is good to be grateful for what we do have. I will go to bed tonight grateful for my job and career at Mercer Capital and excited about the prospects for continuing in 2014.
8. Financial Blessings
It is good, after a long career, to have options for the future. I remember many years ago (early 1960s) reading the budget for my church and learning that our pastor had a salary of $150 per week. Now, he also had a house, car and other benefits, including an occasional “love offering,” but I was fixated on the salary. I thought that if I could ever earn $150 per week, or $7,800 per year, I’d be on easy street! That’s an interesting perspective today. I did learn a couple of lessons early on that I have attempted to pass along to others. First, very simply, spend less than you make. So simple and yet so hard to learn. The second lesson is to do something productive with one’s savings. I was slower than I should have been there, but got better over time. The third lesson was harder because it seemed counterintuitive. Give money (and time, but especially money) away. How can one spend less than he or she makes and save and still give money away? I just started doing that as a young man with kids in private school and college on the horizon. I’m glad I did. It works. See item one above. So far, this discussion might seem like a digression, but I have been blessed financially and I know it. I do my best not to compare myself with others who have done better, for that is useless and, if you believe in the Ten Commandments regarding envy (# 10), sinful. What I do know as 2013 draws to a close is that I am grateful for my many financial blessings and for the help and benefits they have provided for my children, family, church and other places that do good things that I cannot do myself. And I am grateful for the future options available to me to work, slow down, retire, or some combination of the above on a timetable dictated by interest, health, and luck.
Often, we do not think about being thankful for where and how we live. I am grateful to have a wonderful home in Memphis. After change in my life a few years ago, my home is too large, but I’ve been slow to let it go, in large part because of procrastination, perhaps. I’ve been blessed to live there and to entertain there and to share wonderful views of the Mississippi River, the Arkansas floodplain across the river, and the two bridges that cross the river in sight of my home on the river bluff. Mercer Capital’s Christmas party was held there in early December. I’m writing from a much more modest place in Port Orange, Florida. As I write, the tide in the Halifax River is changing from rising to falling. I love to watch the constantly changing tidal views from my deck or dock, or from inside where I sit now. Yesterday, I watched dolphins play and always hope to see them each day I am here. I try to be grateful wherever I am, and I am certainly grateful for my two places of refuge on this planet.
10. Hopeful Attitude Toward the Future
While I am thankful for all of the blessings noted above, I am especially thankful for a hopeful attitude toward the future. As a younger man in graduate school, the military, and beginning to work after that, I was plagued with a negative attitude towards many things. It wasn’t that I was entirely negative, but my thoughts turned that way at critical times. Thankfully, I finally recognized the problem in my latter twenties. A problem recognized is a problem that can be addressed. I discovered that I could not immediately change my attitude, try as I might. However, I learned a simple process through an important mentor. I learned to act as though I had a good attitude about life, and I did, consciously and persistently until, I realized, I had literally changed my attitude towards life itself. I maintain that hopeful attitude toward the future to this day, and I am grateful for it, especially since I remember how I was before developing it. Does that mean I’m a Pollyanna? I don’t think so. Life throws negative things at each and every one of us. We have to address them when they are present. But I’ve discovered that I deal with negatives in life better from a base attitude that is hopeful. I’m thankful for that attitude.
Thankfulness, Then Goals
Following my exercise in thankfulness and gratitude, I am ready to focus on goals for the future. I’ve always been a goal-setter. And like many, I’ve fallen short of many goals and resolutions for past coming years. However, that is okay. I’ve also achieved many goals in the past, for which I am also grateful.
So let’s see, I want to lose ten pounds, stop smoking (but I don’t smoke!), become a better person, and so on…
I actually think of goal setting as a process of direction setting. Quantifiable goals are helpful because they can be measured, but I’ve found that it is the softer side of things that get in the way of reaching some goals. Did the goal become less realistic or meaningful because I failed to work regularly towards achieving it? I don’t think so. Life gets in the way.
What really happens to me and, I believe, to many others, is that rather than failing to achieve many goals, we actually change our goals midstream, and actually may be quite successful in achieving those new goals. And still, sometimes we focus on the “failure to achieve” rather than on the actual successes realized.
So what are my goals, if you care?
- First, I’ll be working on my life’s structure, or on how and when I do things and and on what I do. This may be the most important goal. It may sound soft, but I’ll know if I’m moving in the right direction shortly.
- Next, I want to revitalize this blog and develop its content for business owners. I took a break for much of the last few weeks because other goals got in the way (see above re “failure” of a stated goal or actually achieving success at an alternative goal made during the year). As part of this, I want to continue to create meaningful content regarding ownership and management succession and on ways to focus on preparedness of businesses and of business owners for these inevitable transitions. And I plan to take these messages to speak at appropriate forums for business owners and the advisers who influence them.
- Finally, I want to find/create more time and space to think. This goal is related to the first one, but it needs to be separate. It is too easy for business owners and professionals to become or to stay so busy that there is, literally, no time to think and to create a better future.
There is not much that is quantitative about these goals. However, knowing me, if I’m successful at working on them, I’ll also be successful at a number of other things I could state as quantifiable and measurable goals.
Well, 2013 is gone and 2014 is here. We can all look back at the past year and, I hope, be thankful for our many blessings. And we can look forward to the coming year with hope and optimism. But, lest I forget, I know I’ll have to actually work on these goals and to work in the direction I have set for myself – as well as on a number of the things that I have been grateful for in the past. But you see, if things like thankfulness and prayer and exercise are habits, or things I just do, I don’t have to set them as goals. Then, hopefully, I can work on my goals for the coming year!
My questions for you are these:
- 2013 and the Past. Have you taken time to reflect on your blessings? If not, you can use the outline above as a starting point. I highly recommend the exercise, which will actually take some time, but it will pay phenomenal dividends.
- 2014 and the Future. Have you set a few realistic goals for the coming year? And are you thinking about how you plan to achieve them? This, too is a worthwhile exercise with its own rewards.
My personal best wishes for your 2014 to be healthy, happy and prosperous! And may God bless each and every reader of this post.
As always, if you wish to talk with me about any business or valuation-related matters, or to discuss management or ownership transition issues in complete confidence, give me a call (901-685-2120) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Until next time,