Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson

A nother year, another Thanksgiving. It seems that every year, I see more for which to be thankful – a wonderful by-product of the ageing process. The week has been marked by posts full of gratitude: family, health, freedom, faith, our service men and women, plus many other wonderful things for which to be grateful. I embrace them all wholeheartedly and echo these amazing lists of graces present in my own life.

Digging a bit deeper on these lists, I wondered about the unseen elements often lying beyond view yet present amidst our daily blessings. What are other, less obvious blessings that might bear mentioning? A few come to mind.

Awareness

Gratitude is such a powerful force: it fuels our most compelling coping mechanisms and serves as the foundation for enduring joy in a world that challenges at every turn. Gratitude is itself a blessing.  However, left alone, it lies hidden. To recognize it, we need awareness. Our ability to consider, comprehend, and recognize, to be aware of our blessings, is our most elemental gift. As with life itself, we did nothing to earn it or create it; it is simply there. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to recognizing the gifts in your life. Awareness enables us to see the blessings and drives our sense of gratitude.

Choice

As Americans, we often reference gratitude for our freedom as citizens of our great country. The freedoms afforded by the founding and evolution of our country are many and worthy of deep thanksgiving. Our freedoms afford us many choices. However, our most basic choice is what we think and believe. This includes choosing to be thankful. Choice is a companion to awareness and we were also born with it. Even when we don’t like our options, we always have a choice. Choosing to be aware of our blessings is foundational to our ability to fully celebrate Thanksgiving. Choosing what we do with our blessings leads us to a fuller life.

Hope

In a world in which many people live without it, hope is an incredible gift. We may feel hopeless at various points, but in America, you almost have to choose to be hopeless in the face of so much opportunity. Hope underscores the possibility that has driven such amazing progress and impact around the world. Hope in a better future fosters boldness and moves people to greatness. With hope, we can endure the unendurable and continue to move forward in the face of the impossible.

Worthy Challenges

No one asks for adversity, yet adversity is ever present and pushes us to more. Our lives are marked by challenges that define us. We are given the opportunity to succumb or to rise to them. Either way, we emerge changed, evolved.  A worthy challenge moves us to the highest version of our self. How the difficulties define us, ultimately remains our choice. In the same way that smooth seas do not make a skilled sailor, our lives teach us what we need to know and who we need to be. Worthy challenges also lie in competition: sporting, business, affections. Competition drives us to be all that we can be. We may pray for less competition, less adversity, and fewer challenges but their continued presence blesses us with the opportunity to overcome them and become more in the process.

What less obvious blessings do you see around you? The gifts of family, friends, and love underpin our sense of gratitude; they are real, present, and easy to identify. Looking beyond them, you find the elemental gifts that enable you to experience your blessings in more profound and enduring ways. Make your own list and keep it with you. With a little effort, perhaps we can make Thanksgiving a holiday that lives with us year-round.