5 Ways to Increase Your Gratitude & Give Back This Thanksgiving

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With the holidays knocking on our doors and the ever-more-aggressive Christmas marketing, I am finding it harder these days to get into the spirit of Thanksgiving. By “spirit of Thanksgiving,” I mean remembering to slow down, to be thankful, to listen just a bit more to my children. I want to stop being ruled by my cell phone (which is nearly always attached to me or my face). I want to allow intentional time to appreciate life and be content right now.

This week, I had a wonderful opportunity for a mindset shift that really left a lasting impression with this struggle. I was at my barber, and he was sharing with me that in his family, Thanksgiving isn’t a day, it’s a WEEK! They build in lots of family time for playing games, dancing, baking awesome desserts, making lots of amazing food, and they put up a Thanksgiving tree as a family. Ever since I left there, I’ve been thinking about what he said and how excited he was about what his family does. They really take the time to celebrate and be thankful, as a family.

It’s so easy for us as human beings to get wrapped up in the minutiae of the day, with work, little annoyances, etc. Being grouchy or unkind somehow is OK if we are busy, tired, or restless with something in our lives. But is it really OK? Are we allowing something to control us? Could we take control over our schedules, or children’s behavior, our household clutter — and use that opportunity to be thankful and grateful?

Slow Down

As I am writing this, I am sitting on the back deck of my house, drinking an amazing cup of coffee, enjoying this writing time. With fall brings the changing of the 100-year-old trees all over my neighborhood to colors of brilliant orange, yellow, and crimson red. The wind is blowing, and I can hear the ebb and flow of the wind through the tree branches, the leaves that are blowing up and down. I can hear the birds chirping and the low constant rumble of the city nearby.

When was the last time you slowed down enough to hear the wind blowing or the birds sing? In business, it’s so easy to spend every waking moment working, and hard work is important. No amount of wealth, opportunity, income, or deals is worth the sacrifice of your time. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t put in the extra effort or hard work. I would say you absolutely should. Then, plan for family time, personal time, friend time, for things you enjoy doing.

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Process and Ponder

Whether it is a meditation practice, yoga, quiet walks, being outdoors, or a good book that makes you think, there are so many ways we can decompress, appreciate, and reset. If you can’t slow down, it’s practically impossible to be able to process and ponder. In business, we talk about working IN your business versus working ON your business. Depending on where you are, you may be feeling the need to do one or the other here. My guess is, you probably need to do both — some working on the business and some in it.

Related: Why Investors Should Give Back to Their Communities Year Round (NOT Just at the Holidays!)

Have you given yourself permission to slow down enough to be able to work ON the business? And then from there, have you given yourself the thinking and dreaming time to suss out the ideas and information that will be able to drive the information to work on the business in the first place? If you aren’t setting aside time in your calendar right now to ponder and think on big ideas and you are in charge of your business, stop RIGHT NOW and start putting that time on your calendar. You, your business, and your team need you at your best.

Take Real Time to Do What You Love

If you’ve been reading my blog posts for a while, you may know if I like something, I really get into it. Whether it’s watches, food, coffee, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I am an either totally out or 100 percent in. This past weekend, I experienced my first bird hunting trip with a couple of buddies. We drove nearly four hours to Western Kansas and had a weekend of fun, great bourbon, and even some pheasant and quail too. I had an incredible time and realized immediately I had fallen in love with the experience and the sport. We spent most of the first afternoon getting the dog out, driving mile after mile of what seemed to be endless fields, and made a game plan for the next day of hunting.

The next two days, we walked over 15 miles, got multiple birds — and I now have 4-5 blog posts’ worth of funny stories and experiences for whatever real estate hunter blog I may have to start. Now I am already working on plans for more trips, asking my brother to get in on the action, and learning and getting fired up for more action.

Block the time. Be present. Take the time to schedule whatever it is you like to do. One of the most important questions I ask my clients is, what do you enjoy doing? What’s the point of working hard and making money if you aren’t taking the time doing things you like and have no one to enjoy it with?

Make Time to Be Uncomfortable

From the time I was a child, my parents have taken me and my siblings to soup kitchens and homeless shelters, and we’ve gone on national and international mission trips. What I didn’t realize then (and now easily forget) is how good we have it. My house is nice. My kids are healthy and have food on the table. We get to travel and have fun experiences. It was massively impactful for me as a young person, realizing even here in the United States, there are people who are hungry, who need shelter, who need love.

It’s easy as an adult, making more money, feeling more successful, to become removed from the reality of many people’s lives. So I have to ask myself, when am I being reminded and made to feel uncomfortable? I know I personally need to continue not only to see how many others live or experience life, but also for myself and my family to help others in a real way.

Related: The Top 7 Things I’m Thankful For as a Real Estate Investor (What Are Yours?)

I was sitting in my office with clients from Australia last week, and they were sharing their drive to leave a legacy for their family through investing in real estate. Their children have been living in Madagascar for decades, after having fallen in love with the people and specifically the children there. My clients explained that because of the living conditions, they felt compelled to stay and work to help change that. On a daily basis, they are responsible for feeding 260 children and helping to distribute the food for some 25,000 children.

What a breathtaking and selfless undertaking. I sat in my office conference room, listened, reminded of how far beyond “good” we have it. Every time I have an experience or meet people sharing stories like this, I am uncomfortable in a good way that is humbling and reminds me I can do something to be thankful and to help others.

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Take Action

It’s one thing to say you’re “blessed” or “grateful,” and it’s another thing to DO something. Here are two challenges for each of you.

FIRST: Find something to do each day until the day after Thanksgiving with your family or friends closest to you.

Whatever it is, post it in the comments within this article. Is it homemade baked goods? Or reading a special book and having your favorite treats or meals each night? Or a family dinner and then a walk to the park? Commit to setting the time and creating the opportunity to slow down, process, and enjoy.

SECOND: Commit to something beyond yourself.

Is it finding the local shelter for winter and donating coats? Or is it a mission trip at a local group or church you’ve been pondering or putting off? Or perhaps it’s an organization you’ve dreamt about helping with or starting up yourself or with friends. Take action and do it.

So it’s clear, I am doing this same thing this week with my family.

For the first, we are going to work out some cooking, baking, and park time each evening with our entire family.

For the second, I’ve been on the fence about a potential mission trip to Haiti in February 2017. Since I began writing this post, I’ve shared the basics my wife, and we’ve decided to go and requested the trip information. I’ll put my money where my mouth is.

Final Thoughts

I hope this post has helped you think about Thanksgiving and compelled you to slow down a bit and get in the spirit of this holiday season. It’s also my personal hope for myself and my family that we see some benefit and enjoyment with our time together this next week and that it helps fuel our future weeks, months, and years to come.

What action will YOU take?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is a dad, husband, worship leader, and real estate investor in the Kansas City market. Foodie. Coffee addict. Crossfit junkie.

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