November brings us the tradition of being thankful…a time for giving thanks, doing our 30 days of being thankful on Facebook (okay, Facebook isn’t exactly a tradition) and sharing our blessings around the table on Thanksgiving with family and friends. When I think of being thankful I think of the obvious – family, health, friends and the general blessings of everyday life. But this year, my mind went to something different…what does it look like to be thankful for what we might not always consider or appreciate as a blessing or a gift? Here are a few things I came up with as I considered unconventional thankfulness.

Honest Feedback – A love/hate relationship for many of us, and usually most of us don’t see or treat it as what is really is – a gift. Like most gifts, honest feedback has a giver and a receiver, the giver gives of their time and sometimes pays a high price, especially if not taken well by the receiver. For the receiver, at the most basic level, it means someone cares about you. Good or bad, agree or disagree honest feedback offers information to consider. It provides a glimpse of how others view you and allows you the opportunity to compare that viewpoint with your impression of yourself and/or the situation. I have seen honest feedback save careers, improve relationships and be the catalyst for success. Whether honest feedback provides a chance for re-evaluation or simply a different viewpoint, we need to remember it is a gift, for which we should be thankful.

Sacrificing to Serving Others – Most of us welcome an opportunity to serve others, but when it comes at an inopportune time or not in the way we had hoped, serving others becomes more challenging. When we sacrifice in serving others it provides a space for learning about ourselves. Time and again I have seen the opportunity to serve others change a perspective, deepen a relationship and/or propel a group forward. Sacrificing ourselves for someone else compels us to think differently about our own needs and the focus on other’s needs quite often teaches us about ourselves. I have served others when it wasn’t quite what I might have wanted or the timing wasn’t right, and without fail, I am taught a lesson for which I am usually grateful to learn.

Difficulty and/or Hardship – Really, seriously, she can’t be writing this….but yes I am! Difficulty and hardship is where we find our true self. Someone once told me the test of someone’s character isn’t when things are going well, but when they aren’t. I agree with that statement and ssometimes thankfulness comes to us disguised as difficulty and hardship. I see this often in my coaching practice, clients work through a difficult issue and come out better on the other side. In the midst of difficulty or hardship I usually ask about the silver lining, the gift or how they are thankful for this situation. Most of the time I am met with resistance and then after a bit of reflection and awareness they become thankful for the lessons learned or even their “new normal”.

Opportunity to Change – Change is difficult, even under the best circumstances. All of us have experienced change, from small changes to completely overwhelming changes, and all points along the continuum. Change usually doesn’t come just when we want it, but instead change happens on its own schedule. Change can be difficult because we are usually dealing not only with the change itself but also the emotion and perspective of both our self and others. When I think about my own life I am thankful for changes, without them I wouldn’t have a husband I love, two adorable children, friends who support and challenge me as well as hobbies, interests and a career that enriches my life. Changes that in the end brought me a great deal of happiness sometimes came with a price. My point here is most of us wouldn’t have the precious things in our life if it wasn’t for change. So when change comes knocking, open the door and be thankful for the visit.

So….as I write my blog this month I am reminded to be thankful for everything in my life, even the things that seem difficult and hard. Personally, I have learned how hard it is when things don’t seem fair, don’t seem right and change our lives forever, but I also know those same experiences brings growth, opportunity and a chance for learning….and for that I am thankful.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and as you think about what you are thankful for this year I encourage you took for those unconventional opportunities of thankfulness!