For so many of us, Thanksgiving has become a day of food, drink and family.  We are barely aware of the deeper meaning of the event, its larger significance getting buried beneath football games, copious amounts of food and the beginning of Christmas season.

As Adam Cohen in the New York Times reminds us, Thanksgiving is a much more complex celebration than most people understand.  It’s a holiday with somber undertones, its central theme one of confronting and triumphing over adversity—sometimes just barely.

The Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving according to the popular story, was about giving thanks for the abundant harvest.  But the truth was a bit different.  Nearly half the Pilgrims who landed in America in 1620 perished in that first brutal winter.  Today, Thanksgiving has been rendered superficial and shallow—all celebration, no adversity.  We have lost our depth of appreciation that only by confronting our biggest challenges head-on can we overcome our own struggles, rise to the occasion, and defeat the adversity we face—thus having something truly to be thankful for.

What are the main life challenges you face that you’re needing to overcome, defeat or perseverance through this Thanksgiving season?  If you’d like to confront those challenges, answer the following questions thoroughly:

  • What obstacles stand in your way of overcoming the challenges you face?
  • What are some effective things you might do to cope with the obstacles?
  • What are some effective ways you might view this dilemma so you don’t feel so intimidated, fearful, threatened, overwhelmed or defeated by the challenges you face?
  • What gives you hope that you might be able to overcome the obstacles in your way?
  • What of perseverance and patience?  Might it work for you to just last things out—or is action required of you?
  • In order to overcome the obstacles in your way so you can effectively meet the challenges you face, what are you going to need to do?
  • What can you do right now?
  • What will you need to keep your spirit strong and self-esteem high during this process?

As I have said in the past, courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than your fear.  Fear says “I can’t cope.  I’m not going to be able to handle the bad things that are happening, or that could happen.”  Courage says “I will find a way to face this dilemma and not let this problem defeat me.”

Facing adversity with strength and courage can be very difficult.  But if you run away from adversity—or let it overwhelm and defeat you—you will not only feel demoralized, you will also lose trust in your ability to cope with life’s challenges effectively. 

Slowly but surely, you’ll start shrinking away from the unfamiliar, from new experiences, new challenges.  You’ll begin seeing your life as more restricted, limited, smaller, with fewer options and choices.  You’ll then be in danger of creating a lot of regrets.  Regrets come from not actively going after what you want.  Trying and failing does not give you regrets.  Not trying your hardest does.

Not letting adversity defeat you will give you a feeling of hope, that things are still possible.  And that’s a lot to be thankful for.

“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”  Eddie Rickenbacker

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