Thanksgiving Day-ly


I look forward to that wonderful stuffed feeling I’ll get this Thursday.  You and I can’t do that every day, but we can go a long way to sustaining in ourselves and others the joy that comes on the day on which we give thanks.

Two weeks ago I wrote about Professor Kim Cameron’s great little book Positive Leadership:  Strategies For Extraordinary Performance. One of the driving forces in positive leadership is an abundance of thanks giving. Cameron cites the work of one of his colleagues, Robert A. Emmons who teaches at UC Davis.  Emmons has been doing research on thankfulness, which he summarized in his book last year, How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.   As part of his research Emmons randomly assigns adults to three journal-writing groups.  One is asked to daily journal 3 things they are grateful for that day, the second group journals some of the hassles or irritations of the day, and the third group is asked to write about “things that had a major impact on them.”  The results of gratitude journaling are stunning.

Emmons described the results from the thankfulness journal group in this way: We “saw a positive effect on hours of sleep and on time spent exercising, on more optimistic expectations for the coming week, and fewer reported physical symptoms, such as pain. Additionally, we observed an increase in reported connectedness to other people and in likelihood of helping another person deal with a personal problem.”*  The positive-journalers were as much as 25% happier, and were not only happy relative to the complainers but even to the neutral group.  Remarkably, Emmons found sustained, positive results after people had been gratitude-journaling for four nights a week for as short as three weeks time.

Emmons and Cameron both find that giving thanks to someone else, and not just for them, has doubly positive benefits.  Not only does the giver of thanks feel better, but there is also what Cameron calls a virtuous effect: those who are thanked are much more prone to thank others in turn.  The result: not a vicious, but a virtuous cycle.

So, wait til Thursday for the turkey, but start giving thanks today and tomorrow and Wednesday, to

Lead with your best self!


  • November 24, 2008

    Dear Dan:

    Yesterday, enroute on my Northwest Airlines flights from ABQ to DTW via MSP, I read “Positive Leadership” by Kim Cameron. Thanks much for turning me onto him. Great read. Like you, I started my ‘graditude’ list in time for Thanksgiving. A most appropriate activity for those of us who are men for others, which is another ‘Cameronism.’


    Best regards,
    Bill Moylan

  • Thank YOU for promoting gratitude. As a student of Emmons and Selignman and other positive psychologists I have seen gratitude in action. As a counselor for the State of Michigan Employee Service Program I often encourage our employee clients to journal what they are grateful for each day. This reframing has helped individuals improve their work and personal lives.

  • Dan,

    Thanks to you for your attitude of gratitude and all your positive messages. Despite a ton of daily e-mail messages either trying to sell me something or complaining about everything from politicians to plastic wrap, I know I can expect at least one positive and life-affirming message from you. Although I have never met you in person, you have changed my life with your focus on pro-active leadership. Keep up the good work.

    Mick McKellar

  • Thank you for always reminder me to enjoy the moment and to give thanks! I personally work hard to keep an “attitude of gratitude” and journaling is one one that works for me too! I read recently if you feel that you don’t know how to pray, simply say “thank you God”…the more I remember to say that in prayer or before I take any action…I experience peace and get ideas that help inspire me in many ways, it helps me not to focus on my own issues! Thanks for the timely reminder…Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
    Karen Johnson Moore

  • Dan, another way of saying ‘Thanks!’ is giving back in second careers. Baby Boomers are becoming aware that they are experiencing a different type of retirement than the previous generation.

    It used to be you’d collect your pension and whatever toys you could afford and exit the workforce. But that model’s fading away.

    A former reporter who chronicled Bill Gates’ epic story — and who now helps people find second careers — said the Microsoft chief’s announcement to focus on his family’s foundation was a benchmark.

    “He was the poster child of the computer age; now he’ll be the poster child for this ‘encore’ career where you take on something new at midlife,” says David Bank, senior vice president of Civic Ventures. Gates is not alone in giving back at midlife.

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