This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker has recently come to realize that there will always be an excuse not to give if you look for one.

As the holiday season approaches each year, we’re reminded to reflect on those things we’re most thankful for.

Some of these remain consistent from year to year. Occasionally, a dramatic life experience — either positive or negative — will stir things up, adding new items to the list.

While this sort of reflection is useful, it has a bit of a downside. We can get stuck in a rut by making this only a mental game. We wipe our hands and pat ourselves on the back for taking the time to recount our yearly list of appreciation.

I’ve been guilty of this many times in the past. This year, though, I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways take the next step, turning gratitude into action.

You see, this is the first year my wife and I have celebrated Thanksgiving away from our families. In fact, we’re currently in New Zealand where the holiday, of course, isn’t celebrated or recognized. Honestly, I didn’t anticipate it would make a difference, but it’s actually caused even more self-reflection than usual this year.

As a result, I’ve challenged myself to create a tangible list of ways I can take my own thankfulness mindset and put it into action. The process worked well enough for me that I’d like to share it with you:

  1. Create a written list of the top 3-5 things you’re thankful for. Be as specific as possible. Rather than writing “family”, try to be more detailed. What about your family are you thankful for? Maybe you’re just thankful to still have employment after a series of layoffs. Maybe you’ve gained a tangible skill this year that’s enabled you to grow. Try to be specific (this helps the next part).
  2. For each item on the list, think of a tangible way you can pass it on. We’re not talking about changing the world, but just brainstorming small ways you can affect just one other person. If you’ve recently rented your first apartment, maybe you can donate time to a homeless shelter. If you’ve recently had a family member recover from a prolonged illness, maybe you could support a local program that does hospital visits. Obviously, your examples will reflect the issues that hit closest to home this year.
  3. Encourage family and friends to do the same. This is what I’m doing right now — simply sharing something that worked well for me. Just the small act of committing our thoughts to paper and brainstorming ways to make them tangible can help us make more of this holiday season for others. If it helps you, spread the idea even further!

No, it’s not complex. There’s no technology involved. It’s just a simple, straightforward reminder that the holiday season isn’t just about being thankful — it’s about finding ways we can spread that goodwill to others!

I hope everyone had fun-filled and fantastic Thanksgiving weekend!

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