It’s that time of year many people take a moment to reflect and ask themselves, “What am I thankful for this year?”
It’s also a time people may want to practice gratitude. Their acts of gratitude may be as simple as keeping a thankful journal or inviting a friend to a meal. Those small acts of kindness can mean the world to another.
Stopping to reflect about what you are thankful for is important in making sure you are living your ideal life. Most of us run around doing things because it’s what we’ve always done or is expected of us.
But, what do you expect of yourself?
What brings you joy? What makes you feel fulfilled? What makes you feel thankful?
I’m going to talk about what I’m thankful for in 2022, as well as questions you can ask yourself. My hope is that you take a moment, take a deep breath (no, seriously, take a few deep breaths right now), and write down what you are thankful for this year.
What I Am Thankful For in 2022
It’s been an extremely tough year.
My dad’s health has worsened, and his actions have left him without regular care. He was kicked out of an assisted living facility in less than 48 hours. Two caregiving companies fired him. He’s been hospitalized at least twice and been to the emergency department at least nine times.
Despite what’s happened, there are aspects of my life I’m thankful for.
My wife and I got married in June!
After about a year of planning, it was a relief to see the day come together. We didn’t hire a wedding planner and due to my wife’s schedule, I was tasked with most of the coordinating and decisions, but we made it enjoyable where we could.
We had friends do a wine tasting for us because we weren’t in Seattle. I did a virtual pie tasting with my wife. We hired a photographer virtually, who was amazing.
It was a wonderful feeling seeing friends and family come together. I’m also thankful we have photos of friends and family. I’ve noticed we take less as we get older, so it’s nice to have different combinations of family members and friends.
I should also take this time to remind you to update your beneficiary designations, Will, trust documents, and power of attorneys during major life changes. When was the last time you reviewed yours?
I’m also thankful for employer-provided healthcare. It’s a shame we primarily tie healthcare to employers in this country. I went on COBRA when I left my job because options for self-employed people are not great. It was expensive compared to what we are paying for healthcare now.
Although people frequently ask, “How is it being married?” the answer is “not much changed.” I still have my best friend and life partner. I’m thankful for her.
I am thankful for the opportunities I had to travel this year. I went a tad overboard in hindsight, but after not traveling much during 2020 and 2021, I wanted to prioritize it.
My wife and I had a chance to go to an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic in February, which was an amazing getaway. It was inexpensive compared to many other trips and gave us a chance to relax, unwind, and escape the Wisconsin winter.
In August, I had the opportunity to go to Israel for about 10 days on a group trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the food and privilege to hear from many different groups of people about what it is like to live in Israel.
In September, I was lucky enough to go to Maine and Vermont with my mom. After little time together in 2020 and 2021 and most of our time spent trying to arrange care for my dad for the past six years, I feel incredibly blessed we had time to spend together.
If you’ve never read Tim Urban’s “The Tail End”, I’d encourage you to stop reading my article, go read it, and come back. I read it many years ago, and it helps me prioritize how I am going to spend my time.
The premise of the article is that instead of measuring your life in the time you have left, measure it in the number of activities. For example, I’m 31 years old. If I go kayaking twice a summer, and I can do it until I am around age 75, I only have about 88 kayak trips left in my life.
The same can be said for time with my mom. If we assume my mom’s life expectancy is about 16 more years and we travel once every two years together, that is only 8 more trips. Add in the fact that travel today is going to look much different than in 10 years, there are limited opportunities to travel in certain ways.
A great example of that is this walk to a lighthouse on the break. My mom almost fell on our walk this year. It’s probably not something we can do in 10 years.
Finally, I had five trips back to Seattle. Two were related to my dad’s health. Three were for weddings that also happened to coincide with my dad’s health worsening, one of which I extended.
Although I’m thankful for the travel I had in 2022, I’m looking forwarding to less travel in 2023.
Playing Tennis Regularly Again
I played tennis competitively from a young age through high school. When I went to college, I helped establish their club team again with a few other folks. I played inconsistently through college and for the last decade, I’ve played once or twice a year.
I never could make the time with my last employment to join a tennis league or play regularly.
In hopes of meeting other people and exercising more, I joined the USTA again and indicated that I was interested in playing in nearly any league that would take me.
I was fortunate enough to connect with a woman here who captained a team for mixed doubles where most of us are in our late 20s and early 30s. From there, she connected me with someone who did a men’s doubles team. After that, I started to get more invitations to play on other teams.
I am extremely thankful to have tennis back in my life. I’m playing at least a few times a month and hitting against a backboard regularly. I’ve gotten to know more people in Madison and am enjoying being back on the tennis court. It’s always felt like a second home.
Flexibility with Self-Employment
After working 50-60 hour weeks at my prior job, I’m thankful to build something more sustainable for me and the clients I serve.
Not only am I working less, which reduces my stress and allows me to show up better for my clients, but I’ve also been able to work on my own terms. Part of the reason I could spend more time in Washington state caring for my dad is because of the flexibility with self-employment.
Instead of needing to be in a physical location or working certain hours, I can work virtually during the hours that work best. For example, earlier this year I could work early in the morning or late in the evening if I needed to run an errand for my dad.
Even when I am not being a caregiver, I am thankful that I can choose when and how I want to work. If I can’t focus in the afternoon, I can take a 30-60 minute break to go for a run or hit tennis balls. I can block off time on my calendar for writing or doing podcasts. I can do pro bono volunteering for organizations like Wings for Widows and Savvy Ladies.
Gaining control over my time again allows me to be more proactive with clients and have a better quality of life. It’s a win-win.
Questions You Can Ask to Reflect on What You Are Thankful For
If you are struggling with what you are thankful for this year, here are a few questions to get you started.
It’s okay if you aren’t feeling very thankful. I hesitated even writing this article this year because of the struggles I’ve had with the medical system and my dad’s health. I’m feeling less thankful than normal, and that’s okay to acknowledge.
It can still be a good moment to reflect about what you are thankful for.
When Am I At My Best?
I like this question because it’s open ended. Are you at your best during a certain activity? Is it when you are around certain people? Is it in a certain place?
The options are endless.
Plus, “best” can mean different things to different people. Does it have to do with your health? What about your state of mind? Is it simply a feeling?
Think about when you are at your best and the following questions:
- Who is around you?
- Where are you?
- What do you see?
- How do you feel?
- What time of year is it?
- What are you doing?
If you think about when you are at your best, it may be that is something you are thankful for.
What Brought Me Joy This Year?
In a world where it’s easy to feel down, what brought you complete and utter joy?
You know the joy – where it fills you from your belly and radiates throughout your entire body. You are grinning ear to ear. Life feels whole.
What is it?
Is it a person, experience, activity, moment, acknowledgment, award, celebration, or something else?
Take a moment to write down the top five things that brought you joy this year. What stands out? Which are you thankful for?
Who Did I Enjoy Spending Time With?
This question helps you think about who is adding energy to your life.
Do you have friends, family members, or colleagues who make life better?
We have many interactions every year with a variety of people. Who are you thankful for?
What do they add to your life? How do they make you feel? How are you helping them?
It could be someone who is always there when you need them, someone who treated you to a meal, traveled with you, helped during a medical event, or who you play games with regularly.
What Act of Kindness Did Someone Do For Me or Did I Do For Them?
Acts of kindness are more impactful than we often think.
A note in the mail, buying a coffee for a stranger, or simply complimenting someone can change someone’s day.
What did you do for others in 2022? Did you have a random act of kindness? Did you go out of your way to help someone? If not, there is still time. Start small and try something.
Did someone do an act of kindness for you?
Did a friend pay for your meal? Does someone frequently give you compliments letting you know you are appreciated? Did someone donate when you were fundraising for a charity?
Think about the kindness around you and how it impacted you. Are you thankful for it?
If so, take a moment to acknowledge it and perhaps thank that person.
What’s Something I Take for Granted?
I include this question because our life is often on autopilot with existing obligations. Work, family, coaching, watching kids, and more become routine.
Is there someone you encounter regularly or something someone does for you that you take for granted?
Go through the motions of your day and remove that thing or person.
What’s your day like now?
Most of us are thankful for the people we have in our lives, but we take for granted they will be there every day because they are that good at showing up. They make it look easy, but it’s not easy always showing up in life. You may have reached a point where you take them for granted.
If that’s you, let them know. Tell them you are thankful for them. Show them you are thankful for them.
If someone usually eats with you at lunch, plays a card game, or participates in some sort of activity with you regularly, think about what it brings to your life.
It’s probably something you are thankful for, but because it’s normal and regular, you may not even realize it.
Final Thoughts – My Question for You
It’s been a challenging few years for many people. Stopping for a moment to appreciate life can be difficult.
Think about who and what is in your life. Are you thankful for them? Are there other things you are thankful for? What is a key component of your life?
Reflect on it. Write it down. Tell them thank you.
While it’s good to do it throughout the year, now is as good of a time as any.
I’ll leave you with one question to act on.
What are three things you are thankful for this year?