Traditionally in the United States the third Thursday in the month of November is Thanks Giving. This is a celebration to honour the first pilgrims that settled there. They give thanks for the provisions and food that helped their ancestors to survive and establish their life in the New World.
Other societies and cultures also give thanks during the season of Autumn/Fall and are thankful of the bounty of their Harvest, the culmination of a full year’s work. From the dormancy of winter, the sowing of the seeds in spring, the growth during summer and the harvest of the autumn.
For me, every year, I take the month of November to reflect on the past year. I look back to the beginning of the year and the dreams, goals and plans that I had, then I look at each month consecutively to see how much effort and sowing I put in to those goals, in order to see the prosperity of the growth throughout the year until November, nearly year’s end, where I can acknowledge my harvest, the accomplishment of my year’s goal.
But just as with all crops some will flourish and some will fail. This time of reflection allows me to gain insight into what has worked for me and what has not. It also allows me the opportunity to see if some crops are worth replanting and if some would just not grow in fallow ground.
I love this time of reflection, it can be both encouraging and sobering. Yet know matter what the truth of the reality, I have total gratitude. Gratitude is very easy when life flows as we would like it and we are able to reap our rewards, our harvest, our goals. But it can be a more bitter pill to swallow when we look back and see which of our dreams, goals and crops have failed.
It can be more difficult to understand how to have gratitude for perceived than successes. So how can I call it perceived failure, when we downright didn’t achieve our objective, or we didn’t get the job that we wanted that would have allowed us more time to travel, buy a better home, give us more freedom etc. or the relationship that we didn’t get or that ended, the one that we had invested so much time and energy into. Or on another level the loss of a loved one that maybe we didn’t spend enough time with?
Years ago I decided to embark on a quest to study the main 5 religions of the world. I remember reading a book on Buddhism and it saying that we should have gratitude to all experiences in life. Not too long before reading this, my life was in turmoil the aftermath of the sudden death of my father. As I read the passage, I thought to myself, how can I have gratitude for the pain and suffering I have endured, how can I have gratitude for trying hard to reach my goals, only to have the doors slam firmly in my face? All I had was an empty tank and it was too full to have gratitude for the experiences that brought me pain.
A lot of time has passed since then, and there is only a fragment of the old self inside me now. I am ever evolving and changing, becoming stronger, more peaceful and complete because of the experiences of my past. This is why I give gratitude, as I would never have learned how to evolve, to accept, to reflect and adapt if I had not had pain, suffering, loss and failure.
So as clichéd as it might sound, “There is no such thing as failure, there is only the opportunity to learn.” Every year end, I reflect on what I have accomplished, this helps me to set new goals for the coming new year. I also hasten to add, I give myself a big pat on the back for having had the commitment and persistency to have achieved those goals. Also, I reflect on what didn’t work out. I don’t beat myself up about it nor judge myself harshly. I look at the situation and goal objectively and without judgment. I ask myself, what worked, what could I have done better, what are the internal components of me that I could give more of for my future goals. I also ask myself again, why was this goal important to me? Is it still important to me? Does it still fit with my values and beliefs intrinsic to me? Then, I look at the external factors, no matter how hard I tried, what were the elements and factors that were out of my control that made it so that I could not accomplish my objective? Is there anything in my behaviour that I could change to allow me to reach a different conclusion?
Once I have concluded my own self investigation, and have reflected, the irony is that nine times out of ten, I am more grateful of my ‘failures’ as I truly see that they have given me greater insight into myself, my strengths, my weaknesses, my values, my beliefs and my self-worth. I have gratitude for the resilience of my being, the inner self that always finds the reserve tank of strength to drive us forward and keep us going when the storm clouds are overhead. I love this inner self, the true essence of myself. It is in every one of us, yet the beauty of this resilience is only found through tougher times.
So, now that I turn to the dormancy of winter, I start to plan the new goals and crops that I will plant in the new year, but this time I have greater wisdom, insight and resilience and know that all my goals are already one step closer. My harvest will be more bountiful next year because of my learning, reflection and gratitude of this year’s harvest.
– By Malle