• Dr. Helen Holton

Thanksgiving, A Time to Practice Resilience

There’s something magical that happens when you experience in person the passage of time through the growth of nieces and nephews and the aging of the elders. The behavior patterns of siblings we somehow think will change only to find they may be dressed up in different packaging but they’re what they’ve always been. Yet, with all the mishaps, glitches, changed plans and disappointments you realize this is my family, the tribe to which I belong and I love them.


Thanksgiving ushers in one of the highest emotional times of the year. All kinds of memories are recanted by those gathered for the great feast. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself and others through storytelling of yesterday. It never fails that I always learn something new about my family dynamic and dysfunction that’s not always what you may want to hear or know. However, it is in this space that I have come to better understand what it really means to be resilient. Resilience is having what it takes to endure, to get through, and be stronger and more grounded afterward.


I don’t always spend Thanksgiving with my family. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to go through whatever the gathering may bring. As I live longer and realize that with every passing day we all get older and some of us may not be here to experience another Thanksgiving together. Making the conscious choice to forgo what you may really want and instead to honor family tradition is an act of building resilience. Family gatherings can be taxing and challenge your resolve, which makes them an ideal environment to practice your resilience.


As you reflect on your family time together this year think about how you could have handled a challenging situation differently. In the midst of the unplanned, not the way it was supposed to be events of my own family Thanksgiving gathering I learned new ways of maintaining my own peace of mind. What would have sent me into a tailspin in the past no longer has that effect. Building resilience by strengthening your anchor that keeps you grounded when life does not takes practice.


The planning, execution, and conclusion of a Thanksgiving family gathering can be comparable to an undertaking you confront as a leader in your vocation. Utilizing strategies and tactics you engage your family to get through the holiday are transferable skills you can take into your work environment. What I’ve learned is that practicing resilience has value personally and professionally. The difference is context and the outcome is you becoming a more resilient leader able to handle the challenges life throws at you with success.

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