Hello, I hope this finds you well. I’ve been thinking a lot about what to write this Thanksgiving; it feels so much more momentous this year. I decided that I couldn’t do better than to re-post the Coaching Letter that I wrote at Thanksgiving the first year that I started sending it out, partly because I don’t think I can do any better, and partly because it generated a larger response than any other Coaching Letter, even though a few thousand additional readers receive it now. It makes me happy, and grateful, to revisit it, especially since it reads like it was written for our current situation.
The Coaching Letter below was written a month after my mother died. My dad came to stay with us for Thanksgiving, and we took the train to New York to have breakfast at the home of my former boss, Andrew, and to watch the Macy’s Parade. It was a great day, and I am sorry not to be able to repeat it this Thanksgiving. I am sorry that so many people are giving up their gatherings with family and friends this year; at the same time, I am grateful for all you do to support students, families, colleagues and neighbors every day. If I can do anything more to support you, please let me know. Best, Isobel
Coaching Letter #14
I was in the middle of writing my next coaching letter, with a lede about how coaches are not necessarily “soft” or “touchy-feely” (I told someone today that she shouldn’t even think of me as a nice person). Then I realized that we’re coming up on Thanksgiving, so I should really send out something related to that. Rats, I thought. So much for not being touchy-feely.
But wait! There is a science to gratitude. The research shows that it is good for us! Practicing gratitude—and it’s important to emphasize that it is a practice, like yoga or meditation or prayer or listening, although easier than those, I think—is linked to sleeping better, feeling more contented, even fewer visits to the doctor. All you have to do is make thinking about, or writing down, what you are grateful for every day a part of your morning or evening routine—this is not something you should do only on Thanksgiving. You can do that, right? Yes, you can.
Of course, Thanksgiving is about being publicly grateful and expressing gratitude. Which makes it a lovely occasion, highly moral, deeply emotional, and yet free of dogma. How many times do we get to say that?
For more about the science of gratitude, I highly recommend an episode of Freakonomics Radio called Why Is My Life So Hard? The link will take you to the podcast page, where you can click on the link to listen, or scroll down to read the transcript. I think listening to it is much better. You can, of course, also find the podcast on Stitcher or wherever else you go for podcasts. Please consider sending the link to everyone you know, as part of your quest to make everyone more thankful-which, as leaders and coaches of others, is definitely something you should aim for, especially through modeling gratitude.
So here is my list of what I am grateful for. You must read it as a purely scientific exercise in practicing gratitude. There is nothing touchy-feely about it. It is written in deliberately prosaic language, because this is about making life better for you and those you care about, not poetry. Anyone can do it.
I am grateful that my dad is OK
I am grateful for my health
I am grateful that my kids have the wit and nerve to argue back
I am grateful that I can run (which is something I should have been grateful for a long time ago, which I realize is part of the point of this exercise)
I am grateful that my house is warm and that I never have to worry about paying for groceries
I am grateful that I love my work and the people I work with
I am grateful that my colleagues are thoughtful, kind and driven to do what is right and good
I am grateful for the kindness of so many people in my life, especially recently
I am grateful to my Facebook friends, especially the ones who write nice things to me on my birthday or at other significant times, even though I never remember to post to their timelines on their birthdays, and even though they may not have laid eyes on me in decades
I am grateful for my husband, who is the best thing that ever happened to me
I am grateful for my kitchen, including everything in it, especially my big brown Le Creuset pot and the Japanese knife my husband bought for me
I am grateful for Google Scholar, Audible, Stitcher, Wikipedia, university libraries, and all the other tools that make it possible for me to own the world
I am grateful that people read my writing and find it useful and take the time to write back
Isobel Stevenson, PhD PCC
Connecticut Center for School Change
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