Partial Thanks – The Military Leader


When work, life, and social media collide to create the conditions we typically describe as “busy,” one result is that we fail to fully appreciate. We have only enough margin to partially engage in the process of being thankful, which limits our impact.

Looking more closely at being thankful, we might describe it in three steps.

First, there is the moment of simply recognizing that something good has happened. At work, this “good” might be someone’s effort that landed the big win or another’s unselfish moment to teach coworkers how to be more effective. At home, this is our partner’s daily effort to maintain order, the kids helping around the house, and the neighbor walking our trash can up the driveway for us.

For some of us, even the act of identifying the good around us is a cognitive challenge. It’s not that we’re insensitive jerks, it’s just that too often we’re simply looking the other way. (Incidentally, that “other way” is often forward. We sacrifice the moment for the sake of progress.)

Next in the process of being thankful is reflecting on the impact of the good we recognize. Ok, for some things, noticing is good enough. But for the things that matter, there is no way to properly appreciate the good (i.e. be thankful) unless we literally stop what we’re doing, stop talking, stop scrolling, stop competing…and dedicate a moment to exploring the positive effect that is happening as a result.

Reflecting is the hardest step because engineering a pause anywhere in our hectic day is a monumental achievement. Nonetheless, the people doing good for us really do deserve a moment to appreciate their significance. How are they saving us time, energy, and effort? In what ways are they making the team better? What are they doing that we didn’t ask them to do? Discovering the answers is an intentional process.

Finally, it’s time to do something with that awareness by expressing thanks in a sincere, deliberate way. People want to know they matter, that their efforts make an impact. Many will do their work selflessly, but almost all will do it better with praise. Plus, appreciation is free, arguably the most cost-effective activity we can engage in. It is fuel for growing our teams, strengthening our families, and building our communities.

So, being thankful is recognizing the good, reflecting on its impact, and expressing gratitude to those who matter. Most days, we barely get to the first step. Partial thanks. Today, let’s try to go all the way.

P.S. Upon reflecting, I fully recognize that you have many other places you could spend your time. Yet, you choose to make The Military Leader part of your day and part of your leadership journey. I greatly appreciate that you do. I’m thankful for the engagement you create, the impact you have, and for sharing this resource with your people. Without you, this doesn’t exist. Thank you!

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