A Thanksgiving Ritual… Little Things You Did that Really Mattered to Me!

Thanksgiving Family

In our family, Thanksgiving is about much more than just food! Oh yes, every year I make homemade cranberry sauce, a huge rice-stuffing filled turkey roasted with onions, mushrooms and carrots till golden brown, along with neatly trimmed broccoli “trees” for the kids, and a mouth-watering array of regular as well as gluten-free pumpkin pies. But most delicious of all (tucked inconspicuously among the silverware and napkins on our long cloth-covered table) we have something more. A ritual!

Thanksgiving Family Traditions

Little 3” x 3” slips of colorful paper are set under the napkins beside each person’s plate… along with small stubby pens… so that when the meal is over and we’re still too full for dessert, we can write each other messages about “something you did or you were this year that really mattered to me… a phone call at just the right time, a welcome word of praise, a hug or smile that was desperately needed; the kind of mother or friend you were; the example you set that made the way easier for someone else in the family. Something you probably don’t even remember, but I do. And I want to thank you for doing it or being it.” Then we share our notes with everyone else at the table.

Sharing What You are Thankful for

On Thanksgivings when we have lots of guests, instead of writing our messages, we go around the table sharing them out loud, generating smiles, hearty chuckles and even grateful tears. Spoken words are wonderful, but words written have an advantage… They last! In the months that follow, we’ve all noticed these saved “things that really mattered to me” slips of paper posted on refrigerator doors, pinned on bulletin boards or neatly creased and folded in bowls of seashells, sea glass and other memorabilia. These tiny notes serve as powerful reminders too. On particularly challenging days, it’s wonderful to reread what was said about us and, even more heartwarming, to recall what was said about our kids. To know about the kind deeds they’ve done for others that we would never otherwise hear about, or be able to enjoy.

And, now that these notes have become a family ritual, we’re on the lookout all year for experiences we can write on next year’s colorful Thanksgiving notes! But we frequently deliver them long before knowing there’ll be lots more by then!

Success Filing as a Family

Here’s something I learned by shadowing Highly Successful People (HSPS) for 20 years and working with them for 20 more. HSPs make time each day to “file” their successes… all the ordinary and extraordinary things they did and realized that day, like… I ate a good breakfast, went for a run, quizzed my kids on their spelling words, replied to all my emails, returned a call I missed yesterday… that could be a hug opportunity.

The Importance of Acknowledging Success

Why is this important to HSPs? Here’s what they told me. If they wait for other people to acknowledge them and agree with them they could be waiting a long time! So to constantly build and rebuild their Self-Confidence, instead of relying on Other-Confidence, they write their successes in a journal, a computer file or cell phone or just underline them in their mind while repeating one of these mantras…

  • When my Success File I feel Success-Full. When it is low, I feel low too. (And tend to lie around and procrastinate instead of getting going on my priorities.) Or…
  • Success in my past gives me confidence in my future... the confidence I need to enjoy goals and dreams!

Whether we realize it or not, families have Success Files too. How full is your family’s? Hopefully this Thanksgiving Ritual will help you top it off!

Click to See Our Sources

The Technology of Success book series:

The Joy of Success: 10 Essential Skills for Getting the Success You Want, [New edition, Greenleaf Book Group Press, October 20, 2015]

Success Has Gears: Using the Right Gear at the Right Time in Business & Life, [2014]

Our Children Are Watching: 10 Skills for Leading the Next Generation to Success, [2014]


Susan Ford Collins

Susan Ford Collins is a sought-after speaker, trainer, and the founder of The Technology of Success. She began her career as a young researcher at the National Institutes of Health with a radical idea: to focus her research on healthy, highly successful people (HSPs) rather than dysfunctional ones. With more than two decades studying HSPs and two additional decades working with them, she now shares what she has learned about leadership and management.