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An attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving season

Jim Salfer

We can easily question if there is anything to be thankful for this holiday season. This may be particularly true for farmers and their service providers. The past couple of years have been challenging. Prices for most commodities are low and are below the cost of production for many. Net farm income is predicted to drop for the third straight year. Cost of living, especially the cost of health insurance, is skyrocketing. On top of that, we just finished a contentious election season with a very negative tone. This could cause anyone to have a sour attitude. Some surveys show that depression and frustration levels are high for people in the United States.

In spite of all of these challenges, most of us have many reasons to be grateful during this Thanksgiving season. I find that even on my worst days, there are many reasons for me to be thankful. If fact, research shows that having an attitude of gratitude may be good for business and for your health. Research shows that having an attitude of gratitude is a key trait associated with happiness and well-being. People with a habit of expressing gratitude have higher levels of joy and optimism and even have better health and less stress in their lives. Other research has shown that being grateful can actually have a positive effect on business performance. Researchers at the Wharton Business School at University of Pennsylvania showed that the performance of employees whose managers thanked them had higher performance than employees of managers that did not.

Many groups of people are working hard to help us succeed. During this holiday season, we should consider all the people that help make our lives better and sincerely thank them.

  1. Family members: Most of us would not be nearly as successful without our family’s support. We often work with them on a daily basis and yet do not appreciate all their help and sacrifices. Even family members not directly involved in the daily labor and management of the farm often sacrifice for the business success. Many children and spouses are as committed to the farm’s success as the managers.
  2. Service providers: Milk truck drivers, veterinarians and others work many nights and weekends to provide the services we need to be successful.
  3. Neighbors: Many farm and non-farming neighbors contribute to our success. They come to our rescue when we need some help or a piece of equipment breaks. Or maybe they are chauffeurs for our children during our busy times.
  4. Consumers: Most farmers are far removed from the end consumers. In fact, we are often frustrated that they want to dictate many of our production practices and products that we can use. This can be a source of frustration but they continue to spend their hard earned money on our products. Next time you are in a grocery store and see someone consuming your products, walk up to tell them you are a farmer or work in agriculture and thank them for purchasing your products. My guess they will be surprised and you will gain a customer for life.
  5. Community members: Clergy, teachers, elected officials and others work hard to improve our communities. Their efforts make our lives more fulfilling.
  6. Employees: Most employees understand that margins have been tight the last couple of years. They are concerned and want to see your business succeed. Employees report that being appreciated by employers increases their commitment and fosters a more trusting environment.
  7. Employees' families: Many employees’ families also sacrifice during seasonally busy times.

I recognize that many of us face personal and business challenges. But, even in good times, we take our good fortunes for granted. We often casually say “thanks”, but do we truly reflect on all the blessings that we have in our life? Gratitude helps us to focus on the good parts of our life instead of focusing on the things that we don’t have. Practicing gratitude requires little effort and is free. We all have the ability to practice gratitude. Take a few minutes every day to focus on all the good parts of our lives – instead of complaining about all the things that we think we deserve.

November 2016

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