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One Simple Cure for Irritability

Let’s be honest. It’s Thanksgiving this week and lots of us are a little irritable. As we turn the corner toward the end of a “year interrupted,” more than a few of us are a little pissy. We’re tired to the constant pivot. And, now our favorite family holiday/black friday duo is under siege, too.

Blame it on Covid. Blame it on your holiday travel plans being canceled. Blame it on Zoom fatigue. Shoot, this year you could probably blame your attitude on anything and no one would object.

So, what if there was a cure for that underlying pissy-ness? I don’t mean some “happy talk” pill, I mean a remedy that went all the way to the bone. And, more than your personal well-being, what if this same remedy could unlock your capacity for fruitful leadership, even when your irritation quotient was red-lined?

Here’s my offering. The cure is Gratitude. It changes almost everything.

No. I don’t mean the syrupy sweet greeting card variety of “just think happy thoughts.” I am talking about a deep, reflective, way-of-life, gratitude.

Yeah, I know. This week, it seems like everyone is talking about some form of thankfulness. I don’t want this message to get lost in that anemic Thanksgiving ritual of going around the table asking everyone to name one thing they are thankful for. So, hear me out.

I am talking about cultivating the deep habit of constantly identifying what you are grateful for. I am talking about gratitude as a way of life. More than a polite social exchange, I believe real gratitude has revolutionary power.

The Spiral Staircase of Gratitude.

If you can, picture the journey into gratitude as a spiral staircase that circles deeper and deeper. While the first step or two down the stairway might be things you are grateful for or circumstances you find yourself in, consider the lists below as a series of steps deeper and deeper into areas of life for that invite gratitude.

First Flight: PEOPLE & THINGS

  • Things I’m grateful for

  • Circumstances I find myself in the midst of

  • Experiences I treasure

  • Finances that fund my life

  • Health that I enjoy

  • People I love that love me back

Second Flight: MEANING & VALUE

  • Ways people and things meet my needs

  • Ways people and things add value to my daily experience

  • Ways people and things make my dreams possible

  • Ways people and things today are better than my circumstances yesterday

  • Ways people and things create joy and happiness


  • Lessons and experiences that shape my daily life

  • Close relationships that call me on my junk and love me anyway

  • Opportunities to do something sacrificial for some one else

  • Sorrows and grief that awaken my deeper humanity

  • All that it means to be known intimately by the King of the Universe

I am fairly sure that given more time and space, I could identify nearly endless additional categories for gratefulness. The thing is, discovering all that you might be grateful for is like mining for gold. If you take time with it, you will find a vein of gold worth following further than you can imagine.

Make it a disciplined habit and your awareness of all that you have to be grateful for, will overpower any waves of irritability that might sneak up on you.

I promised there are rewards beyond a cure for your personal crankiness. Here's my promise. The more gratitude becomes a way of life, the more you will enflame your leadership capacity.

I’ll save that for my Thanksgiving Day post, but as a tease here are three insights:

  • Gratitude will cultivate true contentment.

  • Gratitude will give you grace in the face of difficult people.

  • Gratitude will communicate value to the people you lead.

Check back for that post on Thanksgiving morning.

Kudos for a truly great Dog photo!

Photo by Howie R on Unsplash


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