Prepping For The Question, “What Are You Thankful For?”

Holidays often trigger traditions. Must-have foods, activities, and rituals. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’m wondering if you are part of a family that asks everyone around the table to share their response to the musical question, “What are you thankful for?”

It can be daunting to come up with something meaningful yet not trite.

I thought it might be a good time to share a tool I’ve used in past coaching engagements as part of the self-assessment work. It’s called the Wheel of Life exercise. Taking time to truly consider the various aspects of your life and assess your satisfaction in each area may offer a fresh approach in your response.  

Let me explain how it works.

First, it’s essential to get in the right mindset. Let go of how you “should” answer vs. what is true for you in this season of your life. One way to reset is to let go of your self-identifiers.  Things like: I’m an athlete, mother, wife, yogi, vegetarian, career woman, etc.

Our labels come with beliefs and biases associated with that label, which can trigger a set of behavior patterns that prohibit openness.

Let go of who you think you are … if only for this exercise.

Next, draw a circle and lines to create a pie with eight slices. Name each slice a different aspect of life. The eight sections in the Wheel of Life represent balance. Mark the center of the wheel as 0 and the outer edge as 10. Rank your level of satisfaction with each life area by drawing a straight or curved line to create a new outer edge. Here’s an example:

The new perimeter of the circle represents your Wheel of Life. How bumpy would the ride be if this were a real wheel?

This is a flexible model, and you can change the categories to what is most relevant in your life. You can even use the same exercise to focus on work-related factors like Communication, Leading Change, Decision making, Developing Others, Strategic Thinking, etc. It’s a simple way to hone in on what is most important and highlight where you can focus efforts to improve your satisfaction in those areas.

Now, look at your life wheel assessment and notice which areas represent the highest level of satisfaction. That’s a great place to explore further and name the specifics for which you are grateful. For example, “Health and Well-Being” – I remained healthy through the pandemic and can enjoy hiking with friends and family.

An additional benefit of this exercise is to look at the areas you assessed as the lower levels of satisfaction. What factors contribute to that lower rating? What small step can you take to move the needle a bit to improve that satisfaction rating? What will offer a more balanced, smooth wheel so that life is not such a bumpy ride?

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! Take time to slow down, enjoy those with whom you share the holiday, a hearty meal, and appreciate all that is good in life right now!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Connect and share your responses to the “what are you grateful for?” question via Twitter @mduesterhoft or email at