This is a guest post from Marilyn Tam. Listen to my interview with Marilyn coming up December 12th on Webtalkradio!

Have you ever had this happen to you? Where it took a physical, mental or emotional detachment or even the combination, before you could see what you really had? Sometimes we only appreciate what we have when we are away from it, or more sadly, after we’ve lost it.

As a citizen by choice of the United States of America, thanksgiving was a new holiday to me. What a great holiday! A day devoted to gathering and giving thanks with loved ones and that’s all.  No gifts exchange, no specific religious reasons, which may trip up one group or another, just come together to share, celebrate the harvest, eat good food and give to thanks. I can really get behind this!

What is Thanksgiving? Most cultures have a festival to give thanks for the bounty from the earth. In my ancestral country of China, we have Moon festival/Mid Autumn festival, on the eighth lunar month to celebrate the harvest and the fullest moon of the year.

Yet it took me to leave my birthplace and be transplanted into another culture and environment for me to fully appreciate Thanksgiving. Is it the actual name of the American holiday, or is it the physical and emotional distance of being a newcomer that got me to look at the reason behind the holiday?

I am particularly reminded of this because this year marked the loss of several dear friends and my beloved mentor, Robert Muller. Dr. Muller was the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and the most optimistic and happiest man I’ve ever met. Since he dealt with numerous global calamities in his job daily, his bubbling enthusiasm was especially remarkable. I asked him during one of the rare times when he wasn’t surrounded by people seeking his advice and attention, what gave him that positive energy.

He smiled broadly and practically sang out his answer. “I’m so thankful to be alive! I am thankful to God for the opportunity to serve the world, to help create more peace. Isn’t it great?” He further explained how we could look for the positives and move toward them or focus on the negatives; whatever we paid attention will loom bigger and bigger in our lives.

He wasn’t a Pollyanna, but a realistic optimist who was working on the path for good. He knew that he could do much more when he was thankful for the improvements and used what he learned to work on the other issues. He was instrumental in creating the University for Peace, a multicultural and multidisciplinary University dedicated to peace education with the Secretary General of the UN as the honorary president.

So what about you? During this season for giving thanks are you focusing on reasons to give thanks? I am sure if you looked, you will find grounds for doing so. Many years ago after my husband collapsed and died on the trails while mountain biking, I was devastated. Staying in my pajamas all day was all I wanted to do. I couldn’t think or work. The only thing that helped me slowly recover was what I forced myself to do each morning.

As soon as I woke up I had to think of five reasons why I am thankful. Oftentimes I could think of only very small things, no matter, by focusing on what I was grateful for gave me the perspective and strength to get up and try again.

It’s the season for giving thanks, may you dwell more on all your reasons to give thanks. Happy Thanksgiving.

Marilyn Tam is an international selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, humanitarian and former CEO of Aveda, President of Reebok Apparel Products & Retail Group and VP of Nike and the founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation.

Marilyn wrote her books, “How to Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want” and “Living the Life of Your Dreams”, so that others can learn from the experiences and secrets of successful and happy people and from her own experience. You can find out more about Marilyn on her website and connect with her on facebook