Greetings from the 30th Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet, talk, and work with colleagues from around our nation. It is truly one of the many good things that I have in my life. Which brings me to our topic this week….
What happened in your life today that was good? What did you witness that made your heart glad? For what are you grateful? Here are four items that helped me re-focus on gratitude.
1. On August 16, I posted “An Attitude of Gratitude” on this blog. At that time I had expressed my appreciation for all the good folks who came out to my CD release performance. I was truly humbled by the show of support, friendship, and love. I, also, noted the following in that blog post:
I can be a bit of a whiner at times—don’t like to admit; but it is true. And the reality is I have NOTHING to whine about. At times, it is easy to dwell on the misfortunes of life…and that kind of thinking is deadly…Perhaps you are one of those people who says “thank you” on a regular basis. If so, good for you! If not, stop for a moment—even if all hell is tumbling down around you—and give thanks for the good around you.
Those words came back to me recently as I read The Happiness Advantage. Shawn Achor presents seven principles of positive psychology—and offers up a number of strategies that, when practiced, have moved people toward a happy (happier) life. For instance, he presents research that suggests our brains have a propensity to recognize patterns. If, for example, we tend to spend our days scanning the horizon for negatives and what might go wrong, we will end up finding it over and over again. It becomes a pattern. The brain will seek out those experiences; it will recognize them over the more positive experiences. His antidote is to consciously seek out the good each day.
This is more than the feel good (but many times empty) rhetoric of “just think positive thoughts.” Based on Achor’s work I have created a daily ritual for myself. At the end of each day, right before I retire for the evening, I write three things that happened to me (or that I initiated or that I observed) that were good. They do not have to be large or life-changing. They just have to have been good things in my day. Some of the items I have listed over the last three weeks include:
• A quiet dinner with my wife
• A strong morning workout
• A great discussion with my students
• A smile from a cashier
• Singing with a friend
• Lunch with a friend
• A wonderful full moon
• A beach walk with my dog
• A crisp morning.
As you can see, none are earth shattering—but all are recognition that wonderful things are all around me. And they are there every day. What I have found is that I am (as Achor said) becoming more aware of those good things (little and big) that grace my life daily. It is becoming more of a habit (a pattern) to search for and concentrate on the good. Since I am a “recovering whiner,” I backslide—but not nearly as much as in the last few weeks.
2. In one of his pieces (Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy), comedian Louis C. K. also reminds us of the need to recognize the positive.
3. Buddha’s Brain (Rick Hanson with Richard Mendius) maintains that our brains are Velcro for negative events but Teflon for the positive. The authors advise us to actively look for the positive in our environment—and once it is found, savior and absorb it.
Video recommendation for the week:
4. A scene from the Mask of Zorro reminds us to concentrate (focus) on the “small” things in our life. Eliminate the distractions. In the long run, this helps with the “big” things.
What Three Good Things graced your life today? Write them down. Perfect. Do it again.
(c) 2011. Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s blog.