Beyond 30 Days of Thankful #52thx

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

piglet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few days ago, I was reading through my twitter feed. It seemed as if each of my friends was complaining. Complaints about their neighbors, their co-workers, or unknown callers, professors and teachers, spouses and children…it was a smorgasbord of complaints.

I wondered if these people are really this unhappy. 

Or is it just convenient to take to social media to complain?

Gratitude – actively focusing on being thankful for what you have rather than a focus on what you lack.  
~ Gayle Tabor                                                   This definition is my own – and I hope Webster (and everyone else) will forgive my latitude.

How much gratitude do you have? 

The John Templeton Foundation commissioned a survey to determine how thankful Americans were. The polling firm Penn Shoen Berland surveyed over 2,000 people in the United States, capturing perspectives from different ages, ethnic groups, income levels, religiosity, and more. Their results provide an unprecedented snapshot of gratefulness in America.

According to the Greater Good website at Berkeley.edu:

This poll suggests that people think their own gratitude is increasing, while everyone else’s is going down.

The good news? This is impossible, and likely due to a well-documented bias: we’re better at noticing and tallying what we personally do than what other people do. It may also be the case that Americans have simply gotten worse at expressing gratitude to each other. According to the data, most of the people surveyed are feeling more grateful today, and only lack in their tendency to say “thanks”—despite knowing that expressing gratitude can bring more happiness, meaning, professional success, and interpersonal connection into their lives.

Is this true? Are we just not good at expressing gratitude? 

30 days of thankful

The past few years I participated in the annual Facebook and Twitter Tradition of posting Thirty Days of Thankful (AKA #30daysofthankful) for the month of November. Each year, as I pounded out my thirty day, I was haunted by the idea that it just wasn’wasn’t enough! AND by how hard it was by the last few days of the month to find the words (not to be thankful but to find the words to post). This year, I decided not to participate (but to write this post instead). Since it is now several days into December (and I’ve been working on this since the first of November) I think we can all agree these words aren’t coming easy either. <grin>

However, my inability to find words has little to do with the gratitude I feel.

Or does it? If I am not expressing gratitude, what am I expressing? 

As I stated in the beginning it is easy on social media and in life to find someone who is complaining. However, are they really that unhappy or is it just easy (and a habit) to complain?

My guess is that the answer lies in all of the above. Gratitude is hard to express. We all have some reason to be unhappy. And, it’s so easy to complain than address real problems.

What should we do? 

The answer is simple – be thankful! There are a myriad of reasons why (I’ve listed some here):

It’s good for your heart – A 1995 study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that appreciation and positive emotions are linked with changes in heart rate variability.

Sleep Better – spending time writing what you are thankful for before you fall asleep will help you get to sleep quicker and sleep more soundly, according to a study in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.

Boost your immune system – Gratefulness is linked with optimism, which in turn is linked with better immune health. Gratitude, it turns out, can help us better manage stress. “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,”.

Better grades – Grateful high-school students have higher GPAs — as well as better social integration and satisfaction with life according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The study reports that materialistic youth seem to be languishing while grateful youth seem to be flourishing. I think this probably translates to better work reviews and satisfaction.

Be a better friend – Those who express gratitude have better social circles. Perhaps because gratitude makes us more willing to help others and therefore boost pro-social behaviors According to a 2003 study in the the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Have a better love life – a study by the University of North Carolina showed that ”Men and women with grateful partners felt more connected to the partner and more satisfied with the romantic relationship. The researchers found that the emotion of gratitude ultimately helps people find, remind, and bind themselves to others who seem to care about their welfare.”

Which leads us to a much harder question – HOW?

There is the obvious answer – actively focusing on being thankful for what you have rather than a focus on what you lack – which I gave you at the beginning. However, it can’t really be that simple can it?

YES! It is really that simple! 

In almost all of the studies mentioned they imply or even flat out say that journaling your gratitude is a great way to help you focus. I keep a journal – it’s difficult to write everyday (even though I keep mine electronically and am able to speak my thoughts). I’m sad to say that although I share my inner most thoughts in my journal (and some of those ARE complaints) I rarely journal about being thankful. That’s about to change!

Gratitude journal

JOIN ME!

I am committing to write once each week about gratitude. I have no doubt they will be personal thoughts. I also have no doubt that there will be those worthy of sharing. Although, I will write mine in my journal but don’t think you need a fancy book or online blog – a scrap of paper will do!

WRITE! 

The challenge to me, and now to you, is to write once a week about why you are grateful. Write to yourself, write to your blog, or write to your social media feeds.

SHARE! 

Then share, no need to share everything but share something; each week share something you are thankful for and use the hashtag #52thx. That’s 52 weeks of thankful.

SEARCH! 

Search for others sharing – just search Facebook, twitter or google+ for #52thx – and write encouragement to someone.

INVITE!

Lastly, invite others to join in and experience a year of gratitude.

THE CHALLENGE MADE CLEAR – 

Just so we are all clear on what we are doing, write something each week about something (doesn’t have to be just one thing) you are grateful for in your life. Share one thing via social media (with hashtag #52thx). Encourage others who are participating. And invite friends and family to join.

Lets make 2014 the year of thanksgiving!

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Focus on your path

 CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!?!?! 

We have reached the end of summer – WHAAAAAAT? 

Labor Day Weekend (the unofficial end to summer) begins in a matter of hours! School started back this week (at least for my neighbors kids – check local listings for times and days in your area). All of which leads me to the classic question:

What did you do this summer? 

For me it was a busy summer. Full of Farmers Markets and work; Wildlife and new friends; small adventures and learning new things;  sea turtles and WOW is that just amazing; and just getting off the couch! It was a summer of doing things! (and still there was plenty of couch time). I read more, I complained less.  In years past plans would be made but when it came time to do – – the appeal of relaxing won!

It is easy to justify enjoying the air conditioning after working 8-10 hours in the sun! It’s effortless to give in and choose ease over exertion. But not this summer! This summer a conscious decision was made to do things. I made a conscious decision to live life! I saw the beach and sat on the beach more this summer than I have in probably 10 years.

Beach Time

 However, the most important thing I did this summer – – I stopped comparing my life to someone else’s life!

WOW! Is it freeing! 

You see when you are in that comparison game it is easy to find a plethora of people who fill the need of your comparison. (I know that’s a strange sentence – so, let me explain). I can make myself seem better, or worse, depending on who I use as my comparison stick. But my life, my talents, my interests do not always align with the person I use for comparison.

It is like comparing apples and oranges. 

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein:

picture from Pretty Spiffy Art

picture from Pretty Spiffy Art

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  ~~ Albert Einstein

It is difficult to not look at other peoples lives and compare. It is difficult to hear someone’s story and not wish to one-up them or to tell them how your life is worse (maybe that’s one-down them?).

I almost believe it is human nature. To use others to build ourselves up or to use our story to break others down. However, it is VERY freeing to decide not to compare! In the end, we are all walking a hard path, but it is our path. We may have friends who join for a while. We may share burdens. In the end we all walk at our own pace on our own path.

I implore you today to enjoy your walk. Focus on your path!

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Mountains, Molehills, and 4-steps to Overcome FEAR

Our kitchen faucet over the last year or so had become increasingly slower. No matter the time of day nor how hard we attempted to open the tap the volume of water produced was barely a drip. Every time I turned on the tap I thought of the horrible and costly things that could be wrong.

Slow Faucet1

I dreaded the idea of the cost and effort to fix the problem, so I chose the path of least resistance. I can’t tell you how many times we’d just take a large pan and ‘fill it from the tub’. It was far easier to carry water throughout the house than to consider the cost and consequences of a real repair.

A couple of weeks ago, as I waited for the coffee carafe to fill with water, I decided I had had enough! It was time to at least see what the problem was. I began by removing the strainer at the faucet. Amazingly the problem was the strainer – it was clogged!

Within minutes, the catalyst of the problem was clear! Even better was the fact that the fix was quick, easy and very inexpensive.

But wait, there’s more!

This isn’t just a story about my faucet. It’s a reminder that often the problems we imagine are a huge mountain – We imagine thousands of dollars in costs – We imagine huge investments of time that are really molehills, minor and simple. We often imagine the mountain when we encounter a molehill.

FEAR

We imagine the worst possible scenario and become paralyzed by fear.

Fear can be a great motivator and a powerful tool of survival (especially when there is possibility of a lion attack); however, fear can also become the antithesis of action. Fear allows us to take a little mole-hill and create a mountain in our minds. Dale Carnegie once said

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

In an effort to help me ‘overcome fear and go out and get busy’ here are the 4 steps I have come up with to overcome fear:

1 – STOP THINKING START DOING – I can and oft do get so caught up in thinking about a project / problem / idea. I spend so much time and effort thinking and planning that I do not actually do anything.

2 – REDEFINE FAILURE – this is ridiculously hard for me! However, with each thing that doesn’t work you are one step closer to discovery of the thing that does work.

3 – REALIZE DOING NOTHING IS AN ACTION – by avoiding or doing nothing I am taking an action. I know it seems strange but the act of inaction is in itself an action. By taking responsibility for the action of inaction I can spur myself to being more proactive.

4 – SHIFT FOCUS – By shifting my focus to what I can gain it becomes easier to act. In the example of the faucet when I was completely focused of how much I wanted better water pressure I was spurred to action.

Choose to be fearless today!

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. ~ William Shakespeare

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One Day – Two Day – Three Day – Four Day….Equals A Lifetime

A few weeks ago I picked up a book and skimmed a few pages. When I picked the book up I knew it really held no interest for me, I don’t really recall the name or who wrote it. The title was something like “What’s it like to be married to me?” I am very certain I do not wish to know the answer to this question – so, why read the book!

However, in my short perusal, I encountered an idea that so perfectly dove-tailed with something I have been thinking and meditating on for most of this year – allow me to share.

The story in the book invites you to imagine that 30 years in the future you are attending a funeral. When you arrive you know all the people in attendance and as you approach the casket you realize it’s you that has died. Your spouse is prepared to give a eulogy about you. What would they say? The idea is that your spouse – the person who knows you best – will have far different insights into who you really are than anyone else in the room. If they honestly stood in to look back at your ‘body of work’ a true look at your at your lifetime; what would they say?

The author then talks about how we are all DAILY beings. It is the things we do everyday that make up the whole of who we are.

DAILY BEINGS! 

In the grand scheme of things I would want to be painted with broad brush strokes. I sometimes think the broad strokes cover the small daily missteps or miscues. However, this book drives home the point that our life is just the opposite. The things we do daily make up the broad stroke picture of our lives! Everyday is just one more pixel in the picture of your life.

Just as Pixels create a picture - Days create a lifetime

Just as Pixels create a picture – Days create a lifetime

I have written several places where I am sure to see it daily the following quote:

The Difference Between Who You Are And Who You Want To Be IS What You Do TODAY. 

Do you complain everyday?

Do you laugh everyday?

Is nothing ever good enough?

Do you hug your spouse or kids everyday?

Do you worry everyday?

Do you learn or try something new everyday?

Do you yell at your kids or spouse everyday?

Do you take time to meditate everyday?

Are your days too busy to take time to appreciate little things?

Do you exercise everyday?

Are your food choices healthy everyday?

At the beginning of 2013 we began a practice in our house of putting a smiley face on the kitchen calendar every day we successfully ate every meal at home. Our budget said we ate out WAY too much. However, it didn’t feel like we ate out a lot. We quickly learned that although it didn’t seem like much – it was easy to make excuses, develop reasons, or conveniently forget previous dining – we were indeed eating out far more than we should! I have said this before –

If you can’t measure it you can’t change it

Maybe you are like me, just because you know how to do something; just because you can identify the problem, you believe that in some magic way the problem is already solved.

For example, I know I should avoid sweet treats (even though I love them). I also know that I can occasionally indulge in a sweet cheat without dire consequences. However, when I conveniently forget prior indulgences, when I make excuses, when I allow an occasional cheat to be come a daily habit, the consequences (weight gain, higher blood sugar levels, etc) become clear.

Because we are experts at rationalizing to ourselves the one little indulgence – the one little indulgence that becomes a daily habit – it is helpful to track and measure.

It may seem silly. 

But you can track and measure anything. Track the days when you avoid complaining. Track when you laugh. Track when you hug your spouse or kids. Track when you meditate. Track when you avoid worry. Track and document your appreciation of little things.

For me, the smiley face on the calendar is reason enough for me to pass by convenient lunch or dinner and come home and cook. The orange squares (signifying completed) on my marathon training calendar are motivation to do it again tomorrow. The joy of seeing the physical manifestations of success helps me to stay on the path of being who I really want to be and meet my goals to get there.

Decide who you wish to be today – repeat it everyday (even if it means giving yourself a smiley face for the day) – and you will be exactly who you wish to be.

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Who You Are Is What You Do Everyday

The Difference between Who You Are and Who You Want to be is What You Do. 

 

I stumbled upon this quote recently. I’m not exactly sure where or from whom. It resonated with me. It resonated so much that I wrote it on my blotter – I wanted to keep it close – to be reminded.

 

7511002522927As I am training for what I am calling my EPIC QUEST (walking a marathon – that’s 26.2 miles folks), I have a certain amount of solitary walking time. Time to think. Time to ponder. On one of those recent walks I decided I needed to add a word to the quote. I needed to add the word EVERYDAY.

 

The one thing I am learning from my epic quest is that tomorrow seems like a fine time to train. Tomorrow has all the hope, all the allure, and all the good feelings of training. Today is full of things to do, excuses and rationalizations. However, who I want to be – a marathoner – is created not on race day (although I will have to show up and finish on race day) but becoming a marathoner is made up of everyday for the next 9 months and 9 days.

 

Success won’t be what I do on race day but what I do every day leading to race day. 

 

The same is true with every aspect of life. Want to read more and watch less TV – it’s how much TV you watch today that matters. Want to eat a healthier diet – it’s what you eat today that matters.

 

Who do you want to be? 

 

You must get up every morning and realize who you want to be. You must live everyday in every way as the person you want to be. A week – A month – a year of living every day as the person you want to be is the only way to become that person.

 

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Walking Into A New Habit

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao-tzuThe Way of Lao-tzu Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Sometimes it feels like every step I take, every plan I make just turns to poop before I can accomplish much. Last year, I made great and elaborate plans to walk the Disney Marathon the weekend of my 50th birthday; except I never actually took the steps necessary to complete the journey.

When January rolled around, I was sad because I wasn’t walking in Disney but I knew there was no one to blame but Gayle Tabor.

However, I rallied to walk a 50k in the month of January (the month of my birthday). What I noticed, as I was dedicated to and completing the 50k, was that I was better able to achieve other goals. I watched less television and read more. I was more productive with my days. I ate out less and ate better.

A week or so ago I checked out a book from the public library (yes, I still do that – only now it’s a digital copy downloaded to my nook). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (affiliate link). Somewhere in my readings I had seen a reference to the book and it looked interesting.

Wow! This book is so interesting I can hardly put it down.

The information is not only interesting, but the writing style is also enjoyable. I’d like to tell you all the things I have learned; but it really would just require me to retype the book. I have already decided this book will become a part of my collection (and not the digital version). I can’t imagine that I won’t want to have it on hand to refer back to from time to time.

While I can’t tell you everything I have learned from the book, I can share a few golden nuggets:

 

  1. Keystone Habits – are habits that have a ripple effect. An example Duhigg uses is exercise. When people have a regular exercise routing they tend to eat better, drink less, and become healthier.
  2. Willpower is limited – using willpower to resist junk foods leaves less willpower to work toward other goals.
  3. Willpower can grow with exercise – willpower like a muscle can grow with training and use.
  4. Have a plan – there are always setbacks and readily available excuses. Having a plan for how to deal with them makes you more successful.

I’m sure that had you been looking at me as I read The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business you probably would have seen a light bulb glowing over my head as I read about keystone habits; especially how exercise is a keystone habit.

I realized immediately, that I needed to develop a good exercise habit! However, I still had (have) the desire to walk the Disney Marathon!

I’m renewing my Marathon Goal! 

I have a plan!

The plan is 3 pronged

  • get in shape and lose weight
  • build endurance to walk a marathon distance
  • build speed to be able to finish in the time limit

I spent hours on Saturday night writing out the plan. It involves green smoothies (yep, you read that right), salads for lunch and exercise. It also includes a plan for being marathon ready. The first race – the Battleship 1/2 Marathon is on November 3rd. Additionally, I tried to think about the trouble spots I might run in to along the way and decide on a plan of action for getting back on track when they hit.

I’ll be blogging much more of my plan and also tracking my progress on the EPIC-QUEST part of my blog (I don’t want everyone to be bored with all the details).

the power of habit

There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of behavioral chunks we rely on everyday. From the act of putting toothpaste on your toothbrush to the complicated process of backing your car from the driveway. These little habits that we do by rote without thinking.

I encourage you to think about your habits. The habits you’d like to change. The goals you’d like to achieve. What habits or behavioral chunks are standing in your way?

What keystone habit can you  can change? What new habit will change  your entire life?

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