Archive | December, 2013

Day 7: The Struggle Bus

30 Dec

Today has been a tough day, primarily because of some emotionally charged conversations with people I care about. Nevertheless I want to get a blog entry in so I can continue to stay on track. I have to believe that these small efforts will pay off in the future.

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • Card Games: I have a lot of wonderful memories involving card games. Both on my mom and dad’s side of the family it’s a common past time. A simple deck of 52 cards has such versatility and manages to engage and entertain. Playing cards were invented in Imperial China, interestingly.
  • Access to Fresh Food: Today I was in charge of dinner. Luckily I was saved from doing something overly ambitious by the genius suggestion of doing veggie burgers. With only two exceptions my mom’s fridge was full stocked: fresh bell peppers, lettuce mix, red onions, cheese, jalapeños the works. And for that we are lucky– to have fresh and healthy food that is affordable and conveniently located. My friend Y introduced me to the term “food deserts” in college. Ever since I’ve attempted to show a greater appreciation for the food on my table.
  • Photography: I really appreciate having photos as a way to pass on memories and to share the world. My mom’s AppleTV got on a screensaver mode that flips through all these beautiful stock nature photos. I admit it’s kind of silly, but the pictures are so beautiful I immediately wondered where they’d been taken. And that got me thinking about how photos have helped make nooks and crannies of the world accessible.

Journaling One Positive Experience: I took a nap this afternoon, somewhat unintentionally.  I awoke to a some very excited shouts, which I quickly realized were from mother. I realized my family was playing poker and my mom was basking in the piles and piles of “money” she had just won. It’s pretty great how into games she can get while she playing them, but once it’s over it’s all left at the table. She gets so excited when she wins and makes such funny noises of disappointment when she loses. It’s pretty great.

Exercising: I went on a job/walk with my cousin. It was bitter cold out but we prevailed! We also caught up on some much needed cousin-cousin bonding. Overall a cold but pleasant ordeal. I think I really like exercising when it’s done with people I know. I think this will be harder to replicate once I go home but it’s a good point of learning that I’ll tuck away for the future.

Meditation/Reflexion: I have a tendency to dump. Growing up it used to be I’d keep my feelings inside of me until I exploded into bouts of rage and anger. Now I realized I do the same thing, except instead of bouts of unintelligible  emotional angst, I have very intelligible word vomit. I’m like a shaken coke bottle spewing my feelings all over the place with not enough regard for how they’re being processed by the unlucky listener. I used to think this is healthy, an emotional catharsis. It might be healthier than shouting but it’s actually very irresponsible. Stashed in my memory (i.e. stolen from some writer or speaker) is the notion that to be an adult means to take responsibility. Emotional catharsis is effective but immature. This connection is helping me realize just how much I need to work on thinking (usually in the form of writing) before I speak.

Random Acts of Kindness: A is an old friend. We used to be best friends and then something happened. We drifted, specifically I think we got on different pages about expectations related to our friendship. I think I never found the words to describe how I was feeling and it got the better of us.  But she is a wonderful person. She is kind and very genuine and is always trying to improve. She’s had some really hard times in her life and never gave up. It’s one of her finest qualities. I believe, given the current state of our relationship, it would be very presumptuous to send her an e-mail of praise. Instead I will send her an e-mail thanking her for being a good friend to me and for the memories we’ve shared, for they are good ones.

Day 6: Lots of Sparkle today!

29 Dec

I tried finishing this blog last night but it was 3a.m. and I was bleary eyed so I had to succumb to my sleepiness. On a plus side yesterday was a good day 🙂

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • Skype/Google Hangout/FaceTime/Internet Video Conferencing Technology: Yesterday at midnight we Skyped with a distant relative for a birthday. Just a few weeks ago I had almost a 2 hour conversation with my Aunt who lives in India. My parents live more than 2,000 miles away from me. My best friend lives 800 miles south. My 91 year old grandma lives in a different hemisphere. The internet and specifically video conferencing technology has enabled me to stay in touch with my friends and family, relationships that in a different time periods most certainly would have deteriorated. My parents still have copies of the letters they would send by post back home when they first moved to the states– these blue little notes covered in writing. I’ll try to find an example tomorrow and snap a mini picture. Relationships are my top priority and so I’m especially grateful to the technology that helps be maintain them.
  • Cousins Who Are Close to Your Age Range: I’m sure our parents didn’t plan it this way but me, my sister and our two cousins are each about 6 months apart. And that’s pretty wonderful. As kids it was great because we’d just get in trouble together. And now that we’re all adults it’s even better, because we still have a playful camaraderie and can also rely on each other for some of life’s more serious tribulations. Over the years I’ve often though how lucky we are, and now it’s down in writing!
  • Cheerful Employees who are part of the Service Industry: I think working in the service industry must be challenging. You never know what you’re going to get slung at you but you’re expected to take it in stride with a smile on your face. It’s like a comedian facing a tough crowd that refuses to laugh; you can’t cut your act short so you just have to find a way to make it work. It’s an incredible feet in my opinion and truly helps set the mood. We had a really nice waiter who responded to our disorganized ordering and last-minute changes with humor and cheerfulness. It made the evening so very joyful.

Journaling One Positive Experience: There were many fun things about yesterday but my favorite I think was my Aunt’s laughter and joy when we went bowling. My Aunt has never gone bowling, I’m not sure if she’d even seen bowling on TV or heard of it before yesterday. But she was shockingly good (scored an 80!) and as so excited. My mom and her were the team captain. Team Aunty kicked Team Mommy’s butts (guess which one I was on). But that’s not actually my favorite part. I think the salient memories of a very fun family outing were (1) When my Aunt told my dad that she had been skeptical but ended up having a lot of fun and (2) When my Aunt jumped up and down excited, laughing with just profound joy and yelled “V for Victory!” All of this proving that we don’t always know what’s best and it’s the unexpected fun that adds the the sparkle to life.

Exercising: Today’s adventure was Racquetball. My dad and I would play when I was in high school quite a bit. And while I brought my equipment with me on my move to the PNW, I haven’t taken the steps to start playing there. I really like Racquetball; you have to be very focused in the moment, make quick decisions, and there is a lot of strategy and skill in acing the ball placement. My dad is very skilled, strategic and experienced (been playing since he came to the States a zillion years ago– my dad’s a dinosaur FYI) BUT he has one weakness…he doesn’t like to run! So I make him hustle, that’s my tactic. He still creamed me 21-11. Today’s exercise was good for many reasons– it involved family, it definitely worked me out (my arm I’m embarrassed to say is VERY sore today…the bowling plus racquetball did me in. Does bowling count as exercise?), it brought back old memories of father-daughter bonding, and I have a new resolved to find myself some racquetball companions when I get back home. Better watch out Pops, I’m gonna be ready for you next Christmas.

Meditation: I’ve been thinking about how I appreciate the small little moments of joy– good laughter in the moment, or taking a bit of chaos or tension and choosing to find the funny or exhilarating in it. These moments bring a type of happiness that is independent of achievement or accolade or even established symbolism. These moments for me are simply a testimony of gratitude, appreciating the gift and joy of life itself. I think it comes from the idea that life simply has innate value, and can be appreciated in it’s own life. I think it’s very similar to the feeling of awe I get when I see a beautiful waterfall or mountain top. and for me at least it is what adds the sparkle to life. I highly prize these moments; they keep me grounded and also add a bit of zest. I’m curious what adds the sparkle to life for others, as I believe it can be different but is important to have.

Random Acts of Kindness: Today’s pick is my friend K. She is a co-worker who has been so kind and welcoming ever since I moved 2 1/2 years ago. When I moved initially, I knew not a soul the big city. It was a very scary change for me because I like being surrounded my people; I found out then I was an extrovert, which when I told my close friends was routinely responded to with an obvious “duh…”. Anyway, K made be feel like I had a person. She invited me to Thanksgiving at her home (we’ve been rocking a solid tradition ever since) and she was and still is an excellent listener to my moments of frustration or anxiety about work. She’s that person that goes out of her way to pay for people meals, always quoting some reason or another that “she owes you.” Her sense of gratitude is profound; unmatched I think by anyone else I know. I’m so very excited to get the chance to fully express my appreciation back to her in a more direct fashion than managing to swipe the bill from a lunch date.

The cousins! All of us passed out on a single bed. Exhausted from a jam packed day of playing in the dirt (seriously, I'm pretty sure that's what we did that day...)

The cousins! All of us passed out on a single bed. Exhausted from a jam packed day of playing in the dirt (seriously, I’m pretty sure that’s what we did that day…)

Day 5: Whistle While You Work!

27 Dec

I was thinking this morning about how as a society we assess a person’s general mental wellness– if they’re leading a happy, healthy, and balanced life. For me when I get sad or depressed I shut down. My productivity tanks and I have an increased propensity to be found in closets or other dark solitary places like under the bed (though my preference is definitely for closets). I’m working on strengthening my reaction to be more robust and healthier, but left to my natural devices this is what happens.

By contrast my friend A, when he gets sad or unhappy, he doesn’t lose productivity. In fact he never really admits to ever losing steam. I think he belongs to a handful of individuals who actually could, quite possibly work themselves to death: their “something’s wrong” reflex is squashed by their “I can do this” mentality. On paper it seems obvious that this too is not a robust or healthy mentality. But in application, I’m not sure we recognize it that way.

There is an old adage (okay maybe it was a Disney song) that you should “whistle while you work.”

I think for me, very broadly speaking, my spectrum consists of “I whistle while I work” OR “I don’t work.”

For my friend A, his spectrum is more along the lines of “I whistle while I work” OR “I work.”

Society does not reward “I don’t work,” so when I get unhappy I tend to feel ashamed (which is its own rabbit hole adventure) but it’s also easy to recognize that something is not right and I have to address it. Society, however, very much does reward both “I whistle while I work” AND “I work,” which can be confusing. Especially because it’s easy to chalk away the lack of whistling to small little bumps in the road, after all other commonly held beliefs (though interestingly no Disney song equivalents) are “we can’t always be happy” and “nothing is gained without sacrifice” (the beauty=pain mentality).

Shawn Achor’s Ted Talk (the one that inspired my 21 days of compassion challenge) says that only 10% of our happiness is due to external factors, making the other 90% based on perspective. If that’s true, what happens when your life’s structure doesn’t give you the space necessary to develop and practice positive thinking? Today is only Day 5 and I can definitely say that exercise, meditation, writing, thinking, and reflecting all takes time and commitment. Not as much as I think I make it seem in my head, where the tasks have the visual resemblance of a dark and stormy abominable snowman, but they still do take time and commitment. So if your life is always on the go and your job is very demanding and you happen to be that person who will keep toiling away even if no one is whistling, even if you’re unhappy, and society’s reward structures are telling you that you’re doing great– the promotions, money, glamorous traveling, awards, fancy college diplomas, the ever closer carrot—then what instigator is there to reevaluate? Where are the red flags? How do you even realize that you’re unhappy and it’s more than just a bump in the road, it’s significant and worth listening to?

I jury is still out on whether happiness is the ultimate goal. I am, however, settling on the conclusion that day to day positivity– happiness in the moment– is a very worthwhile goal and also achievable. I think though that it takes work and practice, as most good things, and prioritizing those efforts can ultimately lead to some big choices and reevaluation, if we want to whistle while we work that is.

21 Days of Compassion Check List Day 5:

  1. Three Sources of Gratitude:
    1. My Sister: I woke up excited today because she getting into town and that’s very exciting! Oh the infallible logic of that statement 🙂 I love my sister more than anything. We fight a lot. But we play nice a lot too. Sometimes it’s nice knowing there is one person that you would defend to the death. That if someone tried to hurt them, you’d kick the sh*t out of them with all regard for the law and non-violence thrown out the window. I don’t have kids so for me that’s my sister (sorry rents!).
    2. Maya Angelous’ Poem Phenomenal WomanI enjoy poetry. Every so often I come across a poem where the words, my feelings in that moment, and my struggles in life all crash together and create a moment of awe. That is Maya Angelous’ Phenomenal Woman. I love this poem. This poem is how I got through high school. This poem is what I try to channel when I’m not feeling enough. I love this poem.
    3. The Sunday Comics: It’s not Sunday and I no longer get the newspaper but I have so many warm memories from the Sunday comics. My mom still, to this day, saves each one of them for me for when I visit. I clip out the ones I really like. And I’d always read the funniest ones to my mom. Pickles, Red and Rover, Bizarro, Rose is Rose….love ’em all!
  2. Exercise: I did a hulu workout with my Mom on her fancy AppleTV. Unfortunately it turned to be a little too sculpt intensive for my mom, but hey we got off our butts for 21 minutes, props for effort right? Tomorrow I’m going to try and find an online zumba class instead. We’ll get the whole family involved 🙂
  3. Journaling One Positive Experience: So this isn’t actually my experience and it’s also not from the past 24 hours but I loved it so much I really wanted to share. My friend S decided she wanted to do something to give back in the spirit of the holidays. So she baked some cookies and after her family had finished unwrapping their presents, her and her mom and the family pooch went over to their local fire department to drop off the treats. She said that all the firemen were very welcoming and seemed genuinely touched and happy to receive the homemade goodies. I just thought it was such a simple and generous way to get connected with the surrounding community. Her story has definitely planted a seed!
  4. Random Acts of Kindness: So I wrote the e-mail to my mom (leftover homework from yesterday) but after that I find myself uninspired on who to select for the next e-mail. This is not to say that I’ve run out of people to thank (far from it), I think I just crossed off the easiest people to thank (in business speak this is the “low hanging fruit”). Rather then push myself to write something sub par, I’m going to make a list of all the people I’d like to thank and just jot down a few words to describe what for. I think this will help get the creative juices flowing a bit.
  5. Meditation: Does the above post count as meditation and reflection? I think so. CHECK- DONE!

Day 4: The Circle of Happiness

27 Dec

This is going to have to be a quick one (so tired!). In the future I want to play around with somehow creating a post composed almost entirely of pictures.

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • The Radio! (especially NPR): My dad’s driving is always a good source of jokes (or anxiety depending on how you look at it). I mentioned something about getting an auto-driven car from him when he brings up an interview he heard on the radio. Apparently the technology is very real and will soon be available for users. And I just thought how wonderful the radio is. It’s so nice just to listen and soak in all this random information and stories that otherwise I would have never heard or known about it. It makes me feel connected, smarter and as if I’ve expanded my bubble, even if only a little bit.
  • Those moments were you choose to make a joke to break the tension: I think everyone has those moments, especially with family. Someone does something or say something that they’ve done so many times before. And you can feel that little tension rise inside of you but instead of taking the bate you pause, and last minute swerve your response from one of annoyance to instead one of humor. You make a funny and everyone laughs. Today was filled with them. Sometimes I don’t pause long enough but today, today was filled with lots of laughter.
  • Stuffed Animals: I think anyone, no matter how old, if you put a stuff animal in their hands will get a little bit of the warm fuzzes in them. Even (especially?) old, tough guys like my Uncle. Today we made an adorable, pug build-a-bear for him because apparently he loves having a stuff dog in his car. Who knew?!

Exercise: Today both of my cousins came for a run with me! When we got back though we were locked out because my mom and Aunt decided to go for a walk themselves. We entertained ourselves by playing baseball with these dried out pomegranates (my parents have a pomegranate tree BUT failed to pick all the fruit before the big freeze two weeks back). Now our backyard is littered with busted pomegranate seeds.

Journaling One Positive Experience: My father took us to one of his favorite pizza places for dinner. He placed the order as I filled up our water glasses (we were a party of eight). My Aunt mentioned she wanted Sprite instead of water so I filled it up and then after all the glasses were at the table, I went to the counter to pay. I told the gentleman that I needed to pay for a sprite and he said don’t worry about it, go ahead. I clarified that we’d already taken the glass, and he said it’s no problem, on the house. It was such a small gesture but also full of such warmth. I felt like he was reminding me “It’s okay- it’s only money.”

Random Act of Kindness: Yesterday’s letter was to my dad. It’s only appropriate that today’s letter would be to my mom. She’s a wonderful woman, who has provided for me and is 100% the reason I have any academic brains at all. I’m not sure my current contemplative mood is in the right state to do justice to her letter but I’ll double up tomorrow and knock it out first thing in the morning. I think overall this 15 minute rule is really helping– definitely helping with getting the blog just out and published. Sometimes something really is better than nothing, even if it’s not perfect.

Meditation: What stuck out from my readings today was the circle of Happiness. (1) First  you must be happy –> (2) Then when you’re happy you can help make others’ happy –> (3) Making others’ happy in turns boosts your happiness. BUT the salient point is that the last step cannot generate the entirety of your happiness, it can simply augment or add to what’s there. You must first work on your own happiness to even jump start the entire cycle.

Day 3: Merry Christmas Y’all

26 Dec

So I got derailed yesterday and didn’t accomplish my tasks. I don’t want to dwell on it too much because that would defeat the goal of being more positive. But the quick lessons learned are…

  • I’m finding that “Exercise” and “Random Acts of Kindness” email are the hardest tasks to check off. It’s difficult to carve out the time for exercise. And the e-mail intimidates me because I want it to be extremely thoughtful and perfect (an affliction I find which affects many other tasks). So two solutions for this #1) I’m going to try an exercise each morning before noon AND integrate my family into the endeavor. #2) I’m going to give myself only 15 minutes (max) to write the e-mail…a forced time crunch should still get me a meaningful and genuine e-mail while reiterating the point that saying thanks doesn’t have to be this perfect, scary event– it can actually be easy and integrated into my life. I want to get to the point where I don’t procrastinate on saying thanks because I feel like I don’t have enough time.
  • Waiting until the end of the day to write the blog isn’t going to be sustainable now that I’m home for the holidays. With six people in the house and more to come I’m going to try and start my day with gratitude and write it down and then piece in the other components as they come.

So without further ado…

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • Old(er) People: Old people are great. My granny for example turned 91 this November and she’s a hoot. I just like being around her and giving her hugs and pestering her. It would take me days to write all the little things she does which are so special to me but suffice to say I like having those who are older, because in many ways it just makes me feel safe. On the other side of the old spectrum is my Aunt who just turned 52. I wouldn’t say that’s old but it is older than me and I was listening her chat on the phone to a well wisher. She just easy peasy rattled off all these wonderful things that happened today. I don’t know why that was touching but it was– maybe because it’s an example of how even as we get older gratitude is still important and obtainable? There doesn’t have to be a lost of wonder or appreciation of life even when we’ve lived for so long.
  • Holidays, Traditions, and Rituals (even/especially? when they didn’t start off as our own): I put up the tree last night! With the help of my Aunt and cousin. It doesn’t have the scent of pine like the real trees from the PNW do but it ain’t too shabby. I showed off our collection of homemade ornaments from grade school. My Aunt started saying that our cousin, who immigrated here a handful of years back, and his wife will have to get their own once they have kids. And I kind of like that idea. Something special to it.
  • Bright, Sunny Days: Today is another bright and sunny day back home. Something about these days just makes me perk up a little bit more. Everything seems to run just a little bit smoother. I left the PNW also on a bright, clear day (rare this time of year). The women next to me on the plane took some of the most gorgeous photos of the rocky mountain range since we could see them so clealry.

Exercise: I did it! I got out the door before noon. My Aunt and mom were going for a walk so I said I’d join for a run, and then even my cousin joined me. The two of us  ran and walked and then ran some more. It was nice, I talked to him about my job some and this blog projects. We had a really nice discussion and got to enjoy the cool crisp air. There were also some silly ducks at the park. We even had a mini race with our mom’s back to the house (them walking but going a shorter route vs. us running the long way home). Well we lost, but I’m adamant it’s because my mom made us walk all the way to the road before we started our job. Also they definitely speed walked (cheaters!).

Journaling One Positive Experience: There were many lovely memories today. My favorite was when my dad’s broken Hindi nearly gave my Aunt a heart attack because she was laughing so profusely. Then there was a wonderful joke made by a cousin– I was asking his wife how she made this delicious ice cream. She said it was easy, just one step. He said yeah, come over and eat some! (Probably not nearly as funny on the paper but I think it gets the point across about how cheesy and fun family times can be). And then there were of course the beautiful Christmas decorations that we went to go see. Christmas lights fall into the same bucket as fireworks for me– they’re mesmerizing, and I could enjoy them for hours without end! Hope you like these snaps.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Random Act of Kindness: When the day started I wasn’t sure who I was going to write my letter to today. But as I sat down to write, it hit me– who better to celebrate on Christmas Day than my Pops. My father and I have had a rocky relationship at times but overall he’s a good man, a wonderful provider, and most importantly he helped shape my values and sense of right and wrong. It was a sudden realization that came upon me years ago as I was doing a cross-country bike trip, just how profoundly he’d shaped my sense of compassion, and I vowed then to tell him. Well today, almost two and a half years later, I’m following through. The letter is written and I’m going to print it and give it to him tomorrow. I’m very excited!

Meditation: I think, until I have a greater foundation on meditation I might repurpose daily meditation into daily reflection time. I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project which is proving to be very good food for thought. In her latest chapter she discusses her struggle and desire to just be herself. At first this message didn’t really soak through but the more examples she provides, I’ve realized that I took struggle with this. A commenter on Rubin’s blog says sometimes “I wish I could make life easier for myself by following the crowd.” I love this sentence because it really establishes the paradox– in some ways life would be so much easier if we just liked what our mainstream society is equipped to handle, but then we would not be ourselves, and that’s everything. I might be muddling what I like with what society tells me I should like (career paths or degree of financial stability are some examples that stick out) and that knowing that distinction has geared me with some vocabulary that I can bring to the table when talking about my own happiness project (with others or just myself).

Day 2: A Mellow Monday

24 Dec

It’s a little late here but I think have just enough time to finish today’s entry before midnight!

Confused? Read the intro blog here

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • I’m grateful to be able to fly home tomorrow to be with my family for Christmas. As per usual the tree isn’t up. Whether it’s laziness masked in “tradition” or tradition born of laziness putting up the Christmas tree has always been my responsibility (or should I say honor?). Of course that means that this year it’s not going up until after 10pm on Christmas Eve. We’re cutting it pretty close for poor Santa there. I’ve got an aunt who traveled from India, my sis and several cousins will all be there– it’s going to be a full house for the holidays this year. And that’s pretty lucky!
  • I’m grateful for simple dinners in the company of kind souls. Today my friend M cooked us a lovely brinner (breakfast 4 dinner) while I checked off my daily exercise commitment. Dinner wasn’t anything fancy which made it perfect, because I find fancy can be a little overrated.
  • I’m grateful for this wonderful song and music video. I just fell upon it rather happenstance and it’s full of spirit and joy, especially the bits where ordinary people have submitted videos of themselves singing the song. In many ways it’s a very vulnerable song, daring and I find brave even. That’s quite beautiful.

Journaling One Positive Experience: Not sure there was any one salient moment today but there were many tiny moments that brought a smile to my face. I got to work and there was a small present on my desk from my new Sr. Manager, followed by one from my Manager– so unexpected and incredibly thoughtful. The weather was that perfect blend of cool crisp and sunny warm where you can dare to forgo the jacket even if only briefly. And I watched Tootsie today, which I thoroughly enjoyed and absolutely recommend. (Incidentally Dustin Hoffman had some intriguing comments on the movie, which is what got it on my watch list)

Exercising: Only Day 2 and I caved…I resorted to a form of exercise that is relegated to senior citizens and Indian aunties in their traditional garb + sneaker combo. I did a 30 minute ExerciseTV routing; I promise there were no leotards involved! My friend M flat out refused to join in, claiming that she’d just ends up in fits of laughter on the floor. So she cooked us dinner instead. It was surprisingly harder then I expected, due to some well placed mountain climbers, and it got my butt moving. So all in all a win, albeit a dorky win!

Meditation: I’m going to continue reading about and practicing as I read. A quote that I enjoyed was “Our response to each moment is a blend of that conditioning, our DNA, our current circumstances, our emotional intelligence , and our state of mind in that instant.”

Random Acts of Kindness: Today’s email went to my partner A. He’s been a part of my life for the past six years and helps ground me. He reminds me of the good in me when I sometimes forget and so kind and caring. We’re lucky to have each other.

Day 1: Intro to 21 Days of Compassion

23 Dec

My best friend shared this wonderful ted talk by Shawn Achor on happiness. It’s fairly short and I highly recommend taking the time to listen to it, as it’s both philosophical and prescriptive.

Basically Achor takes the standard formula for happiness– If I work harder then I’ll be successful. And if I’m successful then I’ll be happier— and reverses it. Instead of success leading to happiness, he proposes that positivity in the present (i.e. happiness) leads to greater success and achievement. While I’ve heard this analogy before, and try to instill this philosophy into my own thought processes, lately I’ve been struggling to stay positive and not be so fixated on success. So what I found most helpful about Achor’s talk is at the end he presents 5 different actions that, when practiced for 21 days, have been shown to rewire people’s perspective to channel greater “positivity in the present.”

  1. Three Sources of Gratitude: Listing three new sources of gratitude everyday helps you focus on the positive first
  2. Journaling One Positive Experience: Helps you relive that moment from the past 24 hours
  3. Exercising: Teaches your brain that behavior matters
  4. Meditation: Helps you focus on the present
  5. Random Acts of Kindness: (or conscience acts of kindness). The example Achor gives is sending one e-mail per day to someone praising or thanking them for their contribution

So I’ve decided to push myself and take up the challenge– 21 days of compassion where I will do each of these five activities, starting today! Incidentally I think timing coincides very nicely with the new year and reflecting on how our lives are simultaneously beautiful and  yet can still be improved upon as we change and grow.

So Day 1…

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • I’m grateful for my friend E. She has been an anchor in my support network. Sometimes I get scared to ask for help or seek advice, but not with E. And in turn she encourages me to lean on others. I can’t imagine not having her has a friend and partner.
  • I’m grateful for my parents instilling in me a love for reading. I just finished Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World today and it’s been illuminating. Many of the details and nuances are still cloudy, but this book and so many others that I’ve read in the past few months stimulate my mind and help me grow as a person.
  • I’m grateful for all the options I have before me. Today my boyfriend and I were chatting about our plans for 2014 and where we want to move to so we can finally be in the same city after the past 1+ year of long distance. We could go anywhere, which on one hand is scary and overwhelming. But as I write this blog, I’m also struck by how rare and exceptional a position we are in– we could literally go anywhere! And that’s a gift, for which I am grateful.

Journaling One Positive Experience:  Yesterday I spent some quality time with my friend J. We caught up after several months of not seeing each other outside of large group settings. And we also had the pleasure to attend a very impressive show at Comedy Underground where a new friend Leo Flowers was performing. I’d met Leo on the train coming back from Portland, and he was kind enough to invite me to his show this weekend. Boy am I glad I went– the room was full of laughter, the comedians all so impressive and articulate, and it’s such a treasure to make friends so unexpectedly. By all measures it was a simple evening in the company of good friends and good laughter, a combination that warms the soul like few other experiences do.

Exercising: I was on the struggle bus today but I managed to put my tennis shoes on and get out the door for a good 30 minute run in Seattle’s ubiquitous rain. The thought that was repeating through my mind was “I don’t do anything I don’t want to do”– something I’d mention while on the phone with my friend E. It helped convince me that running was something I wanted to do- even if it isn’t the most comfortable of endeavors. I also drew from Radio Lab’s fantastic piece called Cut and Run about the prowess of Kenyan Athletes.

Meditation:  I haven’t done meditation yet today. The truth is while I do a lot of self-reflection I’m not sure I can quite call it meditation. So over the next 21 days I suppose I’ll have to learn. Today I think I’m going to start by reading a few pages of Secrets of Meditation and then take at least 15 minutes of silent focus before going to bed. My Uncle had previously sent me a few videos introducing how to meditate that I might try out tomorrow.

Random Acts of Kindness: This blog and challenge have been inspired by my friend E. So it seems only fair that the first e-mail goes to her. I won’t mention all the details on this post. But the highlights are that she is an exceptional friend, a wonderful and patient listener who balances me so well. She has guts and actively tries to make herself a better person. 2013 has been a challenging year for her and I’m so impressed with the courage she has shown in facing the bumps head on. She is a strong, capable woman. A true gem to this world. And she never settles!