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!


One Response to “Day 1: Intro to 21 Days of Compassion”


  1. 21 Days of Compassion: Day 2 | somethingstrangeandbeautiful - December 24, 2013

    […] Confused? Read the intro blog here […]

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