Monday, February 10, 2014

THE HAPPINESS PROJECT: 2014 The Year of Living Gratefully

Through A Simple Act of Gratitude!

Last fall I was introduced to Shawn Achor’s TED talk on The Happiness Advantage. (See my post from November 25, 2013) With the gentle urging of a good friend, we decided to take on the 21-day challenge outlined in his talk. Each day, without exception, for three weeks we: Exercised; Meditated; Practiced Random Acts of Kindness; Chose Three New Things Each Day to be Grateful; and Kept A Journal About One Positive Experience. The results were, as claimed would happen, I was more productive and yes, happier! Since I consider myself to be pretty optimistic in the first place, it was nice to discover that I could be even happier.

Now the real challenge for me came after the 21 days were up and how to maintain that level of happiness and productivity. Wanting to build on an Attitude of Gratitude, I decided to look into John Kralik’s book: A Simple Act Of Gratitude. As his life seemed to be spinning out of control, he was inspired to write a thank you note everyday for 365 days.  The actions that Kralik took as a result of his life’s desperate circumstances is what intrigued and inspired me to take on my own personal journey of hand-writing 365 notes for this year.

With January behind, I wanted to share my experiences to date with this ambitious goal. The first thank you note that I wrote went to my fiancĂ©. I felt it was the only “appropriate” way to start such an adventure with the person closest to me and on whose love and support I count on most. Each day as I write the note, I record in a Word document the name of the person I honored that day. A few of the written notes brought tears to my eyes as I think how much I value this person or how much she or he has helped me in my life. Even though I have no expectations other than to be able to give freely of my thoughts and feelings, I have received many blessings in return.

I have received a few kind words in return and one in particular was from a person I had worked with but had not previously sent him a thank you. I have been complimented on my work, had two pieces of business renew and have strengthened some friendships. One very unexpected surprise came from one of my recipients who I have not been particularly fond of – after receiving the note, he purposely told me how moved he was by the gesture and even more so because it was hand written. In that experience alone, I found a surge of inspiration and motivation to continue my quest.

I am not a procrastinator when I have a stated goal and this is no different. I have allowed myself to write a few days into the future but always finding time daily to write at least one thank you. I am following Kralik’s pattern pretty closely in that I will not use any electronic means to communicate my gratitude. I will either hand deliver or use postal mail. I am not restricting my reach by geographical boundaries even though I live in the United States. One of my recipients lives in Bangkok. I have not exhausted notes to my family or friends and have given notes to those that have been kind to me whom I did not know. Since I keep a list it is fun to look back and now that one month is already past to see who I had chosen to thank that day.

So if you could only write one thank you today – who would be the most important person in your life that you would want to express your gratitude towards?

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