In two weeks from today, it is Thanksgiving – that most American of traditions and by far my favorite holiday. I believe deeply that gratitude is the cure for all the things that ail us. With that in mind, I’m restarting the gratitude project, maybe a little late this year, but still every bit as valuable.
Let’s start today by thinking why we are grateful to be women.
With the political news in the U.S. this week, many of us are discouraged, angry, sad. Others are satisfied. Many of us feel devalued and unheard. Wherever you are on that spectrum today, you are welcome here. Pull up a chair – let’s talk.
We always have more in common than seems apparent in the moment, so let’s see each other with open hearts and open eyes today. Let’s listen to our sisters, mothers, friends, and daughters. Let’s hear all the things that make women remarkable, strong, resilient and capable.
If you would like to join me for the next two weeks, I’ll send you a quick email prompt for gratitude every day until Thanksgiving. Sign up here.
Half of 2016 is gone. But half still remains.
I set four goals for myself this year. They were audacious goals – goals that needed me whole attention and focus to become reality. They were possible, achievable.
Now, halfway through the year, I drew a trophy next to one goal, postponed another for at least a year, and have to rethink the other two with new benchmarks.
Goal 1: Our house was completely dejunked. I went closet-by-closet, drawer-by-drawer, and bookshelf-by-bookshelf through every room of this Lima house and sold, gifted, and trashed over 2000 pounds of our belongings. I’m pretty proud. For any expat in a pack-out year, this is a very big deal, as we pay for anything over our weight allowance.
As encouragement for anyone who wants to try this, I will tell you that it was not easy. There were times that I had to get a box out of the house with all speed before I could look at it again. I also didn’t do it alone – not everything in the house is mine and while I made decisions for my kids (they are 4 and 6) I didn’t make decisions for my husband. That is hard.
I will also tell you that it gets easier with every decision. I often went back to a shelf I thought was done, only to notice that one or two things really were not as important as I initially thought. If I can give advise, it would be to do it one room and one shelf at a time.
Sadly, the whole process will have to be repeated once we return to the United States and rediscover the stored belongings we have not seen in four years. I have a feeling it will be easier – if I didn’t miss it in four years, there is clearly no reason to keep it.
Goal 2 has gone completely in the wrong direction – it will have to be put on hold until next year. When I decide to scrap a goal, I always wonder whether I’m not just justifying poor decisions on my part. This time, my reasons are solid, and I’m even more excited than I would have been to reach the goal.
I can no longer reach goals 3 and 4, bar a miracle. While I believe in miracles (two of them live in my house), miracles are not the most inspired way to compel myself to action. I’ll keep these goals, but I’ll lower my measurements. (One of those goals relate to how often I write in this space. I’ll do better. )
Despite my questionable success, I still think setting goals are worthwhile. Knowing what I want from my year allows me to make decisions that supports my values and moves our family in the right direction. I’m grateful for what I was able to do, and excited for the rest of the year.
My word this year is margin. I have created much more margin in my physical space, and as it always happens when I make space, beauty and joy steps in to fill it. Onward friends – this work is always worth it.
As we share our gratitude (and turkey) with friends and family, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you for reading this blog, and for supporting our journey.
Writing here is always a learning experience, and I have grown so much through sharing our lives and the lessons in this space. I hope that I can continue to be of service to you.
How was your week? Did you keep up with your gratitude journal?
I did – even if it wasn’t until the next day some days! I have to admit that keeping a gratitude journal at night was a lot harder than I thought it would be, and this coming week, I’m going to try doing it as part of my morning routine.
Let’s talk a bit about habits.
According to Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit, there are three parts to a habit: the trigger, the actual action, and the reward. Understanding this, helps us to build new habits. Here it is, applied to my gratitude project.
- The trigger. So, if I want to start writing a gratitude journal daily, the trigger could be after I brush my teeth, I write in my journal for a few minutes before turning off the light. The trigger should be consistent for this to work. For example, I brush my teeth every night. I don’t watch a movie every night. Brushing teeth – good trigger; watching a movie – not a good trigger)
- The habit. Writing in my journal.
- The reward. Intrinsic rewards are best, and rewards can be small. For most of my habits, the satisfaction of checking it off my list has been enough. I know that the rewards for writing a gratitude journal are many – including physical health, self-esteem, and mental strength. (See this Psychology Today article.)
I think the reward is where my problem starts. Since I’ve already checked my list for the day by the time I go to bed, I didn’t get the quick satisfaction of the checkbox and growing streak that I get for my other habits. (I use an app called Habit List for that.)
Since I have a great morning routine, I’m thinking of writing my gratitude journal in the morning this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.
How about you? Is gratitude becoming a habit?
Want to be more present?
Want to be more content?
Want more joy?
Start a gratitude practise.
I believe in gratitude.
Gratitude vaccinates us against discontent, entitlement, the endless desire to keep up with the Joneses.
I’m probably actually a tiny bit fanatical on this subject. When my kids get an attack of the gimmes, I make them talk about what they already have. I ask them about the things for which they are thankful at dinner.
I use gratitude to stop myself in my tracks when I’m feeling discouraged, or when we get bad news. “I didn’t get x opportunity, but I’m so grateful that I got to try. I have learned to do this better.”
It has become the conversations we have when things get tough, it has become the way we make a tight budget feel spacious, and it has been the one habit that saves me from a downward spiral during the crazy ups and downs of expat life and culture shock.
However, I have never actually kept a gratitude journal. I want to write these things down to make my habit of gratitude more concrete and enable me to look back on these days and remember all the grace I’ve been given. So, since public accountability is a great way to start a habit, I thought I would recruit all of you to help. Sign up here.
Why start a gratitude practice?
According to the Greater Good Center at Berkeley, people who practice gratitude consistently experience many benefits:
Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
More joy, optimism, and happiness;
More generosity and compassion;
Feeling less lonely and isolated.
Need another reason to join this challenge?
There will be a prize at the end. I’m giving you the book of your choice from my list of favorite life changing books. Amazon will ship it directly to your grateful hands. All you have to do is participate.
Sign up today, and let’s all feel a little more thankful this thanksgiving.
It’s my birthday! In celebration, here are 40 things I know to be true. And because it’s just boring without pictures, a few of my happy places. If you make it all the way to the end, I have a little gift for you. Because what is a birthday without presents?
- Don’t leave sharpie markers on the counter with toddlers in the house.
- Family is everything.
- You cannot have it all. Which part of “all” matters?
- Sleep! 7 hours is my absolute minimum do, 8 is better.
- Never do complicated when simple will work.
- Less is more.
- No is a complete sentence.
- Risk management is not just for bankers (and that’s probably the most important thing I learned in banking.)
- Other banking lessons? Character trumps all – it is more important than a financial position, history, future plans.
Gratitude is the antidote for the blues, materialism, entitlement, all that ails you.
- If you don’t know where you are going, you will not know that you’ve arrived.
- There is beauty and worth in every single person, no matter how annoying. My job is to find it.
- Read. Read. Read.
- Sometimes we don’t deserve the good things we get. Sometimes we don’t deserve the bad things we get.
- Grace is enough
- Tomorrow I’ll wish I started today.
- One mess-up does not ruin the rest of the day/week/month/project.
- Done is better than perfect.
- Make your bed every day. (Thanks Mom.)
- You always have a choice.
- Travel is mind-expanding. What people everywhere have in common is so much greater than our differences.
- You can only change yourself.
- Two ears, one mouth. To be used in that proportion.
- Garbage in, garbage out.
- Nothing lasts forever. That gets me through the tough times, and reminds me to be here now.
- Saying “yes” to one thing always means saying “no” to something else.
- What other people think is true for them. It doesn’t have to be true for me.
- Imagination is the way to solve problems.
- Create something everyday. A doodle, a dinner, a clear sentence. Anything.
- A small decision to do the next right thing can determine your whole direction.
- Being a mom is the toughest (and most important) thing I’ve ever done.
- Encourage your children.
- Optimism is indispensable.
- Your children want you. (Thanks April Perry!)
- Those long quiet nights up with a nursing baby? You’ll miss it.
- Plan for the unexpected (especially with little guys around!).
- Marriage? Forgive, forgive, forgive. And try to forget.
- A smile and a kiss go a long way, as does saying you’re sorry.
- I don’t know who said this but I believe it wholeheartedly: “you can be right or you can be happy.” Your choice.
All you need is love.
And because every birthday needs presents (who doesn’t like presents?) I want to give you one.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Don’t know what is vital to you anymore?
Jump on the phone with me for 30 minutes and I’ll walk you through my step-by-step way to clear your head, find what’s next, and focus on making your highest contribution. I have set aside some spots on my calendar – click here to book your appointment now. (And yes, since it’s my gift to you, it’s free.)