Time Required

10 minutes/day for at least one week.

How to Do It

Each day for at least one week, write down three things that went well for you today and provide an explanation for why they went well. It is important to create a physical record of your items by writing them down; it is not enough simply to do this exercise in your head. The items can be relatively small in importance (e.g., my co-worker made the coffee today) or relatively large (e.g., I earned a big promotion). To make this exercise part of your daily routine, some find that writing before bed is helpful.

As you write, follow these instructions:

  1. Give the event a title (e.g., co-worker complimented my work on a project).
  2. Write down exactly what happened in as much detail as possible, including what you did or said and, if others were involved, what they did or said.
  3. Include how this event made you feel at the time and how this event made you feel later (including now, as you remember it).
  4. Explain what you think caused this event, why it came to pass.
  5. Use whatever writing style you please, and do not worry about perfect grammar and spelling. Use as much detail as you'd like.
  6. If you find yourself focusing on negative feelings, refocus your mind on the good event and the positive feelings that came with it. This can take effort but gets easier with practice and can make a real difference in how you feel.

Time Required

15 minutes per day, at least once per week for at least two weeks. Studies suggest that writing in a gratitude journal three times per week might actually have a greater impact on our happiness than journaling every day.

How to Do It

There is no wrong way to keep a gratitude journal, but here are some general instructions as you get started.

Write down up to five things for which you feel grateful. The physical record is important, don’t just do this exercise in your head. The things you list can be relatively small in importance (“The tasty sandwich I had for lunch today.”) or relatively large (“My sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy.”). The goal of the exercise is to remember a good event, experience, person, or thing in your life—then enjoy the good emotions that come with it.

As you write, here are nine important tips:

  1. Be as specific as possible, specificity is key to fostering gratitude. “I’m grateful that my co-workers brought me soup when I was sick on Tuesday” will be more effective than “I’m grateful for my co-workers.”
  2. Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular person or thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
  3. Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  4. Try subtraction, not just addition. Consider what your life would be like without certain people or things, rather than just tallying up all the good stuff. Be grateful for the negative outcomes you avoided, escaped, prevented, or turned into something positive, try not to take that good fortune for granted.
  5. See good things as “gifts.” Thinking of the good things in your life as gifts guards against taking them for granted. Try to relish and savor the gifts you’ve received.
  6. Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
  7. Revise if you repeat. Writing about some of the same people and things is OK, but zero in on a different aspect in detail.
  8. Write regularly. Whether you write every other day or once a week, commit to a regular time to journal, then honor that commitment. But…
  9. Don’t overdo it. Evidence suggests writing occasionally (1-3 times per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. That might be because we adapt to positive events and can soon become numb to them—that’s why it helps to savor surprises.

You are creating your experiences, your success, the quality of your relationships, and your health by your thoughts and beliefs (beliefs are no more than thoughts you have conditioned yourself to think over and over), the visual images you focus on (internally and externally), the resulting emotions they create, and your actions:  you have total control over all three of these.

 Personal responsibility is the key attitude for personal empowerment. It is to your full advantage to assume full responsibility for the circumstances of your life as well as your reactions to these circumstances.

 Therefore, without self-judgment or self-blame, you can focus your attention on understanding yourself and the range of choices available today in any given circumstance. With this awareness you can make educated, intentional choices.

When your choices do not result in you getting things the way you thought you wanted them, you can look to understand what happened and what action you can take next, rather than looking for someone or some circumstance to blame.

 

Three key questions to empower yourself are:
How did I create it?
How did I allow it to happen?
How did I promote it?
 
 
There is a simple formula that can help you understand and embrace 100% responsibility:
 
 
E + R = O Event + Response = Outcome
 
Every outcome you experience in life is a result of how you have responded to an earlier event or events in your life. If you do not like the outcomes you are currently getting, there are two basic choices you can make:
 
  • You can blame the event (E) for your lack of results (O). In other words, you can blame the economy, the weather, gender bias, your spouse, your boss, your co-workers and so on. For every reason why something is not possible; there are hundreds of other people who have faced the same circumstances and succeeded.

 

  • You can instead simply change your responses (R) to the events (E), the way things are, until you get the outcomes (O) you want. You can change your thinking, change your communication, change the pictures you hold in your head and you can change your behavior. You can break out of your conditioned responses to circumstances, increase your awareness and change your actions. All this leads to a new outcome.

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