23 Feb 2012
#3goodthings: lessons from a small happiness experiment
On the 18th of June 2011, I made a decision – to focus on the good things in life – in fact just three of them each day. On that day, nearly three years into building a brand new business in the worst recession in 80 years, I was weary, overwhelmed and on the brink of burnout – a space I’m sure many of you can relate to.
Now I’m a pretty relentless, rational optimist but even my resilience had been sorely tested by the pressures we have all experienced in recent years. Something had to change and I decided that something was ME.
Through one of our fabulous clients (Sarah O’Connor at Fisher & Paykel Finance) I’d been introduced to Suzanne Hall and her ground breaking Be Intent offering, tools that are designed to support positive mental health and workplace wellbeing. The Blacksmith Team had road tested the product and been really impressed with the ease and impact of use. Unfortunately for me, the nature of my role saw me out and about, on-site with clients most days and away from my computer, the delivery mechanism for the program (**bring on the iPhone app, Suzanne!)
At the same time, I read ‘The Happiness Advantage: the seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work’ by Shawn Achor (highly recommended resource) and two things stood out from both that and Be Intent:
creating the intention every day to shift to a more positive mental space; and
the power of focusing on just three good things each day to create a sustainable positive shift.
All seemed simple enough so I decided to embark on a 100 Day Practice based on just that – set a positive intention for the day before I got out of bed in the morning and then reflect on 3 good things that happened that day before bed.
So how did it go? Well here are 5 lessons learned ‘on the road’:
Lesson #1 – One hundred days is a loooooong time! What seemed simple at the beginning turned out at times to be INCREDIBLY tough. Amazing how much you can get in your own way and my old friend RESISTANCE became a regular visitor. Being patient with myself, setting aside fear, distraction, temptation, procrastination and everything else that tried to get in the way was a big learning that flowed on into everyday life.
Lesson #2 – programming my brain with positive self talk every morning (I used a 13 minute guided meditation on the Silva Meditation iPhone App) meant I was set up for the day and focussed on ‘goodness’ from the get go with the pump primed before my feet hit the floor!
Lesson #3 – no matter how rubbish, tiring, demanding, unfair etc the day may have seemed at times, there was always some good stuff in there. Some days I’d have 3 things before 9.00am. Other days, I’d be struggling with the reflection come 10.00pm but when I widened back on the day, I’d discover hidden gems that under ordinary circumstances would have completely escaped my notice.
Lesson #4 – you can be an inspiration to others. My positive shift and public practice (I shared photos of my #3goodthings on Instagram, Facebook and more recently Twitter) positively impacted others in many, varied and unexpected ways. There are now dozens of people I know, and many I don’t, participating in the practice and experiencing the benefits. Those inspired to get in amongst it include at least one business where this is now a core part of each day, with their team noting down good things in a shared book at the end of every day before they go home. Who knew that would happen?!
Lesson #5 – it does get in! There is no doubt in my mind that these simple things have made a massive difference to my mindset, resilience, optimism, creativity and success. Things have changed for the better, not that they were bad to begin with thanks to the benefits of hindsight! I’m loving life and business is booming.
So, 100 days seemed like a long time at the beginning but I’m now 220 days deep (recorded days, that is) and keeping going. Success is a process of constant correction and the habit of focusing my attention at the beginning and reframing at the end of each day does just that.
Why don’t you give it a go? The world needs all the happiness it can get!
1. Reflect on your day and find 3 good things that happened (don’t feel you have to go around creating NEW ones – there’ll be plenty there once you look!)
2. Write them down (and share them if you feel brave!)
3. Reflect on your part in each of them
…do this for at least 7 days.