The (super simple) daily practice that changed everything
I have had lofty goals throughout the years of practices I would like to incorporate into my day-to-day life, but I find that they ultimately prove unsustainable. I go strong for a week, or maybe a month, or maybe even a season--if I ever even move from the idea phase to the action phase--and I burn out. I try to do too much.
Lately I am learning the beauty of the very little, the infinitesimal, the so small that it hardly seems to count. Several months ago I read a book about forming micro habits, and the author contended that only the goals that seemed attainable--doing one push up, writing for one minute--lent themselves to success. That which is more difficult not to do is what needs to be our starting point. At the time, I did not consciously take his advice to heart, but I see traces of his logic with what I do to begin my day.
It is laughably simple, really. I do two things usually before I begin my work or settle into the demands of the day. I take out my planner, my favorite pen, and I reflect.
1. I write three things for which I am grateful.
Often these things reflect something about the morning, since that is what is freshest on my mind. Sometimes it is the pretty green grass or the lack of traffic or the really great discussion my husband Dan and I had the night before. Sometimes it is the fact that I live in a mostly safe country. Sometimes it is Alter Eco mint dark chocolate (seriously, you should try it because it is delicious).
2. I plan three treats for the day.
This sounds ridiculously indulgent, but hear me out. This is built upon Gretchen Rubin's idea that treats are good to enjoy regularly. We enjoy treats just because; they are not rewards for doing some unpleasant task or reaching a goal.
I do this because I believe we need to chase joy. We do have to search for happiness and fun or our world can suck it right out of us. Deliberately setting aside and anticipating those things which lift our moods is not petty, I would argue, but life giving. It saves us from unnecessary darkness and drought and somberness.
While I try to be creative with my treats, they often are food or TV show-related. Days when I have lunch dates or a special outing planned are easy days to identify treats that await. Other days prove far more challenging, but there is a discipline to saying that I will find three treats that bring joy to my day.
These two reflective movements take all of five minutes, but they completely change the tenor of my day. They start me off well, reminding me of my blessings and my agency in forging ahead in life. If I were to put this practice in theological language, I would say that I am identifying where God has been present and where I want to savor God's good creation.
Simple? You bet. So simple, it almost seems worth skipping? Well, yes. Would I? Not a chance.