This is the first in a short series of posts on A Productive End-of-the-Day Ritual. Be sure to visit My Pleasant Places later for the remaining posts.
A lot of my Facebook friends are posting daily “What I am thankful for” posts this month (being the month of the American Thanksgiving holiday). I’m not a holiday-centric type person, and so I resist practices built around holidays–which doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in being grateful, of course. In fact, I have recently started practicing an end-of-the-day ritual that focuses somewhat on gratefulness (the author of this idea, in fact, calls it a “gratitude journal”). It started with me chasing a link from some blog that led me to a website called Early to Rise. One of the authors on that site, Craig Ballyntine, wrote about his “daily rituals”—the mere term piqued my interest. I read about his rituals, and I’ve been practicing one of them fairly consistently this month (tweaking it to make it my own), and I have found it to be very effective in a number of ways.
The ritual starts with these word-prompts:
Very simply put, use this list and write about something you’re grateful for today, an opportunity you had, what you did today, what you’ll do tomorrow, who you appreciate, and what you learned. Keep it brief—a sentence or two. I generally write my thoughts after I am in bed. if it became a long, drawn out process, I know it would fall by the wayside. When I hit the sack at night, I am within minutes of “pumpkin land,” and I don’t want anything distracting from that, but I have found this little exercise actually helps me sleep better (I’ll explain why in part 2).
Starting with the word grateful at the top of the list, write about something from your day that you are thankful for (if you reference something from your day rather than just something in general that you’re grateful for, this practice actually becomes kind of like a journal, a record of your life).
When I started this exercise, I actually got tripped up on grateful and appreciate because they seemed redundant to me. In fact, the first few days, I put the same thing in both slots: “I am thankful for my husband,” “I appreciate my husband.” However, I have come to distinguish between these two parts of the exercise as WHAT I am grateful for and WHO I appreciate. I write some thing (tangible or intangible) that I am grateful for. I try to reference something specific to that day, and in so doing, this little exercise also serves as a journal of sorts, a record—or at least a hint—of what was going on in my life that specific day. If I write, “I am grateful for my warm bed,” the implication is that it is cold that day. If I write, “I am grateful for Jeff’s sense of humor,” it is implied that I visited with my son, Jeff, that day and he made me laugh.
By nature, I tend to always swing towards the things I am most grateful for and the people I most appreciate. Needless to say, that would get redundant—and meaningless—night after night. It would, indeed, become a “ritual” in the worst sense of the word, something you do without even thinking. Part of what I like about the exercise is that it makes me think, it makes me more attune, and since making this tweak to the process, it also makes me more creative. Rather than writing, “I am thankful for my relationship with God” or “I am thankful for my husband” or “I am thankful for my family/kids/grandkids” (all of which are true) I am thinking outside the box and recognizing the many other things that I am grateful for, too.
Writing about opportunities has stretched me a bit. For some people, an opportunity might be a new client, a skill learned or improved that will build business, a fresh idea (all of these would be good opportunities to list). Just taking a few moments at the end of the day to simply consider what opportunities have come my way is in itself beneficial. Before I started practicing this ritual, I didn’t even realize the many opportunities that come into my life. Now, as I think back over my days, I am finding myself repeatedly weighing the opportunities that I experience and then most often listing the ones that have something to do with building or speaking into someone’s life. It’s not that there aren’t other types of opportunities coming my way, but since I am majoring on the most meaningful ones, I tend to choose the ones that have something to do with building people more than building business. This is enlightening; it reveals my core values. I would say this particular part of the exercise has been somewhat revelatory for me, helping me to get to know myself a little better.
I don’t know if you will experience the revelatory part of opportunity, but I guarantee it will make you think deeper. It will make you pause and consider and realize that yes, indeed, there are opportunities flowing into your life. Maybe you aren’t taking advantage of all of them, but they are there. You’ll begin to see how interesting your life is! What you have considered as ho-hum will now begin to take on a new light.
I will write about the other headings in the next couple of posts, but I “will conclude this one by sharing with you a few of snippets from my own end-of-the-day writing this month. This is just to show you my progression through the month and to demonstrate how brief it can be and how it serves as a journal, too.
Grateful – Today, I am grateful for my husband and his stability, the fact that he does not get “rocked” by life’s circumstances.
Opportunity – My biggest opportunity today was in writing a blog post that touched people far beyond my little world.
Gratitude – Today I am thankful for Bearsey and Sheppy [grandsons] and their absolute innocence.
Opportunity – My biggest opportunity today (business-wise) was in listing a house in a good neighborhood. Hopefully lots of leads will result.
Gratitude – Today I am thankful for my husband’s depth of character and his depth of spiritual insight.
Opportunity – I have so many opportunities every day; it is hard to choose which one to focus on here. I will say that my opportunities today focused around getting to speak into other people’s lives. My life has real meaning because I am investing in others’ eternal beings.
Gratitude – Today I am grateful to be able to work from home.
Opportunity – Today I had the opportunity to counsel Gertrude (in person) and Zsa Zsa (email) [I’m sure this goes without saying, but both of these names are fictional!]. Over the long haul, this will produce the most fruit of anything I did today.
Gratitude – Today I am grateful for Stella [youngest granddaughter]. Having a baby in your life is an awesome thing.
Opportunity – My biggest opportunity today pertains to my new listing. I am being stretched by getting back into working with relocation companies.
Gratitude – I am grateful for my community, TC [my church is called The Community; we call it TC for short]. It is an ark for me and mine.
Opportunity – My greatest opportunity today revolved around speaking into a couple of women’s lives—Goldilocks and Gretel [again, fictional; I hope you are enjoying my name choices]. It really is my greatest opportunity, to build others. Many think of “opportunity” only from the perspective of making money or furthering their job. God keeps impressing on me that building people–whether through relating to them, counseling them or writing to them (via my blog)–is my biggest opportunity.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the idea of a journal like this one. Do you already practice something like this? If so, tell me about it in the comments. If not, do you see the benefit, or does it look like “busy work” to you? What would you state as your biggest opportunity today? I’d love to hear!