Day 1 – Goals and Values

I’ve really been digging ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) lately.  I’m mostly consuming it through the work of Dr. Russ Harris and his book “The Happiness Trap.”

One of the lessons that makes sense to me is that Values > Goals. Writing here every morning is a goal – but what value (or values) does that goal serve? And is that (are they) one of my values?

Persistence is a value – that’s something important to me and something that this goal can serve.  But any goal could be said to serve that value – it’s a given. If you don’t need some kind of persistence, it’s probably a pretty weak goal.

Gratitude is said to assist in mental health.  Improving and maintaining my mental health is a value. So maintaining a regular gratitude practice would be a good goal to strive for. Making it more specific, reflecting on one thing that I’m grateful for each day. Even more specific, writing it down helps to clarify it.

So, writing down something that I’m grateful for each day serves the value of maintaining and improving my mental health.

So why a blog? Why do this publicly? What’s the value there?

Acceptance by others.

It’s difficult for me to share this, but I want other human beings to accept me. It feels weak to admit that, but it’s true. Rationally, I know that there’s nothing wrong with that desire – it’s perfectly natural, probably the result of millions of years of evolution. If our ancestors weren’t accepted by others and were banished by the tribe, they were as good as dead. So the desire is hardwired into my brain.

But does this blog really provide that? Maybe in some small ways, and maybe I’m minimizing how much it really does. But it sure doesn’t hurt it, as far as I can see.

Maybe “Relationship” is a better word for that value. I’ve already got acceptance – no one has thrown me out in the cold lately. But does writing this stuff publicly assist in building and maintaining relationships with other human beings? It could.

Another value that comes to mind is Contribution. I want to give something useful to others. Is writing about this publicly adding anything useful to the universe? Is there even a possibility that it is?

Of course there’s a possibility, even if I can’t see it now. Even if it’s just inspirational enough to kick start someone else’s gratitude practice.

So there are four values (Persistence, Mental Health, Relationships, and Contribution) that the goal of writing here every day for 365 days serves.

I think I’ll continue. And today I’m grateful that no matter how many times I fall, as long as I’m still breathing I can get back up and move forward.



Day 51 – Failure

Today I’m grateful that I failed in my goal to write here every morning.

It’s been 17 days – on day one I failed to reach my goal, and for the sixteen days after that I failed to get back on the horse.

Failure isn’t a dirty word.  It’s a reality – I planned on doing one thing, and by my own actions I didn’t get it done.  I failed.

I’m grateful that I can face the reality of the situation, and that I can learn from it.

I’m jumping back on the horse today.  But I’m not just jumping on and riding it the way that I did last time – I’m adjusting the saddle, changing how snug the stirrups are, communicating with the horse a bit differently.  If I just hop back on and ride the same way that I rode before, I’ll fall off again.  As I first learned in AA – I’m not going to do the same thing and expect different results.

I’m grateful that I learned that.

These are the changes that I’m making:

  1. The biggest adjustment has to do with the direction of the blog.  The purpose of this blog was to Amor Fati – to develop the habit of not just accepting, but loving my fate.  Loving everything that happens to me and everything that is currently in my life.  I was only focusing on being grateful for the “bad”, since that’s the part of my life that needed that most work – the positive stuff is easy to love.  Now, I’m going to acknowledge the positive as well, especially since the “good” things in our lives outnumber the “bad” by at least a hundred to one.  Our brains are wired to look for what’s wrong.  I think that the theory that it’s an evolutionary trait is right, since for our ancestors it was much more important to keep an eye out for the lion than to appreciate the beauty of the sunset.  Although it still exists, in modern, developed countries physical threats are a much smaller problem, regardless of what the news tries to tell us.  My life requires that I appreciate the good on a regular basis, if only to combat the negatives that are shoved down our throats on a regular basis so that people with power can feast on the foie gras of our fear.  (Wow, Lyman, quite the rant there… take it out or leave it in?  Leave it in for honesty’s sake.)
  2. Sometimes it’s the people in our lives that we end up not being grateful for.  To call them out publicly because of a small, silly, private slight or annoyance would cause misunderstanding and harm, and I want live my life causing as little harm as possible (I’ve already caused more than my share).  So I was avoiding writing about these things but still stewing about them, and therefore not doing the exercise honestly.  I still need work in that area, but if I choose to write about it, it will go in a private journal.
  3. I’m going to get away from using the word “thanksgiving.”  I’ve been starting most entries with the phrase “Today I’m thankful for…”; I thought I had to because that’s the name of the fricking blog.  That doesn’t feel right to me, and never has.  “Today I’m grateful for…” feels better.

I’m grateful that I’ve identified these issues, and that I can implement them and move forward.

So, to recap – today I’m grateful that I failed, I’m grateful that I got back on the horse, and I’m grateful that I’ve identified the problems that caused that failure.

Fate permitting, I’ll be back tomorrow.  I hope you’ll join me.


Day 39 – Gratitude for Support

Today I give thanks for the struggle that I have with accepting support from people.

I’m specifically talking about support in creative endeavors, and specifically thinking about my wife and her sister, and even more specifically thinking about their support for this little project of mine.

I’m learning to simply say “Thank You” when my wife tells me how much she loves a day’s entry.  Getting those two words out can be difficult, because my self doubt is triggered hard when she compliments my work.  “She’s blinded to my idiocy because of love,” I think.  “This whole project really is a dumb idea, why can’t she see that?” comes next.  Followed by a sprinkling of “She’s a damn PhD candidate… can’t she see what a shitty writer I am?”

And yesterday, my sister-in-law said that she was impressed that I’m sticking to my goal of doing this everyday.  “Yeah, but the big quit is coming,” say the thoughts.

It’s a struggle, but this blog is about be grateful for the struggle.  So I’m grateful.

Thank you, Tracy and Tammy, for all of your support.

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?