When Darin bought his car, 16 or whatever years ago, one of the things the dealer threw in with the package was training at driving school in order to become a better driver. It was a great class, and if I could remember the name of it, I’d include a link. I think we can all use refresher courses on how to be a better driver.
One of the important soundbites I took away from that day was to forget the old mantra, “Look where you’re going.” That’s stupid. That’s how people drive off of cliffs. They see the cliff, they drive off of it. No, the thing they said was “Look where you want to go.” If you want to stay on the road, focus on the road. After you’ve driven for a while, you don’t have to instruct your hands on how to turn the wheel (remember how tiring that part of driving was?) and you’ve got a relationship with your feet on how heavy to ride the pedals. No, your job is to point the car correctly. Your autonomic functioning takes over after that.
Doing those “gratitude journals” and stuff sounded so hokey to me when I first heard of them. Let me rephrase: I absolutely love hokey stuff, but not when it substitutes for, y’know, actual work. So often things like gratitude journals are described as being modern versions of magic spells: do this and this and this, and you get X, Y, and Z in return. Suh-weet deal.
But, when I thought about it, I decided that a gratitude journal wasn’t supposed to take the place of anything else. Focusing on things I was grateful for — whether inside or outside of myself — is always good. I force myself to look at the good things in life, because like so many other people if I don’t work hard at it, I ruminate over the bad things that happen.
You know, the old hokey saying “Energy flows where attention goes.”
Note the similarity there to “Look where you want to go.”
I’ve mentioned in an entry a while back that I like the Happy Tapper’s Gratitude Journal for iPhone app. (There’s an iPad version too.) These apps are good-looking, they’re cute, they’re fun. They make it Not Hard to write down your 5 things every day.
After a while of doing this, your brain gets very good at picking out the good things about the day. You focus not on what makes you upset or angry, but what makes you happy, what gives you energy or peace or joy.
And doing this is especially good during the times you’re angry and you want to knock someone’s block off.
Which happens to be where I am right now. Seriously. I’ve been seriously rethinking my values and what kind of person I want to be, because someone I know seems to have done something bad to me, and I’m wondering how to respond.
While I was thinking about this situation, I saw the following quote (while I’m putting up quotes and epigrams) from Abraham Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
I don’t want to be that person.
I want to be the kind of person who looks forward, who doesn’t let the turkeys get her down, and who doesn’t use her blog to really hurt someone back. Because I know full well that I could. I have a very high Google ranking. I could really do some damage, simply by putting something here, even if no one ever reads it.
It was kind of scary to realize that I was the kind of person who’d ever consider doing that.
I’m not going to focus on bad things. I’m going to go find ten things in my life today that I’m grateful for, that make me happy, that make me feel alive, and reset my brain.
The cool thing is, I can even think of one thing I’m grateful about in regards to this situation (that I’m being deliberately oblique about), and I’m not being snarky at all. You really can retrain your brain.