I was six weeks pregnant on our two year wedding anniversary. “Where do you want to go to dinner?” My husband asked me. “I’ll take you anywhere!”
I had been looking forward to this and spent the days leading up to our anniversary looking at a number of restaurants, scouring menus and reviews; but, at the end of the day, I really just wanted a grilled chicken sandwich from Wendy’s. Thank you, pregnancy.
So we hit the drive-thru and ordered a haul, then we went home and ate Wendy’s on the couch in our pajamas with candlelight.
It wasn’t the anniversary celebration I had envisioned. We didn’t dress up and go to a fancy restaurant or take a weekend trip away. I was mildly nauseous the entire night (I couldn’t even eat my Frosty!?) and felt ready for bed before the sun set. But oh my word, the goodness. We were together, we were where we needed to be, and, God bless it, we were in our most comfortable pajamas.
Brené Brown writes, “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness—it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”
Our anniversary didn’t have to be extravagant to be incredibly memorable and special. We only had to have the eyes to see the goodness in our altered plans. This, for me, is what’s changing everything: Paying attention and practicing gratitude.
It all began with one question.
Wednesday mornings typically look just like any other morning for me. I get up, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day to the sound of my television friends’ voices (the Today show anchors, obviously). Internally, however, my mind is in a different place on a Wednesday morning. I’m generally always preparing to answer a question I know I’ll be asked a few hours later.
I love questions. I think they’re important in promoting growth and driving change. Choosing a favorite question would be like choosing a favorite kid—I can’t do it (at least not publicly). The Wednesday morning question I’m asked, however, is up there on my list of favorites. It’s simple and, despite how understated it is, can shift our entire perspective on life. Sounds like magic, right? It’s not; it’s just naming what’s good.
That’s it. Every Wednesday morning, my boss begins our staff meeting by going around the table and having each of us answer the succinct question: “What’s good?”
I didn’t think much about it during my first few weeks at the job, but over the past several months I’ve noticed that this question has changed how I choose to view a variety of situations in my life. I find that I think about the question throughout the week, and doing so has grown my gratitude.
The American holiday of Thanksgiving can be really confusing. We promote words like “thankfulness,” “gratitude,” and “blessed” for a small window of time, all with the intention of celebrating Thanksgiving with a spirit of gratefulness as we gather around the table and feast with family and friends.
A number of hours later, we’re in an all-out brawl with a total stranger over an action figure in the toy aisle at the local Wal-Mart at 4am. The spirit of gratefulness is welcome to linger, as long as nobody complicates my Black Friday shopping. This is a little baffling, right?
I think it’s safe to say we have a little bit of a gratitude problem in this country. It’s not one ungrateful generation, it’s society, as a whole—all of us. Why? Because gratitude—an awareness of and appreciation for all that is good—can be hard to practice when there’s so much that’s wrong.
What’s wrong is usually easier to answer. And, oftentimes, it’s what I want to tell you all about because your sympathy, empathy, and/or practical help would be REALLY NICE TO HAVE. What’s good, however, takes away some power from hopelessness, fear, and despair. Naming what is good doesn’t mean everything is good, but it positions us to think about our circumstances a little bit differently.
Last week, I began my “What’s good?” response by saying, “I’m having a really difficult week…” I know this sounds like the start of an answer to “What’s wrong?” or to the more ambiguous, “How are you?” The question my boss asks us, however, has conditioned me to find what’s good in what’s wrong. I still have tough days (don’t we all?). And yet, I can still call out the goodness that exists, even if it feels like a sliver of wood compared to the ark of terrible in my day.
So on that Wednesday morning, I shared that I’m having a really difficult week, but…but I’ve been able to see my own growth in how I handle anxiety and hardship, and I refuse to let it take control. That’s goodness.
Maybe the good you call out is a great night of sleep or a clean email inbox. Maybe you paid off a plethora of debt or you had a really sweet conversation with your kid. Maybe the heat is working in your car. Maybe you ate fast food in your pajamas with someone you love on a night when you couldn’t bear to do much more. See how simple this can be?
I’m often inspired to live a life of gratitude, but the oh-so-brief Thanksgiving season doesn’t stick around long enough to create any long-lasting habits. The Wednesday morning question, however, has changed so much for me. Even in the most difficult circumstances, I can pluck out something that is good and, almost suddenly, I am viewing a situation with a more positive and grateful perspective.
So tell me: What’s good?