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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

New Years Resolutions: Gratitude & Living in the Present

January 2nd, 2011

Yesterday marked the 365th day for an experiment that I started on January 1 of this year   –> a “creative” online experiment designed to focus me on “Living in the Present Moment.”

The Gratitude 365 Experiment

Historically, on January 1st, I devise a checklist of challenges to accomplish for the year ahead, then plan out the year in order to achieve the checklist.  But, like many of you, I’ve often found that the hardest goals to achieve are the ones that require a “state of mind” (happiness, gratitude, joy, love, giving, etc). At year end, I look back and think it was overall a “joyous” year, but I’m not sure how I felt day-to-day.

One of my top life values is “living in the present moment“. This is something I am challenged by each year — perennially I add it to the the New Years resolutions list, but fail to find a way to execute on it. One of the smartest things I’ve done in my life to focus on the present moment is to marry my wife, Patty.  As those around us know, she has a knack for being in the present moment, so she often reminds me when I’m drifting away from this elusive goal.  But what to do when Patty has other things to tend to :)  ?

For 2010, I decided to use the power of Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, and Facebook to try an experiment:  Gratitude 365.   For each day of the year, I focused on the things around me:  people, activities, and every-day joys and twogged (tweeted and blogged) one thing each day THAT I AM GRATEFUL FOR ….along with an associated visual (photo, drawing, image, video, etc).

The result of my visual experiment is on Flickr here.  The daily chronicle of things I posted is here on my Twitter posts for the year.  I found that Facebook was the best medium for encouraging ongoing response from friends/family to my  my daily musings, so I “Twogged” to facebook, twitter and LinkedIn simultaneously.

Living in the Present

It seems to me that to live in the present moment is one of the hardest things to do.

“To be completely in the Present Moment, one must Forgive the Past…and Faith the Future.”

- Guru Singh, 2010

My friend, Guru Singh, presented this year at my UC Berkeley  class on “Innovation, Creativity & the Entrepreneur,” and answered a student’s question which was “How does one live in the Present Moment?”   He pointed out that happiness itself is tied to the percentage of time that we spend living in the present moment…and few people on this earth can claim that their % is high.

I’ve thought about that over and over since the 10/27 class…and so have many of my students.

  • If I’m thinking about a grudge I hold, or something I failed at, or a fear someone placed in my mind, then I”m living in the PAST and haven’t forgiven myself or others…and I’m not in the present moment
  • If I’m thinking about something I want/need, or something I’ve planned, or day-dreaming about somewhere I’d rather be, or “bored” (a sure sign I’m not in the present) or considering somewhere I need to do, then I’m also not in the present.
  • If I’m WORRIED about a future activity, relationship, interchange, or …then I am lacking faith in the future.

How does one begin to forgive the past and faith the future? Perhaps by acknowledging the little things that we have each day, remembering to notice and acknowledge the things we take for granted, that are right under our nose.  Or perhaps to remember that many things we have are gifts from God, and not at all something we earned. This includes the homes we live in, the people around us, the food we eat, the water we drink.  Ask someone who has spent significant time in a Third World nation  and you realized that much of what we have is far and above what the “rest of world” has.

How do I “Faith” the Future?

Faith in the future means being aware that there is a higher source looking out for you, and trusting that this source (call it YHWH, Allah, Jesus, Holy Spirit, God, or Divine Energy – whatever pleases you most) has a plan for you.  Reading the book America’s Prophet (by Bruce Feiler) this holiday weekend, I was reminded that the phrase we American’s have chosen on our dollar bill is “In God we Trust”.

If I have faith and trust in a higher source, then I am willing to take more risk AND go with the flow.

For me, “Faithing” the future, does not mean giving up planning.  Actually, according to StrengthsFinder tests, my top life strength is “Futuristic”, so it would be unfortunate if I were not to use my top strength.  It means creating your best plans and setting the wheels in motion to achieve those plans, but also having faith when those little daily challenges test us, to “stay the course.”  And it means having the flexibility

What daily Gratitude taught me

“Gratitude 365″ was a helpful experiment in learning about myself.

I found that:

  • being grateful for things in my life mostly places me in the present moment – gratitude about the past is a nice dream, and gratitude about the future is a wish - the only real measure of PRESENT MOMENT is a moment of gratitude for what God has given me.
  • noticing things I’m grateful for requires focus – it’s hard to do if I’m stuck in the past, or dreaming about the future.  It is possible to simple close my eyes and think of 5-10 things I’m grateful for, just by focusing on what it is that I have.  Nothing else is required
  • once I practice noticing things I’m grateful for, I find it easier and easier to do

Ultimately, I think I’ve confirmed for myself that the things in life I’m most grateful for in life are relationships - everything else is really a “story”, a brief moment of happiness, or a whim.  So, for this year, the focus will be on creation, resolution, restoration, and deepening of relationships.

“ You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever–because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”

- Steve Jobs, Stanford Graduation speech, June 2005

Gratitude may be the source of all great virtues

I’m glad that I chose Gratitude for the focus of 2010. It creates a foundation for continuing my own understanding of how to live a life of gratitude and focus on the present moment.  As the Roman philosopher Cicero said (circa 40 BC):

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

The “Gratitude 365″ Project

January 28th, 2010

Here’s something that borders on “creative” and spiritual (a good fit for me, given who I am).

During 2010, I’ve undertaken a hybrid between my personal life goals and study in the use of Twitter, twogging and other social media.

Typically at the start of any given year, I take a long stare at my life “mission” statement and basic values – which I’ve honed over many years and adjust slightly as life passes by…and then create goals for the coming year that relate to each area/role in my life:  teacher, catalyst, investor/entrepreneur, father, husband, musician.

Twogging on my Mind

This year, I was reading Twitter Power by Joel Comm  ( and was actively thinking about the many new and innovative uses of Twitter.  Companies using it for tracking customers, individuals using to create their personal brands;  start-ups using it to create a “voice” online.  While I see the merit in all these things, it also seemed to me that Twitter could be an interesting way to personally journal one’s life.  What happens when you flash backward at the end of the year and could visually capture all the items you’ve Tweeted (or as I like to say Twogged – see my previous piece on this) ?

So, I decided not to create goals for each area of my life this year, but to replace this with ONE GOAL for the year – a goal that would help set a perspective for all the TASKS that I do anyhow and put everything in perspective.

Challenging myself to use technology more

Here’s the challenge I’ve given myself:  I call it Gratitude 365 ….each day I’m using technology to remind myself what I’m grateful for in my life.  I’m using to broadcast one gratitude per day, and it is sending out to Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Ning, WordPress and Twitter.  One thought broadcast to many channels.  And, sometimes it’s a silly personal thing that others may or may not want to hear about. Sometimes I am able to link the gratitude back to this blog or to the area of Innovation, Creativity and Entrerpreneurship.

For example, today’s Gratitude:    #Grateful (28) for highly #innovative branding and healthy food at one of my favorite eating establishments in the Bay Area –> link to this post. This allows me to Twog – blog about something of interest in the creative realm, but tie it to something I”m grateful for in the personal realm.

You can follow along VISUALLY here on my Picasa page.

Or you can go to my Twitter feed to see the Tweets related to gratitude since Jan 1, 2010.

What have I learned so far?

So far, only a month into the process, I am finding several fun things:

1)  I’m finding plenty to be grateful for: I am waking up thinking about things to be grateful for; I am spending time in meetings looking around and noticing others around me that I feel grateful for; I am arriving home at night and noticing things I’m grateful for; and I realized that each birthday of a valued friend, relative and companion in life is a chance to acknowledge my gratitude.

2) My lens has changed: overally, it seems like my life “lens” has shifted to looking at things that matter more in my life.  It’s easier to remind myself when I’m focused on something “worrisome” rather than positive and also easier to see the good in other people.

3) I‘m focusing less on complaining :about things I’m IN-grateful for, and spending more time focused on the positives. This is making me a bit more pleasant for those around me.

4) I’m marking my gratitudes with hash # marks in Twitter, so am making friends with others that care about life gratitude and have received lots of great compliments from friends/family who are following along.

At the end of the year, I think it will be great to see the entire year captured in a Slide Show on Picasa – so I can look back and see what I’ve been grateful for and keep my eye on the ball. I’m also considering using FastPencil to create a image/photo book when I’m done with this.

After all, we only live once and it might as well be enjoyable.  This is a good way for me to thank God for all that I have and at the same time to learn about the latest innovations in online social media.

Wish me luck – this could be a lo-o-o-o-ng, but grateful year !