Things you’re thankful for

A friend of mine once linked me a TEDx talk of Shawn Achor, who talked about linking positive brains to performance, it is called ‘The Happiness Advantage’. A good title, I’ve always thought.

While I really enjoyed the whole talk, it was the last part, during which he suggests a certain exercise to his audience, that really got to me. The main goal is that you get a more positive look on life after the 21 day exercise. It’s simple, yet brilliant. Whether this works for you depends, again, on how open you are to it. I’ve done this exercise – slightly altered – and I felt it worked quite well. I consider myself a positive person so I am not sure if the effect is the same on me as it would on let’s say a negative person. Yet the result was there, whether created by the mere feeling or actual brainy/scientific stuff, I can’t tell.

A link to the video, it starts at the point where Shawn explains about the exercise: 

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, this is the sort of material I use for my everyday life. Finding and doing exercises like these can keep me happily occupied during the day, taking only a few minutes of my time throughout. I use these to grow, to improve myself and hopefully inspire others in the meantime. While it is not always easy, having that sense of growth/being a good person is close to no other.

As Shawn Achor mentions, and the boyscouts before him, a good deed a day is priceless. I’ve been doing such deeds everyday for the past three years if I get the chance. I stress on the latter because I do not go out looking for them, but if I see an opportunity, I’ll try and take it. What I have noticed is that the response is always different, and sometimes below your own expectations. Sometimes you do something and fully expect the person to be thrilled, as you reckon you would be if it happened to you, only to get a mumbled ‘thanks’ in return. I always try to shake this off and carry on, I’ve done my part and helped someone. After all, they might have been too preoccupied in their head to fully commit to their thanks. It is easy to judge people’s lack of thankfulness simply on those of seconds’ basis. Don’t.

There is always a wide discussion whether good deeds are done for others (selfless) or are eventually simply to help your own cause (selfish). I refuse to believe that it is always the latter, but am inclined to say there is some truth in it. Picking up a scarf someone dropped and handing it to them is selfless, yet the resulting feeling is generally good, which benefits you. Nevertheless, while I actively try to do these deeds, and advise others to the same, it is not for the simple reason of becoming a better person, although I believe it is a strong reward. The feeling you get post good deed is a happy reward, it is not the goal.

Getting used to doing such deeds and making it a regular thing in your daily life, will humble you and hopefully inspire others to do the same. Seeing this get back to yourself later is hard, as there are many people, and it is not likely you’ll meet again under similar circumstances. I have had several of these experiences, yet one stands out from the rest. A man was €0.20 short on his groceries when presented with the total number at the register, and left his bank card at home. I gave him the money, he thanked me profoundly and went on his way. I met him again the next week, and he insisted he’d pay the sandwich I was buying in the same supermarket. I think it’s a wonderful story, and often tell it to people when discussing positivity related topics.

These deeds make me feel thankful of the goodness of (some) people. The world isn’t always a very nice place to live in, and sometimes life can be tiring, but through the ups and down we’ve got a pretty good thing going on here. The best part is the enjoy it as best as you can.

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