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A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a business parable called “The Gardener’s Badge.” In the story, employees at a thriving landscape store had a positive outlook and always wore buttons that said, “Business is great!” People assumed that they were happy because they ran a successful business. In the end, the moral was that it was the other way around, that their positive attitude contributed toward the success of the business.

This story inspired me to start playing a game with a friend. It goes something like this:

Every evening, we send one another an email with the same subject (How are you?) and the same first line (I’m GREAT!). What follows is a list of things we appreciate about our lives, either from that day or those that are always present. Some days, the list flowed easily and sometimes it felt like a herculean effort to come up with just one or two items. But I always pushed myself to find something worth appreciating, even on the most stressful days, even if it was just appreciating the fact that the day was over and it was time to go to sleep.

As we moved through the first few months of this exercise, it seemed like there was a shift in the world around me. In reality, it was more likely a shift in my perspective. Brain science show that attention and mindfulness change neural pathways. The more you practice a certain pattern of thought, the easier it is to access that pattern of thought in the future. Over time, it can become second nature to find things to appreciate rather than complain about.

At some point in the fall, my friend and I added a second element to our emails as we started to play with another idea: How do we tell the story of our lives? If what we pay attention to matters, and if being mindful of the positive aspects of life could influence our well being, why not be more proactive? Why not write the story the way we want it to be, in addition to being grateful for what already is? We noticed things that were already working for us and wrote them bigger.

Sometimes it felt grandiose, but we found that the more we wrote these stories, the more we received them. The perfect people came into our lives at the perfect times; ideas and resources manifested that gave us a sense of ease and wonder.

I’ve gotten easier and more playful about life and I’ve started to enjoy the unexpected ways that things unfold rather than stress out about things I can’t control. I complain less, which often leads to talking less (it’s been interesting to observe how much of my conversations had centered around complaining). While some people have found my practice to be annoying, I’m sticking with it. And I am grateful to my friend for playing along. Watching how beautifully her life is unfolding is my greatest inspiration.

If you are curious for a taste, here is one of my emails:


waking up to sunshine and brisk fall air


celebrating S’s birthday


the way the clouds looked when I was filling my car with gas at sunset

time and space to write


my voice

Things are always working out so beautifully!

Everywhere I go, I encounter friendly and helpful people!

My timing is always perfect!

I get shit done with ease and joy!

My body is strong and healthy and vibrant!

The Earth and sky are so beautiful!

Life is a gift!

ANYTHING is possible!

I am surrounded by love and support!

I am grateful for all of my experiences!

My job is to stay in alignment and focus!

I am worthy and open to receive of all the love, abundance, inspiration, and opportunities

that the universe has to offer!

Things are always working out so beautifully!


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