2021 Yellow Springs News Merchandise
Aug
01
2021
Village Life

Appreciative Living — What are you thinking?

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Congratulations to each one of you who began your “Appreciative Living” journaling! There can be magic in writing down your thoughts, feelings and the treasures you find throughout any given day. It also helps us focus on what we’re thinking about metacognitively.

Metacognitive thinking, according to one definition, is an awareness of one’s own thought processes and an understanding of the patterns behind them. The term comes from the Greek root word meta, meaning “beyond,” or “on top of.”

So my generative question to each of you is: “What are you thinking?”

Last week, Steven and I were 27 stories up on a rooftop in downtown Dayton, overlooking the twinkling lights of the city and the Greater Miami River. Kayakers sat patiently as their boats swayed in the gentle current while waiting, as were we, for the sky to light up with bright colors and earth shaking sounds to announce the “world is back open” — as well as celebrating U.S. Independence Day. And, in that moment, the illuminating lights in the sky did not disappoint; nothing else mattered as the cares of the day faded from memory. I was simply basking in the appreciation of being there in my thoughts of possibilities and appreciation.

Thinking about what we’re thinking about — without judgment — is a powerful tool. It can help us recognize patterns in our behavior; the ones we want to keep and the ones that might not serve us well.  In our training, we have used this tool with executives in major companies to help them to understand what they want to see more of in their business and personal life. Each of us can  practice this by focusing on our own strengths and the “appreciative moments” in our lives that we might not have noticed before.

Here’s my challenge to you: over the next 30 days, when we will meet here again, take time to think about your thoughts. If a negative or spiraling down thought comes to mind, stop and think about an empowering, happy, exciting, joyful thought immediately. What this does is train your brain to “look for the good.”

Now, we know that this is not an exercise for everyone; I get it. Some people are quite content in their skepticism; or as one person told me once, “appreciative thinking is not reality.”  And my response to them was simple: “But it could be.”

The Appreciative Living Project isn’t designed to convince you of something, because there is one thing we know for sure from our years of work in Appreciative Inquiry: “A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.”  No, the Appreciative Living Project just offers you a different lens to look through that may serve you better. What do you have to lose? And an even better question — what do you have to gain?

So, along this appreciative journey we’re taking together, each time a thought lands in your head, pause and ask yourself, “Why am I thinking this? Where did this thought come from, and why am I feeling this way about it?” Be honest with yourself. And if it’s not a thought that is serving you, then flip it and replace it with a thought that brings you energy, strength and makes you smile in the moment.

Art stated in an appreciative note last month: “[This is] the kind of positivity that the world needs.” And Kristen wrote, “What a wonderful gift … The Appreciative Living Project!”  One captain of industry, who buys into the appreciative living concept, said — I’m paraphrasing — that positive/appreciative thinking conveys the idea to one’s self that there is always a way forward.

In this sometimes confusing space and time we’re living in, which can be filled with cynicism, negativity and even fear, it’s good to have a way to find your True North — your way forward. In quantum physics, there are a multitude of scenarios — opportunities — that can be created.

Barbara Fredrickson’s research, highlighted in an article from the journal American Psychologist, demonstrated that people who experience more positive emotions than negative ones are more likely to see the bigger picture, build relationships and thrive. But again, fellow sojourners, I’m not here to convince you, but to encourage you to practice appreciative living and start or continue to chart your path forward.

Use the tools!  Continue writing in your Appreciative Living journal; Go B.I.G. — remember, B.I.G. is an acronym for “Begin. In. Gratitude.” Now that we’ve added metacognitive thinking, think about what it is you’re thinking about. Powerful stuff.

And please keep sharing your experiences with us! You can write a letter to the editor about your appreciative journey or email us at aplan4you00@gmail.com. We would love to hear how you are using the Appreciative Living Project toolset! Remember: being appreciative can be contagious.

We’ll check back with each other in a few weeks! Godspeed.

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One Response to “Appreciative Living — What are you thinking?”

  1. Beau says:

    This flipping thoughts around process is a common practice in most 12 step programs that I’m acquainted with. Dwelling on the negative is what’s called “stinkin’ thinkin'” and can cause problems if left to root. Good advice may change deliverers or words, but it remains “good advice” and practicing an “attitude of gratitude” is some of the best! Thank you for taking the time to write this column! It’s wisdom worth repeating and I appreciate you for writing it.