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August 24, 2012

Peanuts comic: 'Why aren't you a pony'Comic of the Day, Aug. 23, 2012, Peanuts.com


We often see the world just like Charlie Brown. I do it, you do it: focus on what isn't rather than what is. A couple of books I picked up at the Lakewood Library helped me notice this, and make a small start at changing my viewpoint.

Books on tableThe first, 365 Thank Yous: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life, is one I think I've written about before, but despite that still haven't acted on.

The author, former Clevelander John Kralik, hits a low point in his life. Everything seems to be a mess: his business, his personal life, his finances.

Things begin to change when he goes for a walk in the woods and hears a voice tell him to be grateful for the things he has. Now, the voice in the woods aspect is overly dramatic, but the message is one that resonates with me.

My own life is, by any standard, wonderful. Unlike Kralik, all those aspects of my life are virtually everything I could hope for. Yet still I'm often vaguely dissatisfied about the little pieces that aren't perfect. I'm grouchy for no good reason. So the message of expressing gratitude for what you have seems aimed exactly at my heart.

[ short intermission to write the first of the thank yous I've been meaning to send ]

Long story short, in the book Kralik describes how writing these notes, one a day, transformed the way he viewed (and lived in) the world. He sums it up, though, be describing it as "just an exercise in good manners."

From the last page:

At the risk of making an unscientific and directly moral statement, I will say that writing thank-you notes is a good thing to do and makes the world a better place. It also made me a better man. More than success or material achievement, this is what I sought.

I'm going to try it myself.


I didn't consciously pick The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin as a follow-up to 365 Thank Yous, but once I started reading, it fit right in. In the first chapter she explains to a friend:

"I am happy—but I'm not as happy as I should be. I have such a good life, I want to appreciate it more—and live up to it better." I had a hard time explaining it. "I complain too much, I get annoyed more than I should. I should be more grateful. I think if I felt happier, I'd behave better."

I'm at Chapter 6 now, Make Time For Friends. I've been following Austin Kleon's advice and taking notes on a 4x6 card as I read, writing things like:

At the risk of sounding silly, I think these two books have changed my life. For the last week or so I've tried to act happy and it's made me feel more upbeat. I've tried to express my love/appreciation for my wife in small ways, and I think it's improved our time together, at least a bit.

At different points in the day I feel more aware of my good fortune. Hopefully that leads to expressions of gratitude.

Listen up, Charlie Brown. Snoopy's fine just as he is.

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