Challenges positive thinking

Attitude of Gratitude

My family has a tradition to go around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and say what we are grateful for from the past year. We all hold hands and take turns sharing our joys and blessings. My nephew usually just says he’s grateful for pizza, but most people say they are grateful for friends and family, careers, our homes, and time that we have with each other. There are usually a few tears as we deeply feel how much we love each other, and as we remember the people that are no longer with us.

Thanksgiving may be over, but an attitude of gratitude is in season all year long. One of the most powerful things in the world is to be grateful for all of the positive things in your life. At different points in my life, I have used a gratitude journal to keep me focused on what’s really important. I am a strong believer in the concept that whatever you focus on, is what grows in your life. If you focus on the negative, the negative grows, if you focus on the positive, the positive grows.

The challenge I present to you is to focus on gratitude for the next 21 days. Here are some ideas for focusing on gratitude.

  1. Sit down with your family each day at dinner and take turns saying what you are grateful for from that day.
  2. Tell someone each day (could be the same person or a different one each day) why you are grateful for them.
  3. Thank the people that serve you for helping you out. This could be the grocery store clerk, the waitress, the bank teller, anyone that does something for you.
  4. Write a thank you note to someone that you appreciate. A handwritten note is great, but an email will do.
  5. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile and tell them why you are grateful for them.
  6. Tell the people that you work with why you are grateful for how what they do makes your life easier.

I challenge all of you to keep a gratitude journal for 21 days. Nothing fancy is needed here. Just get a notebook of some sort, and start focusing on gratitude. This may be difficult at first, and you may not know what to write. That’s OK. It gets easier. At Thanksgiving we tend to think about the big things we are grateful for, a gratitude journal is a chance to notice all of the little things.

A gratitude journal tends to be written at the end of the day. Before you retire at night, think of all the things that happened throughout your day. Write down all of the things that you are grateful for. If you can’t think of anything that happened, you might even write down something that didn’t happen. For instance, “I’m grateful that I didn’t have to do any laundry today.”

It might also help to focus on specific areas each day. Thing of the major categories in your life, and write about what you are grateful for in each area. An example would be:

  • My husband went to work late today so I got to spend the morning with him
  • My dog is getting more and more used to going outside at our new house
  • My son said the words “eight” and “nine” while we counted to ten today
  • My family: My mom helped out today while we finished up moving to our new house.
  • My job: Today was Saturday so I took the day off to enjoy our new home.

This method really helps on days when for instance, I might be frustrated with my husband, and I can refocus on why I am really grateful for him.

I have to admit that I haven’t kept a gratitude journal in a long time. I’m looking forward to doing this again, and want to hear from you about how things change in your life when you commit to an attitude of gratitude.

Challenges positive thinking

21 Days Starts Now

Green Light

Positive change can start any time. Creating a new habit or breaking an old one can start now.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided to start a new behavior on a Monday or the first of the month or the first of the year. Often it never starts at all.

If you’re waiting until you mind is ready, you may never take action at all. I’ve heard it said that

“You can’t think your way into right action. You have to act your way into right thinking.”

If you see a challenge on this site that speaks to your heart, start today. You are never behind. No need to worry that you didn’t start a challenge at the same time as “everyone else.” You are starting exactly when you are supposed to start.

What are you waiting for? 21 Days Starts Now! Go!

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15 Minutes

15 Minute Limit

Even 15 minutes can seem like forever when trying to work something new into an already-busy schedule. If 15 minutes seems like forever, try setting a timer so you don’t have to watch the clock tick by.

This could be a:

  • Kitchen timer
  • Alarm Clock
  • Oven Timer
  • Cell phone alarm
  • Cool Timer (free download for your desktop)

On the other hand, 15 minutes could seem like not enough time to get anything done.

Here are some things you can get done within 15 minutes:

  • Bake a potato in the microwave
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Fold a load of laundry and start a new load in the washer
  • Walk a mile
  • Take a shower
  • Talk to a friend
  • Write in your journal
  • Drive just about anywhere if you live in Rochester NY
  • Read a chapter in your book
  • Read an entire children’s book (or two)–read it to yourself if you don’t have kids—trust me—it’s fun
  • Vacuum a few rooms
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Take pictures of someone you love (could even be yourself)
  • Tell as many people as possible that you love them

I found this great 15-minute exercise video that involves nothing more than your body, a wall, and a chair. That’s my kind of workout!

How will you spend 15 minutes today? Do It Now! Go!

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List it, Date It, Prioritize it, Time it, Do It, Check It

A To Do list isn’t much help if it’s only a list of things to do that never get done. I actually have a To Do book where I keep a perpetual To Do list. Most of the time I just keep adding to the list, and checking things off as I do them. Sometimes I write the same thing down again (sometimes several times) so I don’t have to flip back as many pages in my book. I might even star something that seems really important. If it’s vitally important, I star it and write a note that says “#1 Priority.” Today I did something a little different.

If stuff on your To Do list never seems to make it to your Did It Now list, then try doing this:

List It: Make a list of everything you need to do. Deadlines don’t matter. If it’s in your head, get it out of there and on paper.

Date It: Give each task a deadline. Does it need to be done today, or next week, or next month?

Prioritize It: For all the things that need to be done TODAY, prioritize each item in order of importance to YOU. Continue numbering with items that can wait a little bit.

Time It: Sometimes the reason I put things off is because I think it’s going to take longer than it actually does. Estimate how much time you think it will realistically take for you to complete, and assign a time value to each item. Then actually time yourself for a reality check. Does it actually take an hour to unload the dishwasher? Nope! It takes 3 minutes!

Do It: Start with #1 on your list and work your way down. Do it now!

Check It: Once complete, check it off your list, and add it to your Did It Now list at the end of the day.

By the end of today, I’ve checked off 6 of the 16 things on my list (#1, 2, 3, 5 [which I delegated], 10, plus one that I forgot to number, but it was starred). Number 1 & 3 have been on my list for weeks. Feels great to have them done!

Of course I did do more things than the 6 things I checked off my To Do list. I will capture those on my Did It Now list, because I’m happy about getting those things done too.

Tomorrow I’ll add more things to the list, reprioritize, and start all over again.

Do it now!

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Continue the challenge

Try It For 21OK, so I have a confession to make. As I mentioned before, I originally had the idea for the no complaining and no gossiping challenge from a book I’m reading called “The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity” by Edwene Gaines. She put the challenge out of 21 consecutive days of no complaining or gossiping.

I modified it a bit here to make it 21 days of trying to not complain or gossip. Over the past 21 days I did OK most of the time, but did have a few lapses.

I must say that after 21 days of no complaining or gossiping, it has become a bit more natural to think of things more positively and to watch my words before they come out of my mouth. I have gained a greater awareness of the negative thoughts as they pop into my head, thus giving me the opportunity to steer them to the positive side.

So, I look at this 21-day challenge as a beginning to more positive thoughts. I will strive everyday to not complain or gossip. This is one challenge worth continuing!

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Domino Effect

Try It For 21I’ve noticed a domino effect over the past 20 days. I’ve been telling everyone about my 21-day challenge of no complaining and no gossiping.

Here’s the typical response I get when I first tell someone what I’m doing:

  1. A blank look
  2. Some nervous laughter
  3. A contemplative look
  4. A statement like: “I’m not sure I could do that!”
  5. Stories about how complaining & gossiping has negatively impacted their life.
  6. A resolve to try it out.

Something else that happens: they immediately stop complaining and gossiping. At least for a moment.

The next time I run into them, they ask me how the challenge is going, and tell me they’ve told someone else about it. This is just an example that when we choose to think and act with integrity, we give the opportunity to those around us to do the same.

New challenge coming up tomorrow!

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First Thought, Second Thought, Right Action

Try It For 21Hopefully everything we say or do occurs as a thought first. This means that we have at least a brief opportunity to decide if what we are thinking should be said out loud or acted upon.

Many people have the misconception that they should be able to control their initial thought and become upset when they have any negative thought. In reality, we cannot control our first thought. However, we can decide what to do with that first thought. Assuming that this first thought is negative, we can:

  1. hold onto the thought, and nurse it until it become s so big that it feels real, and act accordingly; or
  2. replace the thought with a second, more positive thought, and act according to that.

Since we cannot control whether or not we have an initial negative thought, our only hope for thinking more positively is to take responsibility for the second thought and the action we take (or don’t take) as a result of our thoughts.

By repeatedly replacing negative with positive thoughts and acting on the positive thought, we can slowly turn our first thoughts to the more positive side.  Eventually, we can think a negative thought, bless it (or even laugh at it), and replace it with a positive thought.

Here’s an example: Someone cuts you off while you’re driving in traffic and nearly causes an accident.

Initial Thought: Jerk! Who do you think you are?!

Typical Second Thought: You nearly killed me! I hope you have a terrible day!

Typical Resulting Action(s): Yell and scream, flip them the bird, speed up the car, general road rage.

Domino Action: The other person becomes defensive, starts screaming back, feels terrible about nearly causing an accident, and drives away feeling anxious and angry.

Alternate Scenario:

Initial Thought: Jerk! Who do you think you are?!

Alternate Positive Thought: Thank heavens we didn’t have an accident. It could have been much worse. They must be just as scared as me. I hope that person has a better day.

Right Action: Intentionally SMILE at the person that cut you off. Drive more carefully.

Domino Action: The other person is disarmed by your smile, smiles back, takes a deep breath, drives away feeling grateful and humble. Throughout the day they tell people about the person they cut off that smiled at them.

How does this apply to you? What initial negative thought can you replace with a second, positive, thought and right action? Don’t worry if this doesn’t come naturally. You are human. Just keep trying!

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Don't I have the right to complain?

Try It For 21I’ve noticed that every time I think about complaining, and remember that I’ve committed to not complaining, it forces my brain to think differently. More specifically, it boils everything down to two choices:

  1. Accept the situation exactly as it is; or
  2. Take an action to change the situation that does not require expecting someone else to also act.

Here’s an example. I used to get mad every time my husband didn’t take out the garbage. My old reaction was to complain that he didn’t do what I wanted him to do. This would make him defensive, and me feel mean as I was complaining. Without the option to complain, here are my choices:

  1. Be grateful that we have so much abundance that we’ve generated garbage and leave it to rot; or
  2. Take out the garbage, while at the same time dropping the expectation that my husband should take out the garbage.

Notice, that only MY attitude and MY action changed here. The difference this makes is enormous. I’m happy that the garbage is out of the house, and I have not created a second issue regarding another person that may or may not care if the garbage is in or outside of the house. Everyone is happier.

More later on how changing our thoughts, words, and actions can have a domino effect on changing the thoughts, words, and actions of those around us…

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Complain & Gossip Defined

Try It For 21When I tell people that I’ve taken a challenge to not complain or gossip for 21 days, I often get questions about what is complaining or gossiping anyway?

My definitions:

Complain: Complaining is when you talk about a problem for the sake of talking about it. It may include blaming circumstances or other people. There is little to no talk about a solution, and usually no willingness to live the solution.

Gossip: Gossip cannot occur in a vacuum. Gossiping is the act of two or more people talking about another person or group of people that are not present for the conversation, and therefore unable to defend themselves. Gossiping is often done in the spirit of feeling superior to the person(s) being talked about or to. For instance, it may “feel good” to know some bit of juicy information before anyone else and can make the messenger feel smart for knowing it first.

Dictionary Definitions:

Complain (from

1. to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault: He complained constantly about the noise in the corridor.

2. to tell of one’s pains, ailments, etc.: to complain of a backache.

3. to make a formal accusation: If you think you’ve been swindled, complain to the police.

Gossip (from

to talk idly, esp. about the affairs of others; go about tattling.

What do these words mean to you?

Challenges positive thinking

The First 21 Days

Try It For 21Please join me in my first challenge to *not complain or gossip* for 21 days. I recently learned that 90% or more of our thoughts are negative. What if we could change that by even a little bit?

By not complaining or gossiping, I hope to begin to talk and think more positive, thereby fostering positive thoughts and actions from myself and those around me.

I got this idea from a book I’m currently reading called “The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity: A Simple Guide to Unlimited Abundance” by Edwene Gaines.

Are you up for the challenge?