3 Lil Things
I love jamming on stage with the Black Eyed Peas, head bagging to Metallica, or sitting on the dock of the bay with Jack Johnson, but I’m addicted to the old raspy voice of Diane Rehm and the rest of the amazing NPR crew that make me smarter every time I invite them to take over my air waves.
One morning drive to work in early 2011 completely changed my prespective on life. (When I say “completely changed my perspective on life” I mean exactly that.) I was listening to an interview of Lisa Napoli, a NPR reporter at KCRW in Santa Monica, who was describing her travels to Bhutan and thankfully I tuned in just in time to hear Lisa describe the 3 Good Things exercise. In her own words:
…Johnny assigned an exercise that really started to bring the jumble in my brain to order. It was a simple nightly ritual, and it taught me how to appreciate life in the most basic terms.
“I want you to keep a notebook by your bed,” he said. “And every night, before you go to sleep, I want you to review your day. Make a short list of three things that happened that were good.” “What if three good things didn’t happen?” several of us asked in unison. Clearly, we weren’t naturally wired with a positive way of looking at the world.
“Well, that’s the point,” he said. “This exercise challenges you to ﬁnd three good things in each day. They don’t have to be big things. In fact, most of the time they’re not going to be big things. Big, important things don’t happen to us every day. Winning an award, getting married, starting a new job, going on vacation. It’s the big spaces of time in between those monumental events that make up life. Right? The idea here is that little things have power. An interaction with someone in an elevator, or a clerk in a store. Small victories, like ﬁxing something that’s been annoying you in the house. Going for a really long run. I want you to see that every single day, three good things do happen. It will help you discover that goodness exists all around us, already.”
You could feel the more skeptical of the class participants sigh. They wanted a different formula for happiness than that, the equivalent of a diet pill for the spirit. A “do this, do that, don’t do this” list of action points, where they could just ﬁll in the blanks and come out on the other end in a matter of weeks, angst-free—blissful. But what Johnny said resonated with me, immediately. An image of my UPS man popped into my mind’s eye, one of the few consistent characters in my life; each day, he delivered packages to both my apartment building and the ofﬁce complex just across the street that housed my employer, a public radio show. Even though our exchanges rarely amounted to anything more than pleasantries and chatter about the weather, his kindly presence was often one of the day’s highlights. Especially when I was working the graveyard shift and trying to adjust to sleeping during the day, he was often the most pleasant human interaction I’d experience.
People wouldn’t be all I’d consider for my three good things. Since I’d moved to Los Angeles, no matter how uneventful or difficult the day had been, I’d marveled at the dance of light at sunset from my apartment on the eighteenth floor. That would undoubtedly make it onto my lists.
One of the more optimistic in our group asked, “What if you have more than three good things?”
“Lucky you!” said Johnny, laughing. “Well, write them all down. But try to pick the top three. ..”
Read the rest of this excerpt from Lisa’s book, Radio Shangri -la, starting on page XVIII of the preface.
I guess due to the simplicity of the exercise I started doing it that night posting this message on Twitter and Facebook: “3 of the many things I’m grateful for today: 1. Super Mario Brothers 2. Spinach at lunch time and 3. No allergies. U?” I quickly realized how powerful this form of positive thinking is and wanted to share with others as Lisa shared with me so I started the 3 Lil Things website and the 3 Lil Things Facebook page. Although the “lil” part is essentially a mistake, because I had forgotten the exact name Lisa called the exercise, I’m happy I changed it. Focusing on little things to be thankful for is the key to realizing that our lives are full of blessings even on the worst days. Here are a few example how how the world looks through the 3 lil things prism:
I wrecked my car! becomes I’m thankful that I’m alive!
I spilled coffee and it ruined my suit!!! becomes Thank God the coffee wasn’t hot enough to scald the family jewels!!
You get the point. It’s that simple. This super easy and powerful exercise is especially handy when you’re having a bad day!