Violet’s Gratitude Challenge
Day #1 – Today you start The Gratitude Challenge. Sign the contract and make a commitment to take note and give thanks for the next 21 days. Express why you accepted this challenge and what you hope to achieve from it.
I accepted the gratitude challenge because I find it all too easy to focus on negativity in my life – What I don’t have, reasons to feel angry or blue, imperfections, etc. That’s no way to live. They say that any habit takes at least three weeks to stick with a person for the long run, and I cannot think of a better habit to acquire than a sense of gratitude. I hope that by the end of this challenge, I will become more aware and appreciative and learn to focus more energy on what I DO have in my life, great or small.
Day #2 – Use the alphabet as a fun and quick format for making a list of things for which you feel grateful. Share this list with your social network through email, a blog post or a Facebook or MySpace page.
(I’m not going to do the entire alphabet, but here are some of the major things that come to mind as I write:)
A – Amy – my super-smart sister (who I have often compared to as a combination of Lisa Simpson and Daria Morgandorfer). If she weren’t my sister, I’d still want to be her friend. Cool person, very cool.
C – My child, Sebastian, who never ceases to amaze me with his innocence, mischief, curiosity, evolving personality, and sweet smile.
F – Fede, my husband of nearly 3 years and best friend in the entire world. Intelligent, loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, and handsome (among other qualities!).
H – Home – Specifically our apartment, which is my sanctuary from the outside world and oftentimes favorite place to be.
L – Literacy – If it weren’t for my ability to read and to write, my life would be a whole lot bleaker. Not everyone in the world has this privilege.
M – My mom. The best mom in the entire world!
S – Sushi– It’s super expensive, so I can only afford this treat once in a while, but it is so gosh-darn delicious!
T – Teaching – More than just a career, but a part of my identity. It’s not an easy job, but it has its undeniably gratifying moments.
Q – The music of Queen – Always puts me in a good mood during my morning commute.
Day #3- Write about something you feel grateful for in your life today.
(I kind of woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, so this is a good exercise for me)… Something that I feel grateful for in my life today is my family. Waking up when you are in love with someone is a wonderful feeling, it gives you something to look forward to, to motivate you, to make you want to make the most of your day, every day. How lucky I am that I am so in love with my husband (and vice-versa). My precious son also motivates me to want to be the best person that I can be. I want to be a role model for him and someone who he can look up to. I feel that a part of that includes continuing to work on myself from the inside out. It can be a tiring and seemingly never-ending process, but I know that it is worth it. The happier and more whole that I am, the better I can care for Sebastian.
Day #4- Write a short message of thanks for some of the “negative” things in your life.
One of the most “negative” things that stands out are cruel, toxic people whom I have encountered throughout my life. I have been insulted, disrespected, judged, gossiped about, made fun of, and had my feelings disregarded, amongst other grievances. Oftentimes this made me miserable and depressed, sometimes dangerously so. However, by this point in my life, I am strong enough to understand that I cannot depend on the approval of others to be happy (“You can’t please all the people all the time.”). It’s better that I figure this out by age 31 rather than age 61.
Moreover, it makes me more conscientious about my treatment and attitude towards others. Students, friends, family members, coworkers, complete strangers, it doesn’t matter- I always to my best to treat others with respect and compassion, which was a kindness that I didn’t always receive that affected me deeply. Each person with whom I interact, even if I find them rude or annoying or just plain b*tchy, I do my best to treat them the way that I would want to be treated. I believe that it’s the least that I should do.
Day #5- Take five minutes to write about how grateful you are for all of the wonderful things that you currently have in your life. Don’t long for what you don’t possess—instead, take stock of all the blessings you already enjoy.
I am have a lot to be thankful for. I am fortunate that I have not only a job (especially considering the economic crisis that is affecting so many), but a job that is directly related to what I studied in my university and always wanted to do. Teaching is a job that is stimulating, challenging, rewarding, allows me to use my abilities and skills and interact with a variety of undoubtedly *interesting* people on a daily basis. It’s a career that I can see myself in for the long-haul. Moreover, it allows me to help provide for my family, who I value and love. We are not wealthy by any standards, but we have all of our needs met and aren’t living hand-to-mouth. I have a lot to be grateful for!
Day #6- Take a few minutes to call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Tell them how much you appreciate them.
In response to today’s activity, I called my mom- one of my favorite people on the planet. Without telling her why, I simply let her know, “I love you, Mom, and I appreciate how you have always supported me and helped me whenever I have needed it. You’re the best.” I should do this more often!
Day #7 – Take a picture of one thing, person, place or specific moment that makes you feel grateful. Share it with your social network.
There is no doubt that I am grateful for my son, my bambino, my little man, my pride and joy, my cerdito, my Sebastian Gunther! He has brought so much light and happiness to my life, that life before him seems incomprehensible. He is healthy, happy, and developing and growing every day. Who could possibly ask for more?
Day #8 – Send thank you notes to five people who deserve a little recognition.
Due to school-wide standardized testing this week, I have an extra planning period today. During that extra hour or so, I plan on taking the time to write some positive emails home for 5 of my students. It is going to take a while, since I don’t want these emails to be generic or general, but I know that it will be worth it!
Day #9 – Enjoy the people around you. Take a moment to appreciate their unique talents, abilities and personalities.
I am very fortunate to work with a diverse group of people, both kids and adults. They come from countries from all over the world (Argentina, South Korea, Canada, China, Colombia, Brazil, France, Mexico, Ecuador, and Spain, just to name a few), and the vast, vast majority of them give me something to look forward to when I come to school each day. Though there are times I am overwhelmed by everything that I have to take care of and accomplish at work, the people who I work for, with, and around make it a worthwhile and meaningful endeavor. Everyone from the security guards to my principal to my students are easy to get along with, pleasant, and make me grateful for where I work and what I do.
Day #10 – Pick one of your five senses to focus on each day. Take note of how many gifts come to you via that single port of entry. Write about this experience.
Of all my senses, I am particularly dependent on my sense of sight. With my sense of sight, I am able to witness and experience so much on a daily basis, starting from the moment I wake up: My cuddly cat, Alfajor, my books that I read in the morning to start my day, my son’s mischievous smile, and the sunrise. I am so lucky that my school faces east and is right on the edge of the Rio de La Plata towards Uruguay. It makes for some incredible sunrises!
Day #11- Try to see the world through the eyes of a child. Think about the things you take for granted on a daily basis, and then express gratitude for everything down to the basic necessities that sustain your current life.
There are a lot of smaller details that I overlook at times that make my day a lot more pleasant. From the minute I wake up, I am in my comfy bed, cocooned in my warm, fuzzy brown fleece blanket that I love so much. Because I wake up so early, each morning, I am able to take my time to enjoy a leisurely cup of either pipping hot coffee with milk or a steaming Twinning’s Earl Grey tea (my favorite tea in the world!). Even on the days when I feel I have to drag myself into school, the security guards at the gate always greet me with a sincere smile and ask me how I am, which helps start the day on a more positive note. My students, as crazy as they can be at times, often say things during the day that crack me up and can change the course of the school day for the better. Yesterday, for example, one of my students in my homeroom insisted that you say, “God bless you” in response to a sneeze because a sneeze is actually your soul trying to escape, but uttering those three magic words crams it back up in your nose again (!!!). There was also the time when my class asked me if they could sing Christmas songs… in the month of May! I hope that these kids never lose their creativity, sense of humor, or unique way of looking at the world.
Day #12- Today, make the effort to live life with a positive outlook. Restrain from criticizing the people around you. Dare to see the glass half full. Listen more than you speak. Give freely of yourself. Practice kindness at every opportunity.
Seeing the glass half full… okay. I guess that means something like this: Today, my morning commute was plagued with heavy rain, ghastly gusts of wind that splattered water everywhere, thunder, and lightening (the kind of weather that makes you want to retreat back into your warm, welcoming bed for the rest of the day!)… but seeing the glass half full could be that, although I cannot control the weather, at least I was able to get a coveted seat on the bus and could turn on the heating in my classroom when I arrived this morning to dry off. Or the fact that despite the crappy weather, at least it’s Friday, which means after school, I get to see my therapist (who is absolutely great) for my bi-weekly visit. While there, I can vent all I need to and “discharge” from the work week in a healthy way before I go home to be with my son and my husband for the weekend. Today, I will do my best to practice continuing being positive (though still realistic).
Day #13- Pick three friends or family members you see regularly. View their actions and gestures through a positive lens, assuming their goodness and witnessing their best intentions.
Today, we went to my mother-in-law’s house. Keeping in mind the Gratitude Challenge, I was able to view what they did and what they said with a different set of eyes. I am very fortunate that we all get along very well to begin with, but on this day, I was more aware of “the little things” that really make them my family, not just my “in-laws.” It could be the warm way that my mother-in-law always greets me with a hug when I come to the house, or the way that my sister-in-law dotes on Sebastian and interacts with him that makes both of us smile.
Day #14 – It’s been two weeks since you started The Gratitude Challenge. Write about how The Challenge has changed your perspective thus far.
In the past two weeks since I have started the Gratitude Challenge, I do admit that I have begun to be more conscious of the smaller details that I often take for granted. It’s not about being a Pollyanna (I wouldn’t want my Gratitude Challenge not to be genuine), but rather being appreciative for the small blessings that are both predictable in my life as well as the sporadic, random ones. Life is something that is very impermanent, and as I’ve always firmly believed, anything can change, for better or worse, in less than a day.
Day # 15- Take the time to focus on yourself. Appreciate and give thanks for your unique personality, skills and talents.
My personality? I would describe that in a nutshell as quirky, thoughtful, and kind, among other virtues (though I definitely have some more negative traits, but I will not focus on negativity in this post). My skills and talents? I suppose the old adage is true- you like what you’re good at and you’re good at what you like- in this case, my ability and love of teaching comes to mind.
Day # 16- Stand in front of the mirror for five minutes and focus on at least five things that you love about yourself. Write them down.
This is by far one of the most challenging writing prompts that I have encountered so far in the Gratitude Challenge.