There’s a very powerful happiness-enhancing exercise called “3 good things.” That exercise involves making a note in your journal of three good things that happened to you each day for a period of time (say, fifteen days). Professor Seligman, who developed that exercise, found that 94 percent of those who had kept a record of three good things for a mere fifteen days showed a significant improvement in happiness levels. The exercise even lifted some of the people out of depression!
Like “3 good things,” this exercise too involves making a note in your journal of three good things that happened to you each day for a period of time (in this case, one week). However, there is a twist: I want you to make a note of those things that started out badly, but eventually turned good.
This can be a little tricky to understand, so let me give you some examples. Perhaps you were stuck in heavy traffic on the way to work (negative event). But because of this, maybe you got to hear a string of your favorite songs on the radio—songs you hadn’t heard in a while (positive consequence). Or, during lunch, you found that the meal that you ordered wasn’t tasty, which forced you to have a late-afternoon snack (negative event). But that led to bumping into an old friend whom you hadn’t seen in a while (positive consequence). In both examples, what started as a bad event later led to positive outcomes.
The idea in this exercise is to “connect the dots”—in hindsight—so as to recognize that almost every event that starts out negative paves the way for a positive consequence. Such recognition, in turn, can help mitigate the tendency to exhibit “post occurrence judgmentalism” and thereby, help nurture the “dispassionate pursuit of passion” (concepts I discuss in Chapters 6A and 6B of the book).
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