Tag Archives: practice

Warning: Gratitude may be Habit-Forming

Tom Hart, CC

You more likely act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action. –Jerome Bruner

Scientific research now shows that we are born with great capacity for altruism and thankfulness. Sure, we also have the capacity for selfishness, but watch very young children play. More often than not, you will witness giving, sharing, and compassion. Unfortunately, the myriad messages of our consumer culture conspire to rid us of this basic goodness by creating an insatiable desire for more in each one of us.

Kinder bei McDonald's CC

Immense sums of money are spent on market research, advertising, and wooing of children and teenagers, for where this demographic goes, so goes their parents’ money, time, and attention. Is it any accident that more children recognize Ronald McDonald than Jesus Christ? Christians believe that Jesus offers the ultimate “Happy Meal.” We have, however, neglected to point to this powerful truth and to make it as compelling and welcoming to come to our Lord’s meal as a fast food chain does for us to drive by for a paper sack full of cheap plastic and marginally nutritious food. But happy meals and Holy Eucharist are topics for another day; this post aims to explore the connection between actions and habits.

We are oh so carefully taught to desire what we do not have, to dispose of that which is perfectly good but no longer the newest and best, and to covet the possessions of our neighbors. Our possessions begin to possess us in a mad dash for more cash to buy more stuff and fill the holes in our hearts. We become slaves to our own will (Sound like something from corporate confession in the liturgy?) and cannot free ourselves from the rat race that enslaves us.

Here’s the thing: there is another way. This alternative path is not a new idea; in fact, God has been trying to get folks to understand this for thousands of years. Like anything, however, it has to be carefully taught. We cannot assume that children—and adults—are getting the message by osmosis or by spending one hour a couple of times a month in a worship service.

John Hoey, CC

Put simply, if I want to run a marathon, I can’t just buy the shoes and head for the starting line. It takes baby steps. I must spend months in training, conditioning my body and mind to run the race ahead. A great deal of regular practice and commitment precedes the event. The same can be said for playing an instrument, painting a picture, or building a house. The practice and preparation are foundational to success.

Cultivating gratitude and the will to live thankfully every day comes from doing it, practicing it, and reflecting on it. Thanksliving is a countercultural way of being; it exposes the lies of consumerism, materialism, and quite a few other “-isms” that prevent us from living life fully and joyfully. Thanksliving comes from a deliberate and inextricable combination of doing and being. The more one practices small and simple acts of gratitude, the more one becomes a grateful and joyful person. The more gratitude one practices, the more abundance one sees.

Take this as a warning and a challenge: Gratitude may be habit-forming. Try it. In doing so, you will change your life and this world for the better. Go on—commit to one small act of gratitude each day this week, this month, and then for the rest of this year. I am quite certain you will see a difference…and that difference will be you.

Photo Credits: Tom Hart, Kinder bei McDonalds, and John Hoey, Creative Commons. Thanks!

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MAKE IT A HABIT

Writing is habit forming. At least it should be. If you really want to write, make the effort to write every day. Put ink to paper or fingers to keyboard and spit out some words.

What you write doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or prize-winning, but it does have to show up on screen or page. The aim is to make your writing as natural and necessary as breathing, a necessary and needful part of your daily life.

How Many Words?

I’m not one to put forth a lot of hard and fast rules in answer to this question. Read a dozen books about writing and you’ll get at least half a dozen answers. Stephen King aims for 2,000 words per day (apx. 10 pages). I’m happy with a minimum of 500 and delighted with 2,000. If you need a number, grab one and go with it. If you don’t, simply make sure to write until you are satisfied or until your daily schedule dictates your company is needed elsewhere.

The more you write the easier it should be to up the word count. That said, some folks are simply slower or faster at the work of writing. Don’t force it; just do it.

When?

The answer to this question is as unique as you are. My best writing is usually done between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. Unfortunately, this doesn’t fly very well in real adult life. I’m slowly working my way into afternoon writing. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those chipper morning folks who rise with the chickens and don’t need a pot of coffee to unclog the neural pathways. Find your best time, and if it is at all possible given the demands of your life, make that your regular time for writing.

Where?

My  writing desk is a wooden folding TV tray just big enough for my laptop and water bottle or mug. I sit on a Gaiam exercise ball chair. My “desk” sits right beside the bedroom radiator in a corner. An unused center table leaf serves as a shelf on which I keep essential books, printer paper, and other related items. It’s not ideal, but due to our current home space usage, it’s my space and it works. Find something that works for you–simple or elaborate, elegant or shabby chic–and claim it as your writing world.

Why?

Do you really have to ask that question? Because you have to? Because you enjoy pain and suffering? Because you love words? Because it brings you pleasure unlike anything else? Because you’re a little bit crazy? Because . . . (you fill in the blank)? Only you can answer that silly question, and if you really have to ask it, maybe you better try crocheting or golf instead.

Photo by runran used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!