Intentionally Looking for the Good

I’ve been listening to more and more meditation talks in the morning as I sketch. I find that they start my day in an optimistic and grateful mental state. In one of the talks I listened to today, Tara mentioned “intentionally looking to see the goodness” and it made me think a lot. She went on to say how we’re wired to see the bad. We’re wired to protect ourselves. To see danger.

But it ends up getting to you.

We don’t look to see the good around us. The good in others. The good in words said. I know that I have a tendency to hug the bad. I believe it more easily. I hold it closer to my heart. I think I have two reasons why I do this.

One is because I think that if I can imagine the very worst, when the bad happens it won’t hurt as much. I’ve already imagined the worst, so how bad can it get, right? Except that it can get much worse. Cause imagining the worst doesn’t actually compare to having it happen. It doesn’t prepare you. If the worst doesn’t actually happen, you wasted all those minutes, days, months imagining something that never happens. And if it does happen, you’re totally blindsided any way. Your life is upside down and it’s terrible. Because even when you do imagine the very worst, there’s a little part of you that thinks it will never happen. So when it does happen, you’re still totally crushed and devastated. So there’s almost no upside and a huge downside to this way of thinking.

The other reason I hold the bad stuff near is because I feel that remembering these will help me make decisions more carefully next time. It will prevent me from more bad stuff in the future. It’s like if I have a constant movie reel of my biggest mistakes in my head, I won’t make any more of them.

We all know how that works right?

Yep. When I think of all my mistakes, I get nervous all the time and I make even more mistakes. I am constantly scared and worried so I get stressed and the fight and flight response kicks in and takes all the blood away from my brain. Prefrontal cortex doesn’t work and I literally cannot think. So, clearly, the decisions I make in that state aren’t going anywhere productive.

So neither of these reasons are useful. Holding the bad stuff near and dear isn’t really helping me. But even more importantly, there’s an incredible amount of data that says looking for the good in your life actually makes you happier. Creating a daily gratitude practice makes people more wholehearted. Intentionally looking for the good changes your life.

What if we extended that to the people around you. What if we always looked for the good in others? Especially in those who annoy us. Especially in the people who try our nerves a bit. The ones for whom we hold anger. The ones that seem to always wrong us, etc. It’s easy to see the best in the ones we love. But if we just intentionally looked for the good in every single person around us, I bet it would completely change our life and our relationships. I love this idea and I want to give it a try. For the next few weeks, I will intentionally look for the good in everyone around me. I will assume the best but also really look to see what good I can see in each person I interact with.

I will also look for the good in my day-to-day life. My gratitude practice has fallen sideways and I want to intentionally bring it back. Now that I am feeling a bit better, too, I want to hold on to this and not let it go.

So here’s to a few weeks of intentionally looking for the good. Maybe you can join me?

10 comments to Intentionally Looking for the Good

  • sheri

    I see my own faulty thinking in what you are describing. I honestly think I am protecting myself by thinking of the worst.

    Great post!

  • sophie

    Oh yes, Karen, I will join you. My gratitude practice has fallen by the wayside this last few months, due to some difficult stuff happening but I do want to pick it up again. Your post had me nodding in agreement with you all the way through. I am also one to think of the worst in order to plan and be prepared. I have decided it is time I kicked the habit. Thank you for providing the incentive.

  • ruth

    Brilliant Karen – just what I needed.

  • Emie

    I started a gratitude journal just this week after reading your blog… also ordered Tara’s book….. THANKS for sharing!

  • Diane

    Your post today reminded me of another I read by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits In it he said to “Think, ‘I love you and I’m thankful for you’ to every single person today”. Here’s to looking for the good and being thankful!

  • Angie Menegay

    Such wise analysis… I’ll join you for sure 🙂

  • Kate Burroughs

    Great idea! Looking for the good everywhere really helps us realize how truly blessed we are!
    Aloha, Kate

  • Mel

    I love the idea of looking for good in those certain people, it is a challenge, and I like the idea of it. I’m going tol look for the good right along with you. Thanks Karen.

  • Hanna

    Oh Karen, I’m also doing this all the time, imagining terrible things. One of my favourite quotes are “It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.” I really believe that and I’m also trying each day to see all the good around me.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. You are truly an amazing inspiration!

  • Jane S

    Hey Karen,
    Yes, I am going to join you this week in intentionally looking for the good. I think it’s a great idea especially in starting my day off right. Thanks for posting this. I really like your idea of having visual reminders everywhere. I’m going to try that too. Thanks.

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