speed_limit_50I’m 50, according to my Birth Certificate. As my (otherwise lovely) elder daughter just said “How does it feel to be half a century, Dad?!”

Thing is, in my head I’m about 29.

This whole ‘growing up’ thing has come as something of a shock… and it’s been a heck of a year. So much has happened, a lot of it not good, that I’m finally beginning to understand why the ancient Chinese curse of “May you live in interesting times!” is actually a curse!

Until a few days ago I felt a bit beaten up, and very, very depressed. I wasn’t fighting back much when things went wrong – except out of pure stubborn-ness.

Why? Because as I cast my mind back over the year it had been such a bad one – I’d lost friends and contracts.

Fortunately, my wife (who if she’s reading this should be a officially recognised as a saint) reminded me of my year’s log. It’s not a diary as such, just a logging of the good things.

For good evolutionary reasons we’re programmed to remember the bad times more easily than the good, so keeping a log of the good times/things/activities/outcomes/moments helps to balance this tendency. For the life of me I can’t remember the researcher who recommended it (but if I had to guess I’d say it was Prof Martin Selegman) but I’ve found it to be a remarkably useful tool for putting the negative memories in context.

Of course, it’s easier said than done, so here are some tools and tricks to help you do it.

  • A paper diary. It’s easy to underestimate the value of good ol’ analogue. There’s something about writing things down with a good quality pen in a good quality book that feels better than just typing, no matter how cool your computer. I recommend you use a diary that has the days marked off in it, so that if you forget/miss a day you’ll see that you’ve done so. Jot down the good stuff – including (very importantly!) the days when nothing happened of particular significance. These are the days when nothing happened, when nothing went wrong. These are the days you’ll forget about otherwise, remembering only the ‘interesting/bad’ days.
  • A blog. You don’t have to publish it to the world if you don’t want to! What’s more, it’s got the added advantage of being with you everywhere you go (almost) so you can update it easily when you’re traveling etc. The downside is that it’s all too easy to neglect it if you’re under pressure – you might want to consider a plug-in that ‘nags’ you to write an entry
  • Your phone (or iPad). Speaking of nagging, why not just set your smartphone to nag you nag you when you go to bed? That way, you never forget to think about the good things at least once a day… What’s more, there are some handy apps which will help.
  • Children. If you’ve got young children that you put to bed still (bed time stories and ritual) it’s worth considering a good-things-debrief with them.  My kids are waaaaaay too old for this now (I go to bed before them) and I can’t promise it works because I’ve not tried it, but someone on one of our recent training courses recommended it – she said it worked really, really well for her. If she ever forgot, her daughter reminded her in no uncertain terms! 🙂
  • A simple wall calendar. Ticks and crosses on a calendar is a great visual reminder that the bad days (red crosses) are the odd-days-out when you see them surrounded by green ticks!

That’s it!  I’m sure you guys can think of a better, longer list. Whatever works for you, works!  The important thing isn’t how you record it but that you record it (in enough detail for you to get the idea of things going well and to put the bad days into context.

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