December 17, 2018
It’s that time of year again.
As 2018 comes to a close, people are reflecting, projecting, expecting, and, perhaps, regretting. A lot of my friends are posting their year-end videos on Facebook, giving everyone a look at the highlights of the past 12 months. All of that stuff has me thinking about perspective, and how what you focus on can bring you down or pull you up. I’ve been as guilty as anyone of dwelling on the negative at times, but I’m slowly but surely learning to shift my thoughts to better and more useful places.
With that in mind, I’ve come up with an exercise that I’m calling Five Good Things. It’s pretty simple: Take a few minutes and think of five good things that happened to you or that you experienced in 2018. They don’t have to be life-changing things. You don’t have to have fallen in love or got a promotion or won the world championship. Even a going to a movie that you liked with a friend qualifies as a good thing that happened to you. In fact, I think you should pay special attention to those small events and moments and learn to appreciate how much they enrich your life.
I’ve been extremely fortunate. Playing music like I do – close to 100 shows this year – gives me lots of potential high points (and a few low ones, but that’s the way it is in any job). Of course there’s more to my life than just music. There are other simple day-to-day pleasures that may sometimes get overlooked, and again, they’re worth paying attention to.
Here are five good things I have on my list from the past year, in no particular order:
Frank the kitten wound up in our home through a serendipitous and unexpected set of circumstances.
I saw Ghost, one of my favourite bands, in Toronto and was absolutely blown away.
I recorded an album for singer/songwriter Phil Glennie with some good friends and awesome musicians.
That’s five things just off the top of my head, without even mentioning touring in eastern Canada and Europe with Sarah, or playing shows with Carly Thomas and Lindsey & The Lonelies and The Three and others. I’ve had inspiring and memorable coffee sessions with friends new and old. I was interviewed on the Drumgab podcast. I saw a dinosaur at a birthday party and a Chihuahua wearing a tuxedo at a wedding. I had a fender bender that, while not so good on its own, was the result of avoiding a head-on collision that would very possibly have been fatal (red means stop, people, not accelerate).
Have I had down times?
That’s the point and the lesson I’m learning. In the midst of all of this goodness, I’ve also had some periods of dark thinking and feelings of powerlessness and frustration. It would be easy for me to look back on the past year and get caught up in what went wrong or didn’t happen at all. The thing about negativity is that it can consume you. It can rule you if you let it. It has a power and a seductiveness that is extremely heavy and enduring. I’ve had to wrestle it off my shoulders more than once this year and it hasn’t been easy.
Putting your focus on positive things can help. No, I’m not suggesting you deny reality or that you can simply think or ignore your suffering away. I’m just asking you to look for five happy things to tilt the balance. Five moments or memories that make you stop and say, “That was good,” even if things seem bad. And if you want to take the next step, try to figure out why those things were good for you and get more of them into your life in 2019.
Acknowledge the negative, but focus on the positive.
Find the silver linings.
Make a habit of thinking about the good things and see the difference it can make.