My Morning Ritual that Helped Me Complain Less, Appreciate More, and Live a Better Life

In grad school, I learned a powerful concept that I continue to use to this very day. It’s called Appreciative Inquiry. It’s a widely underestimated change management approach. Consider problem solving. The traditional approach is to look at the problem, do a diagnosis and find a solution. The focus is on what is broken or wrong. We always look for what isn’t working and of course we find them. Appreciative Inquiry, on the other hand, focuses on what is working already within an organization. It is about identifying the positive core or strengths and connecting it to the vision.

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All that to say, this concept didn’t simply become one of those management techniques, but rather a central tool of my life. I started trying out this simple exercise every morning and I noticed changes. I began to live more appreciatively. I hope you find this tool helpful. Jackie Kelm, the author of Appreciative Living shares this powerful example of how to shift your focus. This has been a morning ritual I’ve recently implemented.

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Morning Ritual: Shifting Focus

Primary Purpose: Shift attention to what you want

Time: 20 minutes the first day, then 5 minutes daily.

Activity: Pick a person or area of your life where you are experiencing difficulty. We grow in the direction of what we persistently ask questions about, and this exercise helps us create more effective questions.

1. List what you don’t like or want. 

  • I hate doing laundry.
  • Joe is stingy and I don’t like going out with him.

2. Determine what it is you really do want in this situation. 

  • I want a pleasant laundry experience.
  • I want to enjoy my time out with Joe.

3. Create questions that help you look for and create more of what you want. For example: 

Laundry

  • What small change can I make today that will make the laundry more pleasant?
  • What do I enjoy or like doing, and is there any way to incorporate some aspect of this into my laundry activity?
  • What strengths do I have that I can leverage in doing the laundry?
  • What best practices are out there for doing laundry?

Joe

  • What do I enjoy most about going out with Joe?
  • What are Joe’s greatest strengths and gifts?
  • What do I appreciate most about Joe?
  • What change can I make, no matter how small, that will help me enjoy my time more with Joe?

4. Pick at least one new question from step 3 to ask each day, or each time the situation arises, and give the answer serious consideration. Your behavior may not change at first, but your thoughts will be shifting. Your behavior should eventually shift in response to your focus on what you want, as long as you sincerely keep asking and answering the new situation. 

Variation: List the bigger obstacles you believe are in your way of what you want. These are your underlying limiting assumptions. For example, “Laundry is boring, monotonous task that I have to do every week.” Challenge at least one limiting assumption in your new question. For example:

  • What could I try with my laundry chore this week that would make it more interesting and enjoyable?
  • How can I go more than a week without doing laundry? What if I bought more clothes? What if I did it every day?
  • Do I have to do all my laundry? Could someone else do some or all of it? How else could I get clean clothes? Could I barter with someone?

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