So I am taking on a challenge….
It stems from a podcast I listened to earlier this week on Freakonomics Radio. This episode titled “Why Is My Life So Hard?” was centered on a paper the guests published called “The Headwinds/Tailwinds Asymmetry: An Availability Bias In Assessments Of Barriers And Blessings.” In the paper, they study why everyone tends to believe their road is more difficult than others. This is something I’ve noticed and pondered before. Obviously, these dudes have wondered the same thing and figured out a way to get paid for an answer. Color me jealous.
We all do it in one way or another. It’s natural. Some common examples were “Why you think your parents were tougher on you than your siblings,” “Why both sides of the political aisle are convinced the deck is stacked against them,” “Why our profession is more demanding than others” etc. The tendency is to notice the obstacles (headwinds) without paying attention to strengths or positives (tailwinds). Even if we do notice the tailwind, appreciation is fleeting. One analogy they mentioned that resonated was a running with a strong wind in your face. When heading into the wind, it’s the bane of your existence. After finally turning around, and the wind is at your back, the appreciation lasts for only a moment until thought turns to the next hill that’s in your way.
Eventually, they got to the point which I will now as well. The people they find are the most balanced and successful are those that continually show gratitude to the tailwinds. Showing gratitude, more specifically, documenting the good fortune that has helped you along the way, creates a symmetrical counterbalance and highlights strengths that may be underappreciated. The context can be anything, but it needs to be specific. It can’t be just “I appreciate my health.” This claim might be true but what specifically do you appreciate about it? Same thing goes for people. You can’t just appreciate a person, what is it about them or what did they do that you appreciate? If you want to double down, they suggest letting the person know. Besides emotional vulnerability, what’s the harm in letting someone know they made a positive impact? For some reason, we rarely do this enough.
Let’s be honest; I have it harder than any of you. I’m kidding of course. At my core, I am well aware that I am extremely fortunate in more ways than I can count. That being said, I am not above contradicting myself and admitting that, I sometimes lose sight of my tailwinds and it seems like I’m swimming uphill. If you are with me, let me hear you say, “Go ahead with your hypocritical self Jack!!!”
Taking all this into consideration, I thought I’d conduct a little experiment. I am taking on a challenge with a friend of mine to acknowledge one tailwind every day for 30 days. To make it stick, we decided it needs to be in a public forum. I will probably use this blog. I’ve been told I can be a bit long winded with the words. This will be great practice in constructing short, concise, deeply profound, impactful, one thought posts. We’ll see how that works….
To be clear; what this is not:
- With the exception of my girls dominating the CYO U-14 Soccer season, 2016 was a very difficult year for several reasons. This 30-day effort is not a cry for help or an effort to recover from a tumultuous downslide. I’m fine. I just had an idea and thought I’d see where it goes.
- This exercise is not comfortable. It probably should be, but for some reason, it’s not. Which seems all the more reason to take on the challenge.
- This gratitude is not to be confused with satisfaction. Appreciating something doesn’t mean I’m going to settle for mediocrity when I know it can be better.
- This is not a comprehensive list, nor is it in order. I don’t have it written as of yet; I intend to go with what presents itself along the way.
This is by no means a solitary effort. If you would like to join me and potentially start my first viral movement, please feel free.
Who knows; maybe if we use social media for some positive energy, instead of venting about political headwinds, or telling me “You’re not going to believe what happens next in this video,” …… the world might just be a better place.
I’d be interested to know; what are your tailwinds and do you appreciate them?