Don't Like Meditation? Try Gratitude Training. (Plus: Follow-up to "Testing Friends" Firestorm)

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Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and zen teacher once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., has a knack for making the esoteric understandable.

In discussing what some call “present state awareness”–experiencing and savoring the present—he offers a simple parable:

Let’s say that you want to eat a peach for dessert one evening, but you decide to only allow yourself this luxury after washing the dishes. If, while washing the dishes, all you think of is eating the peach, what will you be thinking of when you eat the peach?

The clogged inbox, that difficult conversation you’ve been putting off, tomorrow’s to-do list?

The peach is eaten but not enjoyed, and so on we continue through life, victims of a progressively lopsided culture that values achievement over appreciation. But let’s get specific.

If we define “achievement” as obtaining things we desire (whether raises, relationships, cars, pets, or otherwise) that have the potential to give us pleasure, let’s define “appreciation” as our ability to get pleasure out of those things. To focus on the former to the exclusion of the latter is like valuing cooking over eating.

How then, do we develop the skill of appreciation, which is tied so closely to present state awareness?

There are a few unorthodox tools that we’ve explored already for state awareness, like the 21-day no-complaint experiment, but the most common mainstream prescription is meditation.

The problem with meditation is that it too often gets mixed with mysticism and judgment (attempting to forcefully exclude certain thoughts and emotions). Who really wants to visualize a candle flame for 30 minutes? It can work, but it doesn’t work for most.

Here’s where we enter the 60-second solution: gratitude training. From Cornell to the University of Michigan, scientists are looking at the far-reaching effects of practicing gratitude just like exercise.

Here is one example from Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis and Dr. Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas:

“The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day… the second group recorded their unpleasant experiences, [and] the last group made a daily list of things for which they were grateful.

The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved.

McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another… McCullough suggests that anyone can increase their sense of well-being and create positive social effects just from counting their blessings.”

In practical terms, here is one example of how you can test the effects of gratitude training in less than 10 minutes over the next week:

From Thanksgiving to next Thursday, November 29th, ask yourself the following question each morning, immediately upon waking up and before getting out of bed:

What am I truly grateful for in my life?

Aim for five answers, and if you have trouble at first, ask yourself alternative probing questions such as:

What relationships do I have that others don’t?
What do I take for granted?
What freedoms, unique abilities, and options do I have that others don’t?
What advantages have I been given in life?
Which allies and supporters have helped me to get to where I am?

Thanksgiving shouldn’t just come once a year. Use it as a system restart and a chance to put your appreciation back on track with your achievement.

Don’t forget the peach… and Happy Thanksgiving!

###

Odds and Ends: Postscript to Test-Driving Friends

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Am I really a bastard? (photo (c) sgs_1019)

I returned from a media fast this weekend to quite a firestorm over my last post. Suffice to say, there have been more than a few flame wars.

I’d just like to point out a few things that are easily missed:

First, this is the “Experiments in Lifestyle Design” blog! I go out of my way to try unorthodox things for limited periods of time, after which I share what was interesting, what worked, and what failed. The 21-day no-complaint experiment is another good example. I covered AJ Jacobs’ attempt to follow the bible word-for-word for one reason: it’s thought-provoking and causes people to test assumptions about what can and can’t be done, not because I’m recommending everyone go out and stone adulterers, for example.

Some of what I explore will naturally be controversial because it’s unusual or even the opposite of common practice. I don’t do it for “flame baiting” (I can do without the headaches) but because that’s the nature of this blog. Test new things and share the outcomes. Some of it will be extremely effective and useful, some of it will be impractical but funny, and some of it will end up impractical in all but a few contexts. I just hope all of it is thought-provoking on some level.

Second, I find it funny that a few smart bloggers have personally attacked me with every 4-letter word under the sun, all in the name of criticizing how rude I am! One thing noticeably absent from my blog is personal attacks. It’s too bad that people who are otherwise civil sometimes use the informal nature of their blogs as an excuse to attack people instead of ideas. It’s a waste of intellectual horsepower. C’mon, guys. I’m not rude in person, and the blog post didn’t hurt anyone. Take a breather. Please don’t miss the end of the post in question, where I write:

“A good long weekend of getting lost with someone will reveal most of the character you need to see. No need to orchestrate bad service at a restaurant, for example, if you can achieve the same end doing something fun but uncontrolled.”

No need to get nasty. Happy Thanksgiving to all… including my dear attackers :)

Posted on: November 19, 2007.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

96 comments on “Don't Like Meditation? Try Gratitude Training. (Plus: Follow-up to "Testing Friends" Firestorm)

  1. Oh, I thought it was a great post, and definitely in keeping with the lifestyle experimentation ideal. It’s important to both eliminate toxic relationships, and to test one’s own comfort zones, so I think the topic was great. Meanwhile, it’s your cheeky, sometimes-irreverent tone which both sold the book, and apparently makes you happy.

    So, yes, 3 cheers on the test-driving post, 3 cheers for the civil riposte, and don’t let the flamers get you down :)

    Peter

    Like

  2. Hi Tim,

    I agree that appreciation is a powerful thing. I did this exercise with a slight variation for about a month at the beginning of the year. Each night before bed, me and my partner took turns asking each other and writing down what we were grateful for, as well as what we wanted to add to our lives.

    Sometimes the most interesting part of documenting such things is stumbling across them weeks, months or years later. Whether it’s intuition about my own life – or a form of self-fulfilling prophecy – I have frequently been astonished by the accuracy of my own statements.

    As far as meditation goes… when I was a freshman at ASU I stumbled upon a book called “The Orange Book of Meditation.” I don’t remember it well, but do remember one of the methods being to force yourself to laugh continuously until you’re not forcing it anymore. I’ve since done this in group Kundalini yoga settings and it is a riot! The point is, of course, to get beyond a pre-conceived notion of what meditation is – because it can literally be anything that serves your purpose.

    How do you know what will serve your purpose? If you don’t naturally have your own answer, you could consider finding a teacher. This is because some techniques are indicated for certain conditions, and some techniques might be contra-indicated. Tratak, or candle gazing as you’ve mentioned above, is a specific meditation with specific goals. It’s probably too much for me to go into in detail here, but it affects the mind, the physical eyes, and the “layers” of ourselves as outlined in yoga and ayurveda. Because it involves fire, it could be contra-indicated to anyone experiencing excessive fire in their lives – such as in the case of anger, a skin rash, or acid indigestion, for instance.

    Changing the subject, I just realized today from another person’s comment that your war ship party was Saturday night. Oddly enough, I dreamt about you for the 2nd time that night. In my dream, you were having a big party – but it was at a large 2-story white house with a pool rather than on a war ship. And, it was really dark all around. How weird is that? You’ve really got to stop stalking me on the astral plane. ;)

    Like

  3. Your advice on gratitude is very useful. So often we distract ourselves with what we want or don’t want and forget to be happy about what we already have.

    I do want to point out that meditation doesn’t have to be tied to ‘judgment or mysticism’, it also doesn’t require staring at candles. It’s simply the acquired skill of quieting the mind. A calm mind has a myriad of benefits, from better mental focus to less stress to increased happiness.

    I always find it interesting that people can easily work out 30 minutes per day to make their bodies physically fit, yet they can’t sit still with themselves and meditate for half that time to make their minds mentally fit. A physical workout may not be easy, but the benefits of having worked out are very positive. Meditation may not necessarily be easy as well, but the benefits are profound.

    Like

  4. ###

    Hi Geo,

    I completely agree that meditation doesn’t have to be tied to mysticism and judgment.

    The most effective types, in my opinion, aren’t at all. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for many people to get through all the misinformation to find them, hence the suggestion that gratitude training be considered as a simple alternative. Ideally, it would make the perfect compliment, not a replacement.

    All the best,

    Tim

    Like

  5. Dude.

    Please, please, please, don’t feel you need to respond to the crazy critics. They are just looking for attention or trying to rationalize some poor behavior of their own. None of the crazies are going to receive your explanations, and the super-enlightened (like me, of course) don’t need them. Just lay it out there. Hey – I might not choose to venture into a crowded market with you, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take the advice in the spirit intended.

    Like

  6. Hi Tim,

    Gratitude is a great virtue. But it often becomes a “should” and has a future oriented connotation too it. (“If I can just be grateful enough then …..”)

    There are also many misconceptions about mediation – which is often also taken up as an “end-goal” future-oriented practice. (Ironic, since it’s so often touted as being about “living in the now”!)

    I meditated for years with just this attitude until I realised that I wasn’t actually as peaceful in my daily life as I thought I would or “should” be.

    By luck, chance, or Grace, I was introduced to a series of meditations which are incredibly easy and effective, and which “work” in a short space of time – even for those who are *really* “time-poor”!

    Best Wishes,
    Tim

    Like

  7. Hi Tim,

    I am grateful for your unorthodox experiments and perspective.

    I feel it necessary to challenge any beliefs that I find active, because as Robert A. Wilson said, “belief is the death of intelligence.” You’ve helped discover some I may never have found.

    Thank you,
    alex

    Like

  8. I’ve been on a few meditation retreats where the first few days were spent on concentration (usually on the breath), then the next few days on ‘insight’ (vipassana) meditation where you simply (try to) stay present and notice what you notice – hopefully resulting in some moments of insight. After that, we moved on to ‘loving kindness’ (metta) meditation – where you hold other people in your awareness (friends, family, even people you’ve fallen out with) and wish them well.

    I remember noticing a feeling of disappointment when we moved onto the loving kindness meditation – as if part of me were saying ‘Oh well, we’ve finished the serious business of achieving insight, I’m not really sure about this touchy-feely stuff’. It’s amazing how easy it is to turn a spiritual pursuit into more ‘me me me!’ – wanting peaceful states of mind and insight for myself, instead of widening my awareness to include the bigger picture and other people.

    And the funny thing was, once I relaxed and focused on other people, and really felt that sense of gratitude you’re talking about, it suddenly became much easier to concentrate on my breathing, and the moments of insight started popping up all over the place…

    Thanks for a great reminder of that.

    Like

  9. Thanks so much for that great thanksgiving message. That actually just made my day. You are a REALLY good writer! Cheers!

    ps: am on the 3rd read of your book! It’s had a HUGE impact on my work and our company. (Much more risk-taking, big financial results, lots of sales energy, etc.)

    Like

  10. Excellent post. The Eckhart Tolle work “the power of now” also makes the message or meditation very accessible. He dismisses the notion of long stretches of meditation being required to have any real value…and suggests people work on 30-60 seconds when they can.
    I’ll be starting my gratitude log today. I greatly enjoyed the book and value the blog. Thanks!

    Like

  11. Hey Tim,

    Great advice on gratitude. Martin Seligman, the happiness movement’s big kahuna and a major researcher in the field has spent a lot of time on gratitude, too, and found that keeping a daily gratitude journal–waking every morning and quickly jotting down what you are grateful for–measurably increases overall happiness throughout the day.

    Also, on meditation, there are a wide array of practices that are very straight forward to learn (I teach many of them) and work well with the unfoofy set. In fact, a report last month out of the University of Portland showed researchers were able to create much of the benefit of long-term meditation in only 5-days practice with a technique they called IBMT (integrated body mind training).

    A fun way to play with mindfulness-based meditation, too, is to just focus deeply on enjoying each bite of food when you are eating. Then begin to broaden that out into small things throughout the day.

    Cultivating a seated meditation practice is a fair bit more challenging, but not only are the health benefits huge, it can also increase your creativity, problem-solving ability, executive function, reaction time and let you see things most everyone else misses. I write on this a lot and have collected a heap of research if you are ever interested.

    Thanks, again, for the great lead-in to Thanksgiving, have a great one!

    Like

  12. Happy Thanksgiving from Valencia, Spain
    from a fellow vagabonder, thanks to a country with a voice over industry which will forever provide me with students to teach English to
    thanks to yerba mate
    thanks to 350 days of sun (or more) a year
    and thanks for free hugs

    Like

  13. Tim,

    First of all, THANK you for your work, for all that you do and for inspiring the world around you!!! And although your post on gratitude was not necessary to prove that you’re not a bastard, it’s great to see it here and it provides a lil’ balance… If you or anyone else feels inclined to practice gratitude this week, please visit http://www.IAmThankful.com for a little inspiration.

    Here’s another thought. As I read your book, I thought “Wow, can I hire this guy for a week to get my butt in gear implementing this stuff?” That was immediately answered by “Of course not, he’s on a mini retirement!” Which is followed now by …. Are you training the trainers? Are there women who can teach and implement your concepts? Yes please! Friends are getting together in my very circle to work through the text and exercises as they apply personally. This is really rich and guidance would be much appreciated. I know of brilliant coaches who would gladly do just that… the 4Hr-Work-Week Life Transformation in action! I can’t possibly the first one to suggest that, right?

    It may be helpful for the more critical folks to step back and look at the bigger picture. What you are teaching is discernment, in a really big way. We are flooded with information and choices at an accelerating rate, our happiness and effectiveness are in direct correlation with our ability to say “no”, even (and especially) to a lot of things that are appealing, not just the unpleasant parts. Our attention is truly the most precious thing, impossible to measure, the currency of the New Rich and everyone else. Choose wisely.

    Thank you for living it all out and for creating such a ripple.

    Blessings and Happy Giving Thanks,
    Damaris

    Like

  14. It is amazing how internal iteration of memories can lengthen the decay of their associated feelings. Buddhists sure know how to get there feel on. Greatfullness is a killer elicitation tool.

    I’m currently experimenting with changing deep rooted beliefs to see how they can affect my internal experience. The idea started with a self induced hand levitation, which led to things like creating beliefs that I enjoy cold showers or a certain type of pain. However, I’m finding self created beliefs, although effective short-term, aren’t long lasting. Maybe because the knowledge of their fabrication lingers. More iterations needed?

    Any ideas on this?

    Also – love the book. Halfway through it. I’ve already restructured my German studies and started going to dance classes with my girlfriend.

    Love stretching the comfort zone.

    Like

  15. Tim, great last two posts.

    Very insightful about the gratitude training. I think there are lot of people in this world that gloss over the good things simply because they are bombarded by all of the negativity in the media. As you mention in your book, it’s good to fast, and just release yourself of that.

    Also, on the last post about test-driving, while it is initially out of my comfort zone, I think it was VERY thought provoking of how I actually view my relationships. So thank you, I believe that to be one of the best points out of it, whether the negative nellies want to think that, or it’s maybe that those critics just didn’t take a another minute to truly understand what you were saying.

    Great stuff. Thanks again for your thoughts.
    -bryan

    Like

  16. Hey Tim,
    Good post as usual. Very cool finding from the professors, this post reminded me of something I learned in a survival class I took in Colorado once. The instructor told us that by simply thinking of fire if you are lost in the cold, you can raise your body temperature! I never got lost to prove this, but I remember it to this day and in light of your research here it is a sound theory.

    PS – what did you say to your dog to make it look so sad?? :)

    -Erik

    ###

    Hi Erik,

    LOL… it’s not my dog! I just searched “sad dog face” on Flickr and found that beauty. Click on the link under the photo for more photos from the same person. It is the saddest dog face I have ever seen.

    Tim

    Like

  17. My boyfriend and I got lost in the woods in a thunderstorm on our second “date”. He didn’t lose his cool, and I knew that he was a keeper. (He, on the other hand, figured he’d never hear from me again after an incident like that).

    Like

  18. I thought it was very good post…Actually, unwittingly I put someone I’m just getting interested in into a bit of a testing situation last week… and I’m very happy to see how he responded. I think you can easily sort the men out from the boys when it comes to trying situations…

    Keep doing your thing and forget the haters!

    Like

  19. Pingback: Gratitude.
  20. Great reminder to stay in the moment and to acknowledge all that we have to be grateful for. I agree that if meditation isn’t your cup of tea, practicing gratitude can provide many of the same benefits as meditation.

    I like the suggestion, as well, to ask yourself additional questions if you discover that you’re having difficulty recognizing what you’re grateful for. I was a bit perplexed though, at the focus of a couple of them, on the comparison to others.

    In my humble opinion, gratitude isn’t about what we have that others don’t. It’s about being grateful for all that we’re blessed with, even the small, simple, ordinary things that others may have as well.

    I’m no less grateful for my wonderful sons, or the relationship I have with an amazing man, or the money in my bank account, or the roof over my head, or the gorgeous sunrise this morning, because others have similar relationships, experiences or things.

    Like

  21. Hi Tim,

    I love the exercise in appreciation, but don’t think it’s a “60-second” replacement for meditation. As Geo mentions, meditation is about disciplining the mind. There are, unfortunately, no short-cuts. Those who claim to be “bad” at meditating are the ones who could probably use it the most.

    If candles and mantras are too funky-woo-woo, try observing the breath for five minutes. Everyone breathes. Nothing mystical about that!

    Blessings,
    Andrea

    ###

    Hi Andrea,

    Observing the breath is at the top of my list, but I’ll save that for another post. Interested folks can pick up the book linked via Thich Nhat Hanh’s name in this post.

    Tim

    Like

  22. Kudos for the topic,

    Appreciation and gratitude have been a huge aspect of human spirituality throughout history from nomadic tribes giving thanks to the sun to today’s Nobel peace prize.

    Meditation is a very powerful aspect of getting what you want and filtering out the excess (much like your media/information fasts)

    The real curiosity is to explore what can be achieved by developing and following your gut instinct, intuition, conscience, inspiration etc..

    Here’s a controversial topic for your blog, try discussing spirituality without making it religious.

    Keep up the explorations and we will keep appreciating them! Happy Thanksgiving!

    Like

  23. Hi Tim,
    I thoroughly agree with the gratitude training idea. I once went through a period of several months where I felt very apathetic about life and was really not enjoying things. I think the turning point for me was that I began praying every morning as I walked to work (a 15/20 minute walk) and consciously focused on prayers of thanksgiving – thanking God for all the blessings that I had.

    This really seemed to help lift my mood and also drew me closer to God as I spent more time in prayer.

    Like

  24. Tim,

    I’m grateful for your work and for the breakthroughs it’s catalyzed in my life.

    The best science available suggests that something called a “Gratitude Visit” is a more potent, though more short-lived, way to enhance well-being through gratitude.

    More at: http://psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20040107-000006.html

    Or, for the science behind the gratitude visit: http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/images/apaarticle.pdf

    I believe it’s important to share the small body of rigorous science that suggests how we can make people lastingly happier (as opposed to the reams of science suggesting how to make people less miserable). Thanks for giving me an opportunity to do so.

    Jordan

    Like

  25. Tim – thanks for the great posts and please ignore the haters. Most people don’t comment, they lurk, and most lurkers love your stuff or they wouldn’t keep coming back. So don’t forget the “huge silent happy majority” who are enjoying your work. :)

    Like

  26. What relationships do I have that others don’t?

    This is a dangerous thought to put your self worth into because the moment you find someone with what you have or better, you come tumbling down.

    Like

  27. Hey Tim,

    I have an admission.

    As a (gently?!) aging newcomer to the whole ‘social media’ / Blogosphere thing, the idea of putting myself and my own ‘experimental’ ideas out there – making both vulnerable to firestorms such as the one you just weathered – scared the bajeesis outta me.

    So I’ve been ‘testing’ the whole thing for more than a year, watching quietly from the sidelines for the most part.

    It wasn’t till I started reacting your posts and responses – and those of Lois Kelly over at Foghound (great stuff, BTW) – that I started to relax (and get excited by what’s going on out here).

    Watching you handle yourself, young whipper snapper you may be to some, and the ‘slings and arrows’ that have flown from time to time, has been very reassuring to a silver fox like me.

    I admire your honesty, forthrightness, audacity and guts.

    It’s all been a great example, so thanks.

    From life I’ve learned – painfully at times – that my detractors are as useful as my supporters, and in both cases it pays to keep my wits about me and my senses clear: being name-bombed is a drag, but so is ass-kissing, and both can mess with your mind real bad if you let them. And the only time I do is when I believe either.

    Having said that, I’m finding criticism’s as, and sometimes more, valuable: without detractors to help me ‘test’ the validity of my position, I can’t confidently find my footing, know where I really stand, or stand there strong.

    Audacious of me though this might be (but hey, what the hell?!), I see you as a sharply inquisitive and intelligent system tester, assumption buster, rule breaker and values shaker.

    You understand – how, I’ve no idea, when so many of us don’t – that structures and systems are made by us for us, and that they should routinely be reviewed and, where it would best serve, rebuilt or replaced.

    You refuse to be a slave. And that – as I see it – is the essence of ‘lifestyle design’, if you look past the ‘style’ part.

    It’s clear you delight in the process, and in helping other’s identify where they’re hemmed in or lost to what they haven’t ‘tested’ (and may not even know to test: what you can’t see doesn’t exist, and all that).

    Testers (and as a life coach I count myself among them) sometimes draw fire. Just part of the territory when challenging the assumptions that to many feel like the solid ground walked. Just ask some of the greats (Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Buddha, Jesus…)

    Testers – or more accurately what testers help reveal – change things for the better, so test on.

    Let’s face it – the world needs more audacious gutsy testers right now (to see some full-out ‘testing’ in action, check out http://www.laptop.org).

    Watching you – and the community that’s sprung up around you – has proven that in the end, you’ll get more thanks than not for shaking things up.

    Having the defensive combat skills you have, I suspect, makes you more than equal to the task.

    I’ve yammered on long enough, but I’ll add four final things:

    ONE: In the final analysis, it might be fair to say that this ‘firestorm’ has shown that while it’s wise to ‘test’ systems, structures, processes, rules, patterns, boarders, values and assumptions – even yourself – it’s another to test people.

    If the heart of the message in all the feedback could be encapsulated, I think what we’re hearing ourselves say here is this: Have standards. Standards are good. And let’s talk out, tinker and better our systems and rules. More power to us all. But play me, engineer our relationship, and, dude – we’re gonna have ourselves a problem.

    Living in the middle of the learning paradox together. Ain’t it fun?

    TWO: Great stuff (post and comments) about meditation – what it is and what it isn’t. Tim, I’d love to hear you talk more about what you see as the meaning, measure and pitfalls of ‘mysticism’ as relates to lifestyle design. That’d be a fine and fiery conversation to have (just ask Richard Hawkins of The God Delusion).

    THREE: I always ask clients WHY they want to practice meditation (why they want to be, have or do anything for that matter). If the objective is relaxation, empowering yourself to find a form that fits you rather than assuming it’s more a case of disciplining yourself to ‘fit’ a practice in good ‘lifestyle design’. It pays to educate yourself, ‘test’ and find the right fit – ut first you have to know what fit you’re after.

    FOUR: I first heard about gratitude journalling about 10 years ago during the darkest time of my life. In a move that was purely desperation and self-defence, I took the practice on. To say that it works would be an understatement – and to this day it is among the first I assign as client homework cause everyone could use a little more of what it brings.

    For me, it gently – and I emphasize gently – busted assumptions, self (and otherwise) imposed limits, lifted me up and helped me stretch into the gently aging (as mentioned earlier), occasionally pithy (or is that just smart-ass) ‘tester’ I am today.

    For which I am very grateful.

    Happy Thanksgiving, all.

    ###

    Wow, L! This is a great contribution to the discussion, and I couldn’t agree more that detractors and critics are indeed very valuable for testing the validity of ideas. Ideas need to stand on their own merits. Likewise, your observation of standards — and deciding on such in advance of situations that test your moral fiber — is spot on.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Tim

    Like

  28. Great post. You hit the nail on the head with “it’s thought-provoking and causes people to test assumptions about what can and can’t be done”. And look how testy we as people can get when our assumptions are tested? We get plugged in and nasty. I know myself when I get plugged in it is the ideal time for me to point the scope at myself and look deeper within — what is it about this other person or what they said that is giving me a charge? When I can learn what that part is — I can learn how to integrate that part of who I am back into me. That is where the REAL freedom lies because then I can just be curious…and informed….versus running around with my head cut off. I love using examples like yours above when I coach others — to point toward the assumptions we hold so tightly and how they hold us back (much how you point out in your book that 40, 50, 60 hour workweek is ASSUMED to be the only way).

    Thanks for all the thought provoking stuff!

    Like

  29. I’m all for experiments in life design, this is why I linked to you and pointed readers toward the article. I tend to do many experiments in life design myself, and I think living any other way is a waste.

    Can’t find out what you’re missing in life if you don’t open your mind to endless possibilities.

    Like

  30. Hi Tim,
    I love how you write,its unique, and I believe it is the uniqueness that draws everyone back. It makes you think;
    It makes me think, It’s win-win. Don’t change a thing! Stay Happy! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! :)
    Tammy Jo

    Like

  31. Tim,
    Thanks for the valuable touchstone of the peach. Wonderful post. On the other matter, a brilliant attorney once told me to watch the opposing side. If they don’t have the law or the facts on their side, they will argue the person. That’s when you really know you are winning. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. All best, Jan
    (BTW, Just finished your book. Merci encore :))

    Like

  32. Thich Nhit Hanh’s parable was very thought provoking for me. It was like watching the movie “Click” (with Adam Sandler) in one sentence.

    Like

  33. Tim,

    Insightful post with a lot of substance. I say this due to the nature of being humans. We all have a hunger to succeed on some level, whether financial or emotional. The art of giving is something that carries far much more weight. I just got done reading The Monk and the Riddle and can see how that book really provoked some great thinking in you. The message seems clear, enjoy and savor the moment, rather than just wait for some final end/thing. No matter how simplistic an activity may be its important to notice every wheel that is involved it. By truly enjoying each individual experience one can truly make personal gains that far exceed the that of any monetary thing.

    As far as meditation is concerned, I think that this word should be replaced with a more effective word. I dont have a suggestion now, but think that the real act of meditation requires more than just meditation.

    Furthermore,
    The act of being grateful and humble are forms of deep concentration in absorbing the good that one has. A small taste of how good a lot of us have it is to just watch the news. I am 100% on an information diet, but I have resorted to watching 5mins of it once a week just to further enhance the reality of how outstanding things really are. This can be used to propel oneself in the direction of true gratitude. It all goes back to the basics, a pen and paper. No matter how much technology comes around, there will never be enough to replace the emotions that lead to our thought process. All these processes go hand in hand with each other, for example: by not spending too much time on oneself, you open more time to reflect on being grateful and spend time thinking of how to help others.

    Well I hope you have a great Thanks Giving and Keep us posted on any other non profit organizations that will further help mankind.

    …………..Continue your Relentless behavior and Enjoy it all>>>>>

    Jose Castro-Frenzel

    Ps May I suggest a possible blog subject: Humor, what is it and does it influence us? Will be have a more fullfilled life with it? I recently went to Gotham Comedy Club on 23rd NYC, I felt more relaxed and at ease. I think there is something there with humor and good health. Check out Orny Adams, AWESOME COMEDIAN!!

    Like

  34. Hey Tim,

    I was reading The Prince again and I came across this quote:

    “The way in which these things happen is generally thus: so soon as a powerful foreigner enters a province, all those of its inhabitants that are less powerful will give him their adhesion, being influenced thereto by their jealousy of him who has hitherto been their superior.”

    It seems like this applies to you (the powerful foreigner) and you just developed a system to filter out those who are just using you for your utility. Seems pretty smart to me.

    Like

  35. Bravo, Tim!

    Great post and I agree with the others that have said there’s no need for you to justify yourself to the nay-sayers. I really enjoy reading your blog – good writing, fun & interesting reading, and great follow-up comments. In the spirit of the season, I’m grateful for your book and all the great tips in it!

    I’m even more convinced now that you need to check out USM in Santa Monica. Master’s Degrees in Spiritual Psychology, and they are on the cutting edge of how higher education could be. They’re next Information Evening is Jan. 23 at 7:30pm. See you there?

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone reading!

    Like

  36. Hey Tim,

    Not sure if you read all your comments, but I wanted to tell you that I have officially listened to your audiobook probably about 5-6 times from start to finish (while running in the AM, driving, traveling, at the gym, etc.) And now there are specific chapters I find myself listening to…

    Anyway, it’s the most valuable book I have ever been exposed to, I’m redesigning my lifestyle, have hired two new employees, one of which, her entire job is to automate and manage my workflow. I check email just once a day and I am about to embark on a new experiment in lateral thinking; a web site that will launch in about a week.

    My goal is to have fun, and become a case study for the 4-hour work week.

    Thanks for your inspiration. Keep up the good work, and I’ll be bookmarking your blog. Love it!

    Mark

    P.S. I have one “off-day” where I have been known to offend people with the amount of foodstuffs I cram into my mouth. After a 12 week experiment, you can see my results here: http://www.sixpeeps.com/2007/11/08/getting-un-cluttered-the-other-before-and-after-unofficial/

    ###

    Thanks so much for the results and kind words, Mark! I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    Tim

    Like

  37. Tim, I’m a lot older than you (retired CEO, former bodyguard and a lot of other things) – and you have taught me a LOT about grace and maturity by example.

    I’ve sent all my grown kids your book. God bless, and I’m really glad that you don’t let yourself get upset by some excitable and poorly integrated people.

    Please keep blazing those trails!!

    Like

  38. Great article, as alwyas Tim!
    T-nation.com, have released an article interviewing a great trainer named Alwym Cosgrove, and in it he names your book as one that has made a massive impact on his life. [http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=1816784]
    Just thought i’d let you know.

    Keep up the good work, and good luck with LitLib :]
    Chris

    Like

  39. Hi Tim,
    I liked the gratitude post,I enjoy all your posts actually.
    Gratitude is all about living in the moment,to often we sacrifice the present for the past or future.
    Its like the person who can’t wait to go on vacation and when they get there all they can think of is how envious their friends will be when they get back and show off their tan.
    Live in the moment and be grateful.
    Its always easier to hate or dislike something than to love or like it.

    Like

  40. Tim,

    The blog on test drive the friends and the postscript has make it meaningfulness because it show the outcome. Like you said you got some nasty message from bloggers, it help emphasize your point in test driving the friends.

    Awesome posting.

    Joe

    Like

  41. Interesting post. Very Oprah. Personally, I preferred the one on testing relationships. Little nasty, and not all the way thought out, but a good read nonetheless. Whatever happened with the eBay date? Did I miss it?

    Like

  42. Hi Tim,
    Gratitude can work wonders and it is a simple habit to get into. I was ill for years and all I concentrated on was what I COULDN’T do or how badly I felt. When I became aware of the law of attraction and started studying that and the mind/body connection Gratitude was the first and the easiest quality to make into a habit. I did heal myself totally of chronic pain and I feel gratitude was essential in my healing and now use it for every day practice. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives when you are feeling ill or something is out of whack in your life but it is just as easy to take 5 minutes and turn those thoughts around to what IS working and what IS good.

    I love meditation but with 2 young kids getting 1/2 hour is a luxury. When I have 5 minutes I use it to think of WHO and WHAT I am grateful for in my life. I do it upon waking and before going to sleep. I also will take the time to write things down if I hit a bump in my day and need to “reboot”.

    This is an easy time of year for some people to feel overwhelmed and to wish they had more or could give more. Instead why not take 5 minutes and think about what you DO have and what you CAN give to others. I LOVE your post, and your blog. I just subscribed and look forward to going through your posts and buying your book as time management is an area that “needs work” in my life.
    Gratefully,
    Jenny

    Like

  43. I posted in another thread and subscribed to it. Started getting tons of updates to every thread on this site. I would have emailed you but see nowhere to do that so am posting this here.

    Like

  44. Any info on Tim’s thoughts regarding love, monogamy and commitment? Can you have his life and share it with someone else or is this journey all about self? I am curious to know if there has been one special person along the way or has he maintained the cliched ‘travel guy’ when it comes to intimacy?

    gail

    ###

    Hi Gail,

    Good questions. This lifestyle is definitely not limited to the “travel guy” who jumps from port to port avoiding commitment. The journey is most certainly about both self discovery and sharing your experiences with others. I’ve had several special partners who have enjoyed the curious adventures of lifestyle design as much as I have.

    The tools of lifestyle design are all options, and few people will explore them all, much like a buffet. Travel is an option, but not mandatory, and the use of time and mobility — in my opinion — can actually make families and couples much closer.

    Hope that helps :)

    Tim

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  45. Hi Tim,

    First of all, thank you for keeping this blog and writing the 4HWW. As a soon-to-be graduated Stanford senior who’s just finished reading your book, the messages you’ve written about life and time have touched me in ways I still don’t quite understand.

    Admittedly, I’m even more confused now about what I should do after college, where I should go, and how everything will play out (my love for travel, my pursuits of international development work vs. the private sector, etc). I can only imagine how you felt in your last year at Princeton.

    In any case, you’ve definitely turned my world upside down, and made me think of those childhood dreams which I thought I had forgotten.

    Take care,
    Deanna

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  46. What is it about Thanksgiving…

    The past 6 months have been a major overhaul on my life. In that time, I ran into your book. Since then, I know I have purchased over 30 copies, signed them (for lack of your presence), and given them as gifts. One of the beloved receivers of this gift invited me over to Thanksgiving dinner. Two days later, I am still reveling in food poisoning and blissful daydreams of the future (not being sick). Nonetheless, I look at my life and I am unbelievably grateful. A very rare few get to enjoy the life I have. Yet, I want more. More of my own…

    I find your book to be the step-by-step to my focus in life. I have a million things I am pursuing, and many of them successfully. But you seem to have figured out how to pull off the most basic of it all:

    get it to run while you aren’t there!

    I applaud you and send kisses on the cheek.

    At some point, I sent a funny letter to one of your emails to check your auto-response. I was playing with you just using your words out of your book. I didn’t think much of it. Then, I moved to Austin TX for biodiesel and to pursue playing music in my spare time. At a show, I ran into a friend/collegue of yours. It was ironic. That said, I would very much like to meet you. I don’t know how often you actually read these, but I think it would be an interesting meeting nonetheless. Certainly not a waste of time…

    There is much fun and trouble to be had when you get here.

    Take care and safe travels,
    B

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  47. I’m thankful for new beginnings.

    My mother visited me for Thanksgiving, and since I’ve been talking to her about the 4HWW, I showed her one of your interviews on YouTube. In watching it for the 2nd time, I more readily absorbed the emphasis on completely unplugging and being unconcerned with making “popular” decisions.

    So, I quit the writing job (which lasted less than 3 weeks – I’d feel bad except I know I delivered some great ideas in the short time I was there), I’m scanning all my files, setting up a PO Box and have decided to spend the rest of the holidays with my family in the Midwest. It feels good to be a dropout. I excel at many things, but I’ve always loved being a dropout.

    Of course, this is going to afford me maximum time to work on my muse. My current direction is to create content and a product to market to women 50 . I’m reading Marketing to Women by Marti Barletta right now, and it presents a very strong case for this segment of the population being the largest consumer base of products across just about all industries. It’s a fascinating book on many levels – psychology, relationships, marketing, etc. – I imagine most people reading this blog would enjoy it.

    Beyond my muse, I’m looking forward to a slower pace of life in a place with little plastic surgery. I’m really taking the idea of re-designing my life to heart. I’m a little apprehensive about leaving the place I’ve been for the last 10 years, but I know that there is a better life waiting for me to show up in it – I’m just not sure where, with who or when.

    In any case, thanks for being you, Tim.

    Like

  48. Great post on gratitude. I have been looking into it more and more since this summer. I have found that I am much happier and much more content with what I have after being grateful.

    My question is who do you give gratitude to? I give it to the universe since I am no into a particular religion. I believe in a higher being, but after teaching many different cultures I have come to believe that no one is exactly right.

    So if you believe in a higher power (God, Allah, Vishnu, Bhudda) but are not sure which one is right, then who do you give thanks to?

    Like

  49. While many will express their gratitude to God, Allah, Buddha, the Universe (whatever you may call it), I think practicing gratitude is more about the feeling of gratitude, being grateful, than it is about who you express it, or attribute it, to.

    Like

  50. Not surprisingly, gratitude training is the very FIRST part of the Martin Seligman improved-happiness program.

    BTW, Thich Nhat Hahn has also advocated short bursts of quiet — at least if you are near Quebec. Merlin Mann found this reference a couple of years back (Hahn speaking):

    “Years ago I was in Montreal on the way to a retreat, and I noticed that the license plates said Je me souviens-‘I remember.’ I did not know what they wanted to remember, but to me it means that I remember to breathe and to smile (laughter). So I told a friend who was driving the car that I had a gift for the sangha in Montreal: every time you see Je me souviens, you remember to breathe and smile and go back to the present moment.”

    For myself, each morning and night as I pass through the garage I look up at an old US license plate hanging on the wall there and remind myself about being in an “Aloha State” :)

    (oh, and BTW, deliberately putting effort into discovering a person’s true character is a complement to them. You’re not a bastard)

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  51. I find in my gratitude training that it’s helpful to avoid comparative statements. Comparative statements suck time and attention by asking me to make a fair evaluation of others when I should be focusing on what I have that is a blessing to me. For example, I am grateful for nourishing air to breathe. I don’t need exceed others to enjoy that.

    The best experience of satori training I’ve ever had was not in meditation but was being a scorekeeper at a martial arts tournament. I’d been a student for four years at that point but spending six hours at a desk watching judges and competitors intently for the whole time really demonstrated to me that I had a much bigger capacity for staying in the now than any mantra whispered over doing dishes.

    Like

  52. You can find a person’s true Myers-Briggs personality when they are put under stress. Otherwise, the most learned of personality types is able to mimic the skills they need to succeed.

    Like

  53. Hi Tim,

    I’ve only recently began reading your blog (which I have thoroughly enjoyed), and I was thrilled to see a picture of Thich Nhat Hanh as I scrolled down. As a testament to the breadth and depth of your writing, you have made a loyal fan out of me. I actually have been on several weekend retreats at Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery in Escondido, CA (http://www.deerparkmonastery.org/, picture from a retreat: http://floria.tumblr.com/post/19707392) and have been fortunate to practice the specific forms of mindfulness that he teaches, mentioned in your post. Every time I go, I feel renewed, re-centered, and ready to go back to my normal life with greater focus and appreciation for the things that really matter. Unfortunately, the LA traffic and hectic lifestyle quickly cause this feeling to wear off, but I do my best to make the most of it. Gratitude is most definitely the fundamental thing to take away from it all nonetheless, as your post seems to focus on.

    Some easy ways to be “mindful” (I don’t like using the word “meditation” as much, since it tends to intimidate people that aren’t used to it, but “mindfulness” to me is the essence of meditation, and can be applied much more broadly)…

    – Eating meditation is by far the most enjoyable for me. Like the peach anecdote alluded to in your post, imagine this: sitting in the park, with your dog by your side, really taking a moment to savor an ice cream cone– really BEING THERE for your ice cream cone. After all, your ice cream is there for you, so why shouldn’t you be there for it? What does it mean to “be there for you ice cream cone”? Appreciating where it came from, who contributed to it being there, and realizing that you have been blessed with tastebuds (and money/time for leisure) allowing you to taste it for all its yummy goodness.
    – Walking meditation is simply being mindful of your steps. The best way for me to get in the “zone” is just to physically tell myself to walk a little slower, and LOOK UP. We are often so caught up in thinking about where we need to go (our destination) that we miss many of the things we pass on the way (our journey)- which can be taken on so many levels. Rather than being stuck in a 2-D world, just looking up and noticing the trees (or amazing architecture, clothes hanging out to dry, a bird, even just the blue sky) force me to stop and really appreciate the world around me… being in the present moment.
    – Deep listening. When talking with someone, really give them your full attention. Don’t let your mind wander- it’s not fair to them. Listen deeply. For example, if someone is angry at you, listen and think about where that anger is coming from, and maybe you will gain insight and forgiveness.

    Alright, well enough tips from me. I should just turn this into a blog post. I probably will eventually.

    Btw, I’m going to give your gratitude experiment a shot. Possibly make a tumblog to log what I’m thankful for, once a day. Hopefully it will result in me exercising more (ha!), as it did for those subjects. First thing to appear on my list: you, for reminding me to be grateful.

    Best wishes,
    Floria

    Like

  54. Hello Tim,

    I’ve been browsing your site for the past couple of hours. Something strikes me as .. odd or missing. Though it’s addressed indirectly through this blog.

    The issue of chronic stress and its effects on the human body – especially on (I hate this word) overachievers or people who keep going and doing things thought to be impossible — like yourself :)

    How do you do the things that you do (to quote the old Bond theme) without burning out? What is the degree of emotional or psychological attachment that you attiribute to your succession of achievements? Do you — just do it? — is there a larger meaning to it all? Do you ever feel stressed?

    I ask the question as I’ve accomplished (but — not appreciated) quite a bit for my 21 years of existence. But my body has recently just collapsed due to the sheer weight of psychological tensions and burdens that I’ve kept suppressing in order to keep doing the things I want to do. These stressors come in the form of things often external to me and beyond my control, however, which have significant impact on my psyche, e.g. a loved one’s illness, etc.

    B.

    Like

  55. I was excited to see The Gratitude Experiment is going to be made into a movie by the creator of The Opus. I saw the Opus and loved it. In fact, I loved it better than the Secret. I am very curious to see what this movie will be about. Maybe you should try and get involved with it?

    Like

  56. Hi Tim, firstly ur great!

    2ndly, mmm.. quick story.
    A girlfriend (who has long bn my friend & is quite sweet & spiritual USUALLY & does some good works) & I went on holiday for a wk & we argued about a £7 cab fare. (She was the aggressor- I held it down as I ws shocked at her pettyness & paranoia at thinking the cabbie ws trying to rip her off.

    I also thought my temper -if I lost it – she cld not handle, plus I love my friend). I should probably have argued back, but I couldnt do it.

    It was an eye opener to see that she could act this way. She had just split wth her boyfriend. Maybe we have to see how much other pressure the other person is under, & possibly the ‘test’ they get given is the straw that broke the camel’s back’. What do u reckon people?

    Like

  57. Hi Tim,

    Must admit after reading you book it did accelerate my completion of my online gratitude journal.

    My true appreciation of expressing gratitude was through my 3 year old son who expresses his appreciation for both positive and negative experience in his life, been truly inspirational. We learn so much from them.

    I eventually finished my site gratefulfor.com and since using it each morning I definitely feel much happier and life seems to be moving in a much more positive direction.

    I’m grateful to all :)

    Like

  58. Hi:
    I really enjoy the concept of thoughts of gratitude every morning what a perfect way to start the day on a very high note. I am currently going thru a really rough time so finding things to be grateful for I sense will really help. Will keep you posted.
    Regards,
    EagledancerinOntario

    Like

  59. I really liked this blog post, and am planning to start the exercise as soon as I next wake up.

    However, I recognized something that things I have learned in reading your book, listening to some of your lectures, and checking out some of your blog posts can be applied to what you said about Meditation not working for most people.

    There are too many choices.

    If you go around and try to learn all the beginner meditations from all the different angles, whether it be Zen, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Yoga, or the lesser known Western Mystery Traditions(think the School of Pythagoras). There is one thing you end up finding as you sit there and fume over your wasted time, or jump in your seat with glee if you like to learn about such things like I do. This is……*drum roll*……

    They are all exactly the same.

    They may use different words, or slightly adjust their methods, but every single one of them is essentially the same. Aim for the same goals, do the same things, usually at the same speed. (Though some are faster if combined)

    So, after 10 years of looking into this stuff, and finally finding a method that has the dross cut away. I want to offer the simplified “Beginning Meditation”

    1. Sit comfortably, but not so that you could fall asleep easily.
    2. Close your eyes.
    3. Let your mind drift.
    4. Try to just relax your mind, let it think, and watch it like a TV that your not really interested in.
    5. in 10 minutes, get up and do something, but not before.

    Tada! that is all of meditation whittled down into a 5 step method. I must give credit to Franz Bardon and his first book Initiation Into Hermetics as being where I found such a paired down, non-religious, but effective method.

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  60. Dear Tim
    Only reading your book makes my blood flow faster!
    Giving inspiration is your absolute talent!
    You are a true “disruptive innovator”!
    Thank you for your book.

    For me, “appreciation” is that what you might loose and might be irreplacable. Wheter it is a person or a feeling of comfort, safety and sanity.

    I hope you sourced out the reading of all these comments
    Ruth
    (I apologise for my incorrect use of English)

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  61. No, it isn’t a meditation technique.

    It is a mental exercise, like doing sudoku, studying for a test, finishing a crossword puzzle, or playing Mafia(where memory and logic is big).

    Some people might call it meditation, but that would be an incorrect description as Meditation means either, in western parlance, to think very intensely on a concept or problem or, in eastern parlance, to effect a sort of indistinguishable awareness between you and the item of concentration.

    It could lead to a method of meditation, or be slightly adapted into a meditation, but by itself is not. I am familiar with it by the name of Thought Observation, a very straight forward name.

    This is just becoming aware of which thoughts are actively going through your mind. After a while, the extra attention paid to this hither to unnoticed activity slows this process down until you are able to choose which thoughts or problems you want to devote all of your focus onto.

    It is the Mental version of the “E” in Tim’s DEAL.

    If you want to ask me anything more, click my name on this post, and then figure out how to get on there and send me a message or such. That way I won’t get lots of spam D:

    Like

  62. Hey Tim
    I was just wondering whether you know something about stretching to improve posture or stretching in general.( or improving posture in general )

    It´s a very interesting topic and there are thousands of corses out there, but I bet you have a 80/20 method which yields the most measurable success with a few exercises in short time.

    I´m looking forward to your boook, I will get both of them shipped to germany in a few days and am really excited!

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  63. I don’t know if you can call this meditation or not – but the semantics are not really important. The important piece is the area of focus . . . and this seems to be a great experiment. I’m going to give it a shot. I know this is an old post, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway. I’m assuming it will still work as well this year as it did in 2007 :)

    Like

  64. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any methods to help reduce content from being ripped off? I’d certainly appreciate it.

    Like