So today’s my birthday. It’s been a full year since I started my 365 Appreciation Project. It was intended as a personal project, for no other reason than to a) see if I could do it, and b) to see what impact it would have. After 365 days of finding, photographing and posting about 1 thing to be grateful for, I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt and taken away from the experience, in the hope that it may help someone who is wanting to start a long term project of their own. Whether it’s business related, creativity related, health related or any other habit that you’d like to instil.
1. Don’t wait for the perfect time to start something.
In the past, I’ve always waited for a significant date to start something new. To start implementing a new habit. New Years Day. The first day of the next month. Monday!
Somehow I thought, that by plotting a specific start date, a magical power would take over, and ensure that I stick to the new regime that I’ve decided to commit to. Of course you know what happens. A couple of weeks in, and the novelty has worn off, and slowly this new habit is a distant memory.
Although I had started this Appreciation Project on my birthday last year, the success and completion of it, had nothing to do with when I started it. The important thing is that I started!
I would say that the over-riding factor that kept me going with the project was the fact that I had declared it publicly by posting it on my blog. I could have just as well posted it on my Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram. And although I have no idea whether anybody was reading my daily posts, the fact that I was recording them publicly, meant that I kept going and saw it through. From someone who starts many things, and completes only a few, THIS was a massive revelation.
3. Be Flexible
My intention when I started out was to photograph and post my gratitudes every. single. day. That was my intention. In reality what happened was – I would photograph and post 2 or 3 posts every second or third day. At first, when this pattern started to emerge, I felt like I was failing, that somehow I was not holding up my end of the bargain. But as time went by, I realised that on a practical level, it wasn’t always possible to photograph and post on the same day. Like the week I was with my family out in the bush. There was no internet connection. I physically couldn’t post it. What WAS important though, was that although I couldn’t post every day, I was still thinking about and identifying the thing that I was grateful for that day. The posting of it was just an administrative/logistical/connectivity issue. Therein, lies the power. So be flexible with yourself and really look at what is most important in the process.
4. There’s always something to be grateful for
There were some days where it would take me a little longer than others to figure out what I could possibly be grateful for that day. If things weren’t happening fast, or happening the way I wanted them to, how could I be grateful? These were the days that I found I had to sit a little longer, quietly on my own and reflect, piece by piece, on what I had to be grateful for. Often these days would lead to me appreciating the simple things in life. The things that stare us in the face and that we take for granted. They need to be acknowledged as well and thoroughly appreciated. No matter how small and seemingly insignificant.
5. It becomes clear what’s important
When I scroll through the posts from the last year, it becomes clear to me what is important to me. It isn’t possessions or social standing. The things that strike me by the frequency of their presence in my posts is people, experiences and growth.
My posts are scattered with the amazing people I have in my life or whose path I have crossed. They say that you are the company keep and I take that as a massive compliment, based on those who feature in my project. Also, the experiences that I mention – making memories along the way is really what makes life worth living.
And growth. Things don’t always go smoothly, and these are opportunities for growth. Every interaction, every activity and every bit of content that I’ve consumed over the past year has contributed to my growth and is truly what makes me a better version of myself, compared to the girl who started this project 365 days ago.
So, in closing – even though this year has come and gone, and the next one has already started, the fact that I can forever look back on the past 365 Appreciations, shows me that I am richer than I ever realised. That the practice of appreciating your life and focusing on the good things in every situation has a profound impact on your experience and perception of life. And that no matter what lofty goals you set out ahead of you, there are so many little miracles right in front of you, if you choose to see them.
The practice of daily gratitudes is now instilled in my psyche, is a lifestyle choice and is something I will continue to do and encourage others to do. I believe that small things, small changes done on a daily basis have the biggest impact in the long run. And it’s not until you look back to connect the dots that you realise what that impact is. So whatever you have laying in front of you, whatever you want to achieve – start now. Don’t wait. Do it for your future self. And one day you’ll be looking back at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown.
I’ll be continuing my daily gratitude posts over on my Instagram page, so feel free to follow, join in and start your own Appreciation Project.