I like looking at the news.
Maybe it’s because I was a reporter for 20+ years, and I feel incomplete if I don’t know what’s happening in the world. And maybe it’s because I was a journalism professional that I know most of the news I read will be on the negative side.
Even if there’s an opportunity for a more optimistic spin on a situation (like the economy or the weather or the hiring outlook for a job seeker over 50), the purveyor will choose the downside.
There are two reasons: Bad news sells better.
And we are programmed to look for the negative.
We scan for threats and naturally look for reasons something won’t work—like that job interview, or the resume we just sent in, or that request for a raise.
For instance, you have likely heard the adage that things happen in 3s: Celebrity deaths. Natural disasters. Canceled weddings (a story for another time…).
But the thing is, we ignore that most of the time, bad things do not happen.
Most of the time things are completely okay.
My mom sometimes reminds me that 99% of the things we worry about don’t ever happen.
To help address this issue and reduce our anxiety, I suggest trying the 3 Good Things exercise.
Each night before going to bed, write down or recite to yourself three good things that happened that day. Reflect on why each good thing happened and how you feel about it.
Let’s see…I guess mine could be:
1. I enjoyed the beautiful day outside today! I allowed myself a break to listen to the birds and soak up the calm of my environment and felt less stressed.
2. I got to talk to a cousin I haven’t seen in many years and hear great stories about my grandparents. It was wonderful to connect with family, as I didn’t grow up around many of them.
3. A client emailed me to tell me he got a job. I had a part in this, as I helped him clarify his goal, prepare his materials, and then practice his pitch. I felt proud to have helped and grateful to be part of his career journey.
The 3 Good Things, or 3 Blessings, is a technique used by Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology. He tested it with 411 subjects, and 92% became happier in 15 days. He reported that for some of the subjects, the positive effects of this exercise lasted for more than 6 months.
Why does it work?
I think it’s because we tend to overlook all the non-bad things that happen every day.
Sure, many of us are dealing with very serious issues such as illnesses. But isn’t it true that even during these times, there are many smooth days when crises don’t occur?
Perhaps we take the non-bad times for granted. Perhaps we consider it routine that something went well or time passed without incident. Maybe it’s because we don’t pay attention to most of the in-between moments of our lives much at all, so, we miss the beautiful, calm, lovely, or interesting things that we encounter.
If you’re in a job search right now and feeling tense, give 3 Good Things a try. You can take it a step further by writing down some of the things from your career that you are proud of, how you felt about them, and why they matter to you. This could help you realize that you have a lot to offer.
Ultimately, this exercise can help you feel a sense of peace, promote confidence and give you a chance to acknowledge yourself—something that many of us barely take the time to do.
It could help you start to see how wonderful life can be, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.