A Diary of Wonderful Things: Appreciate.txt

One idea for 2012: Don’t just make plans and resolutions, don’t just work on them and review them, don’t just evaluate numbers and goals in life and business. While all that can be fine and helpful, there’s one small thing you can over the course of the year in order to learn to appreciate the wonderful things that happen to you, big and small ones alike: It’s keeping track of them!

An easy way to do this is to keep a simple text file on your computer or smartphone and update it everytime you feel like it. At the end of the year, you will have a diary of wonderful things to remember the best experiences of the year. Appreciate.txt (as the file is called on my computer) also can be a great motivator for the moments your life isn’t going as smooth as you’d wish for.

To give you an idea, here are some excerpts from my own Appreciate.txt from 2011: ((The list isn’t complete, of course, but many entries are probably meaningless for people not directly involved.))

  • Living in my favorite hotel in Cartagena during January and February, taking baths in the Caribbean every single day.
  • Regular breakfast at “Muffins & Panes” in Northern Bogotá. Great coffee, tasty omelettes, and a gorgeous and friendly waitress.
  • Meeting two ex-colleagues in Bogotá for a totally spontaneous lunch. Talking about the writer’s profession and making fun of their new boss. (So glad I’m out!)
  • Meeting online friends and acquaintances in the real world: Lisa, Ryan, Ben, Mars, Earl and many more… Thanks to you all!
  • Getting picked up at the airport by Christine and Max. Staying in Eastern Standard Time for weeks before finally adapting to European hours.
  • Finally seeing the cresent rise above the North Sea in Denmark again. Breathing cold, fresh air.
  • Being slightly overwhelmed by the work on “the book” (This was the code name for Beyond Rules at the time) and carry on nonetheless.
  • Releasing “the book”. (Yay!)
  • Doing Epic (and Stupid) Things in Berlin: Riding a bike without brakes through the heavy city traffic; dancing with Molotov and hundreds of Latin Americans; living in Friedrichshain among hipsters, stylers and welfare recipients; hiking with Daniel and Kathi to the Greater Wannsee without ever reaching it (Note to self: City≠Nature!); attending a crazy techno party at the Sisyphos club with Philipp from Sunday evening to Monday afternoon…
  • Reaching Cologne at 1am in the morning and still getting picked up by Christine in Dennis’ Fiat 500.
  • Riding 199,43 kilometres on a bike from Trier to Koblenz with three totally crazy guys.
  • Getting dragged through the sea by a 16sqm kite. Pure adrenaline.
  • Seeing the shooting stars on an undisclosed location in the North Sea in the early morning of August 23rd. This is the first time you really feel that autumn is approaching.
  • Releasing Productive Anywhere and spending a whole day to paint one single room shortly afterwards.
  • The 8-hour trip to Cologne with Philipp on Christmas day.

As I just read in Oliver Burkeman’s book Help!, keeping an appreciation list apparently doesn’t just do it for me. The benefits of what he calls a “gratitude journal” have been proven scientifically: “Gratitude journals are at the extreme end of the cheesiness continuum, but the studies are hard to refute. In stepping back and objectifying your circumstances in writing, you also step, however briefly, off the hedonic treadmill.”

The bottom line: If you’re struggling with keeping a regular diary (too much work – too easy to fall behind – not sure what to write about…), give Appreciate.txt a try! And have a wonderful year 2012!

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