I am still traveling on my Lenten journey toward greater joy. I’ve missed a few days, but the important thing is to keep moving forward. The point of the exercise is to enjoy life and the people I do it with even more, to celebrate the victories and focus on the positive. You can’t create joy and a sense of failure at the same time! If you’re like me and you’ve also been imperfectly involved in any self-improvement projects, don’t beat yourself up about it. Let’s give ourselves credit for the effort and acknowledge any positive results we’ve gotten! Yay, us!
That said, today’s issue is all about the conversation in your head. Tommy Newberry explains that just like any conversation, your inner give and take is a series of questions and answers. If you make a mistake and ask yourself, “Why am I so stupid?”, the subsequent dialogue will be negative as you search for reasons why. If the question is, “How can I fix this?”, the answers are bound to be more positive.
Because Newberry’s approach centers around Philippians 4:8, which encourages us to think about the beautiful, pure, and praise-worthy things in life, he suggests we ask ourselves 4:8 Questions. These are questions that demand a positive response. Some he suggests are:
- What are four things I am grateful for right now?
- What are four of my most positive traits?
- Who are four people who love me the most?
As I’ve discussed before, we are in the middle of an unprecedented time in modern history. Most people in the United States and many other countries have been ordered to stay home. Businesses are shuttered. Schools have closed. Sports have ceased. The bright lights of Broadway are dark. All to stop the spread of the novel corona virus. What 4:8 Questions could we ask ourselves about this?
- What are four things I could do to make my home a more pleasant place to be sequestered?
- What are four ways I can show love and appreciation for my family as we are sheltered in place?
- What are four advantages of having time away from outside commitments?
As Newberry has stated again and again throughout 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, a fuller, deeper, more meaningful life starts by changing your thinking. By giving your brain positive conversation starters, you begin to think more positively. He says that when you ask better questions, you receive better answers. He reminds us that dwelling on negative questions gets things going in the opposite direction. If you’re like me, you’ve asked yourself plenty of negative questions in the past week and a half. No need to offer up any more examples here!
It’s also important to realize that everyone has positive and negative thoughts. That’s natural. If you take time to worry about why you have negative thoughts, you pull your thinking in that direction. Shrug them off and ask a 4:8 Question to get things going in a more joyful direction. The author suggests that we make a list of meaningful 4:8 Questions and get in the habit of running through the questions and answers at a set time each day. First thing in the morning, last thing at night, or in the shower are all good. It might even make a good family activity to pass the time with the kids during self-quarantine!
The assignment for Day 23 is to draft up to eight questions that trigger positive answers to shift your focus to the good things in life and then set a time to ask and answer the questions on a regular basis.
What are four of your favorite things about you?