Breaking the back of Black and White Thinking

Three Tiny Things

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another of The Black & White topic articles from
The Challenges Inventory™ Series

click image for source article

In last week’s article [What GOOD is Black and White Thinking?], I introduced the idea of maintaining your own version of my Three Tiny Things Gratitude Journal™

The Three Tiny Things™ process encourages us to pare down the scope of what we explore when we look for things for which we can be grateful.

This concept focuses on a slightly different objective than other gratitude suggestions you may have heard: this idea is going to take on the task of breaking the back of black and white thinking (and lack of ACTIVATION).

As I implied in my introductory article, Black and White Thinking is probably the most insidious of the Nine Challenges identified by The Challenges Inventory™.

In Moving from Black or White to GREY I went on to say:

  • Until addressed and overcome, black and white thinking will chain one arm to that well referenced rock and the other to that proverbial hard place. At that point, every single one of life’s other Challenges will loom larger than they would ever be otherwise.
  • With every teeny-tiny step you take into the grey – away from the extremes of black and white – life gets better, and the next step becomes easier to take.

What I want – for me, for you, for EVERYONE – is to be willing to change the experience of life by transforming our black and white thinking – one small step for man, one giant leap for man-KIND!

Be sure to check out the sidebar for how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

Staying Aware of What’s Good

click image to go to video

Click image to find out why Oprah calls her gratitude journal the single most important thing she’s ever done (short video)

“Be thankful for what you have;
you’ll end up having more.
If you concentrate
on what you don’t have,
you will never, ever have enough.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

Most of us have been exposed to the idea that practicing gratitude will create more abundance, prosperity, well-being, and happiness than we ever thought possible.

Reported Benefits of Developing the Gratitude Habit

Researchers who study gratitude have reported that those subjects who DID engage in daily gratitude exercises reported higher levels of:

  • Alertness & Enthusiasm – which may have been why they also tended to exercise more regularly (which leads to further increases in alertness and energy)
  • Optimism – including an increased willingness to help others, which increased their own feelings of happiness and well-being
  • Energy & Determination – which translated to more progress toward personal goals

They ALSO experienced lowered stress levels and less depression, and were more likely to feel loved.

Who Doesn’t WANT those things?

Some of us have experienced the benefits of gratitude practices first-hand, but many of us seem reluctant to join the party, even when we suspect it could help us in any number of arenas.

Yet EVEN among those of us who fully embrace the idea of keeping a gratitude journal and have experienced its benefits, many of us report struggles keeping it up. Why do we stop?

Below are some of the main reasons I’ve come across:

  • I couldn’t find my Gratitude Journal.  By the time I found it I was out of the habit.
  • Life got crazy.  I was simply too exhausted to journal when I slipped into bed at the end of my days after [ . . . my baby was born, my son began looking at colleges, my husband got transferred, my mother-in-law moved in with us, I started chemo, they switched me to the night shift — YOU fill in the blank!]
  • Life got wonderful —  I was grateful for EVERYTHING when I fell in love
    [ . . . learned my cancer was in remission, had a healthy child, bought a house, finished the rehab, reached my goal weight – WHATEVER!], so I couldn’t see the point anymore.  I didn’t seem to need it (like that’s going to continue forever?)

Problems beginning again

We generally stop for black and white reasons — when we’ve make the project too big – too complex – too all-encompassing – too rule-bound.

We almost always hesitate to begin again for those very same reasons.

We allow a big black and white should to engulf our thinking and bury our dreams:
“I should do everything exactly the way I set out to do it initially, no matter what life throws my way.

Continuing to engage in a habit when you are tempted to discard it is simply a matter of BEGINNING AGAIN. 

Change the rules – rename the game Make the process “easy by default.”
The easier it is to do, the greater the likelihood that we will DO it!

My Top Ten Reasons why Three Tiny Things™ works for me
(and will, most likely, work for you as well):

  1. It only takes a moment.  If I want to expand my list, comment or add something HUGE, I do, but The Name of the Game is “Write down three tiny things I noticed today that inspire a feeling of gratitude.”
  2. It keeps me focused on my objective. I use paper to avoid being stopped cold by technology snafus, distracted by some auto-notification, or trapped in hyperfocus chasing the “while-I’m-at-it” s.
  3. It changes what I look for. As I go about my day, I tend to keep my eyes open for tiny things I can write down before I fall asleep.
  4. It helps me ACTIVATE. Focusing on tiny things to be grateful for unconsciously shifts my expectations of what “counts.”  I notice that I am more willing to DO something tiny toward my goals, too, rather than agonizing over not being able to bite off one big chunk of one task or another, which takes me right to #5.
  5. I get more done by focusing on the good ENOUGH.
  6. It makes me smile more often throughout the day.  I know that science is fairly unconflicted about how emotions follow body prompts.  People who rarely smile have a high rate of depression.  Forcing smiles actually changes how they feel.  When I notice the little things, my smile doesn’t have to be forced.
  7. It ends my day on a positive note. Even if I don’t focus on being grateful all day long, when I replay my day I can always come up with three tiny things that went right – even on days when it seems that “everything always goes wrong” (and I’ve had A LOT of those this year!)
  8. It helps me fall asleep – especially NOW.  I’m almost nine months behind this year, thanks to the fallout from the gang mugging and being forced to move both home and office.  With so much to do to play catch up, it has rarely been so easy to get trapped in rumination and worry, which can keep me awake for hours.  Changing my focus is difficult when the goal is to STOP worrying — writing down Three Tiny Things™ seems to jumpstart the process.
  9. It breaks the back of black and white thinking and seeds the shift to grey.
  10. Review is automatic. Review adds velocity to the shift of mood and focus – but who really has time to review much of anything when life gets harried?  It’s too easy to decide it takes time I can’t afford. Since I’m only listing Three Tiny Things™ each day, my eye automatically takes in many other things I have to be grateful for as I’m writing my new list of tinies.

TRY IT YOURSELF – before next week’s article:

Start your own Three Tiny Things Gratitude Journal™

Don’t front-end the process by complicating the idea of the journal itself.  ANYTHING is better than delaying because you want a nice journal, or a new journal, or time to make a hand-crafted journal using your favorite colors. Keep it simple.

Start tonight.  Continue writing down Three Tiny Things™ you can appreciate as you pop into bed every night.  Keep whatever you use for a gratitude journal next to your bed, along with a favorite writing implement.

Pay attention to the effect on the number of Tiny Things you notice throughout the day. Notice what noticing does to your mood and activation level.

If deciding upon your Three Tiny Things™ is slowing you down, use the JumpStart suggestions below.

JumpStarting the Process by using black and white thinking against itself:

1. Quickly jot down ANY three small (or easily overlooked) items for which you can be grateful.

2. Then say to yourself, “Too big!” and look for three items even smaller.

3. Do it one more time.

4. Then write the three smallest items on your gratitude list for the day
– even if you suspect that they are not the three smallest things in that particular day.
Good enough is good ENOUGH!

Come back and share your results in the comments. I really want to know how things are working for you – it will guide what I share next.  I will shuffle the order of articles to come based on what I hear back from YOU.  Free coaching – if you’ll take advantage of the opportunity.



No TIME to read all this stuff? Want more help?

man-on-phoneOnce my own life recovers from a protracted repair deficit situation where even the ability to use the systems I have put in place was taken from me, watch for the announcement of an upcoming 12-week TeleClass on Modular Success Systems.

It will help you sort through a great many of the “functional modules” so that you can design an action plan guaranteed to be easier than what most of you are currently attempting to work with.

Classes are a much cheaper alternative to hiring my personal coaching services (and the FIRST time I offer a new class is always your least expensive option by far!). As always, class size will be small to allow for personal attention, so don’t miss the announcement if you want to make sure you sign up before the first class fills.

If you already know that this is something you are going to want to be part of, let me know in a comment below and I’ll make sure you have advanced notice (don’t forget to fill in your name and email on the comment form or I won’t be able to contact you).

Meanwhile, keep reading as often as you can! To double the benefit, whenever I post a new article, make it a habit to pick at least one of the Related Content links to read at the same time (embedded in the text and duplicated in the Related Links at the bottom of every post). If you’ll “like” or comment after the pages you’ve read, it will help you keep track and will point others to posts you find especially helpful (as well as helping ME to know what you want me to write about).

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IN ANY CASE, DO stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading any of the articles of this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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