Back when I worked at the American Cancer Society, I loved the event planning and fundraising that I did. There was nothing more uplifting than the opportunity to provide a place where thousands of people could gather together with the shared goal of positive change, eliminating cancer and providing education and awareness.
As wonderful as our mission was, there were still difficult days while buried in logistics. There were the little things, like making an error that impacted the event or my team, getting bogged down in unending conference calls or those unforeseen time-sucks that took away productive time.
There were also the big things, like a police officer parking across my finish line (while smoking), a volunteer getting injured while helping set up a tent or most devastatingly, watching a favorite team change from participating in honor of someone to in memory.
A colleague recommended that I start a "feel good" file at work, and I did. I saved favorite emails, accolades and a handful of pictures from my work at my desk. When I hit a really difficult day, I'd sift through that. While it couldn't erase an error or a loss, it boosted my spirits and helped get me back onto a productive track.
Until recently, it never occurred to me to have one at home. Maybe it's the lack of having an actual "place" that's mine in our home - My "desk" is a yogurt-spattered table while my son bats at the keyboard. My task lists are scattered in emails to myself and scrawled on post-its jammed in pockets and purses.
While it is all fine and dandy to focus on what I can do to better help others - and how to articulate help that I need - it is just as important for me to be able to bolster my own spirit and keep myself from getting derailed. That's the same whether it's a day full of writing or one full of finger paints and music class.
So, although not as streamlined as my file folder from my office days, I now have a feel-good box.
When it seems like I'm going to lose my mind on my kids or I am spinning my wheels in frustration, I'm going to look through it. I keep it in the laundry room, requiring me (1) to head to a space by myself away from my kids and (2) to take a moment to breathe while looking at things that make me feel better at the same time.
What's in my feel-good file?
• My first marathon finisher medal: As someone who had never run more than 3 miles, completing 26.2, doing it well and feeling great while I did it, I proved to myself that I can do anything - and that the most worthwhile things take a whole lot of work!
• A picture my kids colored together: I'm not always sure how I'm doing as Mom. This picture always calms me down. It's a moment captured of my kids playing together and making each other giggle.
• A picture from my ACS event with my Event Steering Committee: Because some people are truly awesome, and I had the privilege of working with them every day.
• A print-out of my first guest post I ever wrote for a blog: It's one of my earliest pieces I've written and still by far one of my favorites.
• A handful of favorite letters: I've been blessed with a couple of friends that writing amazing letters, and these letters are a reminder of the wonderful connections with which I've been blessed.
• An ancient award from my first job: I save it because I was nominated by my peers. Their words keep me focused on my strengths and the fact that sometimes, I'm damn good at what I do.
• More pictures: Several with good friends who teach me to be content in the moment; a few baby pictures of my kids because I want to eat them up; a couple from a blogging conference last year of friends that make me look forward; one of my mom because she's been a huge guiding force in the shape of my life.
My file has clearly evolved from one that's work-centered, but that's where I'm at right now. When I head back into an office, I fully expect to keep one there as well.
And for Pete's sake, when you're in a bad mood, do not log onto Facebook. It will only make you want to stick your head in the oven.
What would you put in your feel-good file, whether at work or home?