Marissa, our youngest daughter, was home for the weekend. She’d been at college for over a year and occasionally came home on weekends to see high school friends, do laundry, and sometimes even hang out with Mom and Dad.
On one of those weekends, we managed to coax her to stay for a leisurely Sunday dinner and catch us up on all the latest events in her life. While the food was being dished onto the plates, she blurted out, “Let’s do Best Things! I’ve been missing it like crazy! Dad, you go first. What was your best thing?”
One of our long-time family traditions is called “Best Things.” Over the years, we found that by engaging the family in this little five-step practice, we could do more to affect our kid’s—and our own— outlook on life than just about anything else.
We usually did it at the dinner table and often several times a week. It’s a simple practice and apparently one the kids loved—even if they seemed to resist it at the time.
By asking everybody at the table one simple question, the emotional climate of the day could be completely turned into one of optimism and gratitude. It’s the fastest way I know of to ensure that anybody can have a great day.
Here’s how it works:
- Step 1: Set the ground rules.
- Everyone will have a turn being asked one question.
- The respondent may only answer the specific question being asked.
- The question my not be altered.
- There will be one conversation happening at the table.
- One person speaks, all the others listen.
- Step 2: Ask the question of the first person.
Then move around the table asking each one the question:
“What was the best thing about your day?”
Or, “What was the best thing that happened to you today?”
- Step 3: Don’t accept “Nothing” as an answer.
You’ll probably find that “Nothing” becomes the default answer. The response will invariably go like this, “Nothing good happened today. But, let me tell you about ‘X’. It was awful!”
When this comes up say, “Oops. Remember, we’ve got to follow the rules. Of all the things that happened today, what was the BEST thing?”
- Step 4: Persist until you get an answer.
Know this; we human beings like to wallow in our misery. We like to complain and we like to get sympathy. So, it can be really hard for us to admit that something good actually happened. And there will be days when it truly seems that nothing good happened.
If you get to a dead end with someone at the table, pull out the secret weapon. Say, “I know, it sounds like you had a pretty lousy day. BUT, if you HAD to find one thing that was best, what would it be?”
You’re likely to still get resistance. Just keep sounding like a broken record. “I know. I know. But if you HAD to pick out one thing, what would it be?” Or, you can ask, “If you DID have a Best Thing, what would it be?”
Gently persist. Trust me. It works.
If you ask this with a bit of humor, the person will usually give in and come up with something. Everyone usually has a good laugh when the person thinks and thinks and FINALLY comes up with the one thing.
- Step 5: Probe a little deeper.
Once a “Best Thing” is identified, ask a follow-up question: “What was it about ‘X’ that was so good?” The idea here is to focus more tightly. It’s one of my beliefs that you usually get more of what you focus on. So, let’s be intentional about where we direct our focus.
As parents, we have a window of years when we can dramatically influence our children. Developing a family tradition, like playing “Best Things,” can be one of the most enduring and positive ways we can teach them to experience life.
Even though our children are grown and out of the house, we’ll notice that at birthday dinners, or other family get-togethers, someone will invariably start the table conversation with, “What was your Best Thing today?” It really gets fun when guests are at the table and they have to be asked, “I know, but if you DID have a Best Thing, what would it be?”
And, I have to smile when I catch Michael or myself asking the other this question with no one else around except us. It’s an amazingly powerful question.
As a side note, I’ve also been proudly told by my married daughters, that they are carrying on the tradition with their own kids. What more reward can a parent hope for?
So, give it a try at your house. Let me know how it works out.
Go make it a great day!
P.S. I want to add one more thing. Take a minute and scroll down through the comments until you get to the one left by Marc Ensign. Read what he says. He talks about a similar practice called “Highs and Lows.” I love it. In fact, I might like it better than Best Thing alone. It’s a great lead-up to it. What do you think?
Question: What was your best thing today?