Reasons to be cheerful.

My Good Times Experiment.


Last May I started an experiment. Each week I make a list — headed ‘Good Times’ — where I scribble down all the good things that have happened. Some weeks the list runs to over 30 ; other weeks just to 15 or 16. Some days I write nothing down, other days there’ll be a rush of experiences all in one go.

I haven’t restricted the experiment to my work life, or to my life outside of work, I’ve blended it all together.

Some of the Good Times are pretty obvious: drinks at a bar with a friend, a picnic on the beach with my family, a successful meeting. Others are more commonplace: a great radio documentary, cycling through a London park to a meeting, savouring the first espresso of the day.

Recently I stopped to explore the ‘data’ from the first five months, to look for patterns.

And here’s what I found — my top ten Good Times (for those five months):

  1. Swimming at my local beach
  2. Being silly with my kids
  3. Working on a side project
  4. The satisfaction from seeing my work go live - getting feedback from clients, editors, audiences
  5. Weekend meals at home with my family
  6. Interviewing interesting people
  7. Drinks and meals with friends
  8. Hanging out in coffee shops around London, working, scribbling, thinking
  9. Working out of one of my regular London spaces, The Hospital Club
  10. Hanging out and working in my neighbourhood coffee shop in Leigh-on-Sea

(Admittedly this list is weighted towards summer; for the winter months the swims disappear to be replaced by walks and reading books by the fire.)

What’s the point of this exercise? And what’s the point of sharing it here?

The point is = the importance of noticing.

Of stopping to take note of what makes us happy. Because, as James Victore says, once we know what makes us happy, we can ensure we do more of those things.

Perhaps that sounds too simple or just too obvious. But I’ve found the experiment valuable.

Being aware of what gives us pleasure means that when we get stuck, or lost, or depressed, we know what will get us going again.

But this experiment also gave me some surprises. I was surprised how often I’d written on the list ‘walking my kids to school.’ That means I’ll try and do more of that next year.

Keeping a weekly list means I’m able to note how much difference those simple things — like having a morning coffee in a cafe — make to my working day. So again, I’ll try harder to keep that as part of my work culture.

If I’ve had a difficult week the list may be a shorter one, but it’s good to be reminded there are still reasons to be cheerful.

Too often we apply metrics — that are frankly bullshit — to our lives: job status, money, flash cars, holidays, blah blah blah. This experiment reminded me that there are more effective indicators for success, by simply keeping a weekly list of ‘good times’.

I wouldn’t say 2014 was the most commercially successful of my career, but actually it may well have been one of my happiest. And, I have a list to prove it.


Ian Sanders is a storyteller and consultant who gets people, brands and organisations fired up about their story and purpose. Watch Ian’s talk at The Do Lectures, ‘Finding Your Story, Your Purpose & Your Compass.’