I remember when my kids were young and my husband would walk in the door at the end of the day. I was exhausted and counting the minutes until he could take over. After immediately shoving a crying child into his arms, I would launch into a litany of the challenges of the day. I’m sure my husband eagerly anticipated coming home! It’s not marriage advice I would give anyone but it’s behavior that’s all-too common and very hard to resist. That’s why I was taken with an idea I read in The Five-Minute Journal, my latest attempt to actually make a daily accounting (another idea that I teach but have a hard time practicing).

Brad Einarsen, a social marketer, describes his strategy for achieving happiness. It seems to be the polar opposite of the one I had accustomed myself to. He was the one coming through the door at the end of the day – but it really doesn’t matter who is playing what role – or if both parties are playing both roles. It’s all about the attitude.

Although Mr. Einarsen claims that he instituted this behavior when he was going through a challenging time, it should not be limited to that. It can be applied under almost all circumstances. The first thing he did when he arrived home from work was tell his wife the best thing that happened that day. Yes, you read that right – the best thing, not the worst, not even something mediocre. The best thing.

No complaints about the boss or the co-workers. No frustrations about his job or their finances or things in the house that need fixing (another weakness of mine). No descriptions of the trying behaviors of the children.

Just the best thing. It can be simple. A co-worker praised his efforts. His boss said hello instead of slamming the door in his face. He had five minutes to drink his coffee instead of being deluged with emails and phone calls. We can all make a list. We all have good things happen. Little things, not dramatic ones. But good things nonetheless.

Starting there changes our attitude and makes us happier. It also changes our relationships. We meet our partner in a joyous space instead of a gloomy one; we are united in our pleasure instead of our frustrations. We can face the world (and those difficult children) with greater energy and optimism.

I love reading about small actions that make a big difference. Because they’re real and they’re accessible. It’s something we could all do.

Although I no longer hand off a child with a dirty diaper and the words “your turn” to my husband when he walks in the door, I can still work on my attitude. I don’t always greet him with uplifting tales of joy and goodness. I may (on rare occasion) pounce on him with tales of my negative experiences, of people who annoyed me and situations that frustrated.

But I’m not going to start there anymore. And perhaps if I don’t start there, I won’t end up there either. Because the positive attitude will carry both of us through, will obviate the need for that negative discussion.

I am grateful to Brad Einarsen for sharing his experience and wisdom. Now I just have to work on changing my focus. I do have a cup of coffee everyday so I guess I could start there…