I keep an email folder of “raves” and a box of handwritten notes from colleagues. I refer to them when I want to publish new quotes about my work. Some have come to me spontaneously. Many of these have come because I asked for the feedback.

A friend keeps his fan mail to read when he’s in one of life’s down cycles. He reminded me during a recent project we worked on together.

I now go back to my raves more often. When I see no upside to life’s current challenge, when I’m discouraged, I take a time-out and read through my raves.

There is a paradox in the assumption that my life will always be on an up trajectory (see sidebar) — when I hit a “down cycle” I assume that my life is on a down trajectory, there will never be an upswing again. That’s my dualism, all-or-nothing, right-wrong thinking signaling it’s time for a Byron Katie reality-check. Take a deep breath and question my thoughts. Is this really true? How do I know that this is absolutely true? What happens when I believe that thought? Who would I be without the thought?

When I revisit my raves, I’m reminded of the down cycles that came before the up cycles that are so glowingly written. I’m reminded of the challenges I had to overcome. I’m better prepared to live in the ambiguity of not knowing what outcomes will be, trusting that life is composed of up and down cycles.

Reading my raves is a valuable tool for moving through a challenge. The same positive energy is created when I’m in a group that regularly shares what each person appreciates about the others. Thanks to the appreciations — knowing how others see me as helpful — I can move through the group’s challenges with more confidence. I can move through my challenges of working collaboratively. And I believe this positive energy enables the group to achieve more than what I expected.

I’m wondering what holds me back from being more “spontaneous” in writing appreciations of others who are making a difference in my life?