The Pillow Test

You become what you give your attention to.
55 – 135 A.D.

I’m always looking for little things people can do to improve their quality of life. I recently heard of a good exercise from an associate in Dallas; he calls it the pillow test.

It’s simple, but it can be very effective over time. As you lay your head down on your pillow each night, ask yourself the following two questions.

  • What am I glad I did today?
  • What do I wish I had done today?

These are powerful and thought provoking questions. Think about the things you did: to help others, to grow as an individual, or to make the world a little better; these actions are things you should be glad you did. Then look at the other side of the coin. What were the opportunities you let pass? Did you have the chance to help someone but fail to take it? Did you lose your cool? Waste your time? Consider those moments you wish you’d handled differently.

If you’re like most people, when you first start doing this exercise, your “wish I had” list will be longer than your “glad I did” list. But by bringing those events into your conscious awareness, you’ll soon start to see improvement. Your ultimate goal should be to increase your “glad” list and reduce your “wish” list. While it might be tempting to work towards eliminating all the events on your “wish” list, that’s probably not realistic; after all, no one is perfect. But doing these exercises will reveal the areas you need to improve.

Don’t try to change too many things at once; it won’t work. Take small steps. When we attempt change, even when we know it will improve our lives, our ego steps in to block our efforts; our subconscious mind is very comfortable with the status quo. On some level, we all fear change. One very effective strategy to combat this problem is to make the first step towards change so small that anyone could do it; this approach bypasses the fear response.

The pillow test is good, but to take it one step further, you should do a “pillow pep talk” each the morning. This is a slightly different approach to the same theme.

When you first wake up, before you get out of bed and start your day, use the following affirmation (filling in the blank appropriately): today I will _______. Good items to strive for are the “wish I had” events from the previous night. For example, if you wish you hadn’t lost your temper yesterday, then start your morning by saying “Today I will control my temper.” If you wish you’d been kinder or given someone a helping hand, then choose one of those things. (For best results, make sure to state your intention in positive terms: I will rather than I won’t.)

If you incorporate the pillow test and the pillow pep talk into your daily routine, you’ll be amazed at the changes that will take place in your life. So much of what we do is habit. Bringing “I’m glad I did,” “I wish I had,” and “Today I will” into our consciousness makes us aware of our actions and gives us the ability to make deliberate choices rather than acting out of habit.

This practice is one of the most powerful and productive things you can do to change your life. Don’t wait weeks, months or years and say “I wish I had.” Start today, and in a few weeks you’ll be saying, “I’m so glad I did.”

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
Winston Churchill
1874 – 1965

Copyright © 2014 John Chancellor


The Pillow Test — 1 Comment

  1. Very interesting advice, thanks for sharing. It’s so true that we should constantly try to affirm in our minds what we are glad we did and what we wish we did. Otherwise we’ll keep repeating the same mistakes.