I began reading The Happiness Project the week before I got married. Being that I am a very motivated, goal-oriented person, and that most of the time I am happy, it seemed silly to begin setting another round of goals for myself to make myself more happy. How could I use this book to challenge what I was practicing? It seemed that the author, Gretchen, seemed to have the same hang up about her own life. She was a happy person, and had made life choices to take herself on a path of living the way she wanted to. She spent a year researching happiness; read, took notes, and began to apply resolutions on a month to month basis. What she found was that by charting her resolutions with a gold star, creating a visual checklist, meant that she was more likely to obtain and be aware of goals she thought would make her happy! I find that happiness for me is self-awareness. I work well in a routine and also want to be flexible. I feel like I am in the middle of goals, so how am I to step out and begin with a fresh set to tackle if this is the secret to happiness?!
Though Gretchen spent the year prior researching happiness; Thoreau to Elizabeth Gilbert, scholars to school teachers, from Benjamin Franklin to Saint Therese of Lisieux, not until she began to live month to month resolution and research on herself did she come up with her Splendid Truths of Happiness. The first one is First: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
I’ve spent a lot of time considering that statement. Know what makes you happy, what makes you feel bad, know what makes you feel right.
…in an atmosphere of growth. Challenge yourself with the things that make you happy. But, how do you evaluate this? Your very own Resolutions Chart! You can go to Gretchen’s website and begin your own online or create one for your home yourself.
Why Resolution and not Goal? Gretchen addresses this – because a goal ends with its completion and isn’t life more about the journey, not just the end? Isn’t life about the moments in days, not years? Resolution because it’s a constant challenge, something to continually make you better.
Gretchen writes that ‘one reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to expand your self-definition. You become larger.’ ‘…loosing your job may be a blow to your self-esteem, but the fact that you lead your communities…’ What she is saying is that if there are many things that define you, when one doesn’t work out, in the whole picture of things, it doesn’t hurt quite as bad because you have something else to fall back on and be involved in. ‘A new identity brings you into contact with new people and new experiences, which are also powerful sources of happiness.’
With challenges and trying new things comes some failure. I enjoyed this quote from Gretchen the most – ‘If something is worth doing, its worth doing badly.’ If you fail by someone else’s standards, see that you did attempt something for yourself!
What about knowing what makes you happy and knowing what makes you feel bad? I write when I need to figure something out that makes me feel bad. I like the advice ‘fully explain the problem.’ Ask Why. After a full description of a problem, supply a solution.. fantastic! That seems like an easy way of dealing with problems, but more often than not, if I feel bad about a situation and I take time to sort it out in writing, I come around to seeing the bright side of the picture, because now I have fully defined the problem and typically have resolved a way in which to deal with it.
Life is about a balance. Balancing the things I enjoy every day with different tasks, deadlines, events. I write lists, and discuss with myself in my journal often about what things I am balancing. After this, the hardest thing for me is to act on the high list of expectancies. Do this, and that, every day, every week… I’ve just started to challenge myself one at a time, and keep track of how I’m doing with creating a challenge between another friend and I. I like to balance my marriage, health and exercise, work, creativity and fun, friends and family. For exercising I have agreed to run a sprint triathlon with a girlfriend I can train with 3-4 times a week. To write more and establish a consistent creative outlet by writing, another friend and I have agreed to 10-minute blogs. My husband and I are committed to learning Italian, which we decided to take in 10 minute Italian lesson sessions every day. But, without a chart we do forget after a couple of days of not being able to fit it in. So, speaking of, I’ll re-enact that tonight. If I don’t want a(nother) chart on my refrigerator then perhaps I need to set up happiness resolution reminders.. say in my events calendar at work! Hm. I guess all I needed to do was write it out to figure out a solution.
The point is to try. Try and do it badly, if that is the worst that could happen. Try something and come out of it with a different outcome than expected. That happens every day in my work. You begin with a design, find our more parameters that present challenges and turn out a different solution because of the experience. Surprisingly enough, trying garners self-respect and the confidence to try again.
Challenges for 2010 that I think will make me happy. 🙂 And, I’ve just added this to August’s calendar, so that the first day of the month I will be reminded to:
~Keep track of food and exercise – How do I Eat & Exercise Better? Keep track of what I eat and burn calories on with www.foodsdatabase.com as well as a homemade exercise motivation chart. Choose vegetables when given any choice, limit alcohol, eat out only 1-2 times per week, strength train and stretch my arms, legs, and abs with a quick 15 minute per day exercise.
~Develop my husband and I’s relationship by doing something creative together each week
~Collaborate on Writing – Take an hour each day to devote to creative writing on my blog, book reviews, or journal. At least write for five minutes at the end of the day, quick poetic lines of my day in my journal. Make an effort to join the poetry exchange in Pittsburgh the first Monday of every month to collaborate with colleagues.
~Write my Blog – Challenge myself with a friend to post most every day, dedicating 10 minutes to do so at the least!
~Keep in touch with friends and collaborate
~Meet a professional every week
~Develop my wardrobe and Art
~Visit someone or travel once a month
~Learn Italian – Ten minutes a day, work on speaking the language with my husband.
~Converse with one Italian a month
~Art Time / once per week
~Plan Italy / once per week
~Keep my house clean and orderly
~Build a better Interior’s Portfolio – Take on the money commitment now, saving month to month on a project I want to do to my kitchen in 2011. Begin planning the textures, colors, and floor plans to garner approval and enthusiasm from me and my husband. I know that he doesn’t like doing house projects, or enjoy the duration, so I also need to find someone to help me build it in a timely manner.
To do all of this I begin Monday’s with in informal meeting with myself and balance my week in the following grid of timing.
Then, there is the other side of Gretchen’s book that are lesson-like. These are the things I like to remind myself of:
Pursue a passion in September, which is for Gretchen BOOKS! Take your passion seriously, resolutions one at a time.. over the course of a year, tackle one book a month like a book club does. Take on a commitment and give yourself a time frame. Gretchen decided to write a novel in a month and gained ‘great satisfaction from the achievement.’ While reading Gretchen’s account of writing a novel she writes ‘usually when I’m writing I constantly question my work. With novel-writing in a month, I couldn’t take the time, and it was a relief to be free from my inner critic.’ And I had an Ah ha!
There are no Rules – is my first and most important lesson.
You want to do something, you want to be something? The whole book began to order itself around me and make sense! What is it that you want to do? What can you do to achieve it? Steps? Can you take on one a week, one a day? Be serious? Track your progression, track the commitment and be proud to accomplish it? It is like we all need a report card. I visited my sister’s house over July 4th and one her fridge is a month long work-out plan. I give it to her- she does get up at 5:30 to work out, and I see that she X’s things off one by one as she completes each day. She’s doing a resolutions chart and its making herself happy to do so without even knowing about this Happiness Project!
You come up with a profound thought every day! Believe that. There aren’t rules. You are your hardest critic. I tend to write things, then think ‘oh someone else would probably think that that is incorrect english,’ then I never post, or delay writing things because I don’t know who will be critiquing it. Blah! That is dumb, it makes me stagnant. I want to have a nicer Interiors portfolio, so why don’t I tackle my house like I am my own client? Invest, indulge toward my career, and build a portfolio all at the same time!
How many times do I try to brush my teeth, put on my jewelry, put away socks, close the kitchen cabinets, make my lunch in the morning, put on my shoes… all at the same time. I don’t enjoy things when I try to fit them in and on top of one another. Lesson number 2 is do only one thing at a time, and do it now. After reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project I began to realize and listen to what I was telling myself everyday during my normal routine. Then, I began to realize that those sayings I would tell myself meant how I believed I could live better, fuller, and a more in-tuned life for myself.
Gretchen says that if a task (like bringing the garbage out to the can vs. carrying it out to the porch) takes less than one minute, do it now. My husband practices that too. Instead of letting things pile up, finish putting away the dishes, cut the bushes, trim the grass, hang up a coat, do it now. If I ask him to help me with something he says, let’s do it now. I like that attitude, because when I look at that thing to do a second time, and feel the nag to get it done, it makes the single task worse. Seeing it once and taking care of it right away allows other thoughts to be in the place of nagging tasks. In acknowledging my husbands feelings about getting things done, I am reminded about another one of Gretchen’s realizations. Acknowledge other people’s feelings. (Lesson 3) We’ve all heard that one in treating others the way in which we wish to be treated. But, what she means is deeper than the surface, it is a way of communication that is so pertinent to how we treat one another, and how we wish to be treated. We all want to be in control of our lives, our own freedoms to make choices on what we eat, when and how we do things. You may have been taught the wrong type of communication. Being told ‘No’ or ‘you don’t feel that way’ or ‘when you get older’ while growing up, it seemed as if your feelings were never valid for the current situation. Which, is really not accurate. I always resented being told that during my childhood from people who were older than me. How unfair do you feel when someone doesn’t acknowledge what you think?
How can we judge others when we don’t know what circumstances they are working under? Growing up I realized that I was annoyed when people would squash my feelings as ‘oh you’ll get over it’ or when you get older you will change your mind.’ This brought out in me a strong urge to understand others feelings by listening to them. Why assume you know what they are talking about? You don’t. I realized this even more when I work with visual images as an adult and when two people converse over sketches one realizes how often what we interpret is different from what they mean. When its drawn it is easy to articulate these differences of perception.
One thing about me is that I don’t like being pegged. Nor do I enjoy being told what I should do, hence, the above reasoning. I can make the best decision for myself. I believe groups make better collective decisions which may be different from my own, but there is only one of me to decide for me, and with adequate time I strongly stand that I’ve made the best decision for myself. That is why when Gretchen described communication with her daughter it really struck a chord with me. Under ‘Lighten Up’ Gretchen vowed to acknowledge other people’s feelings and in repeating what her little girl said between sobs, her little girl felt respected for feeling the way she did.
Which brings me to the fact that we can’t choose the way we feel, but can choose the way to deal or act on it. Know thyself. (who said this?) In my effort to understand other I become very frustrated when someone assumes they understand me, and acts that way toward me. I try to question, listen, perceive and respect others who treat me that way too.
‘Its more selfless to act Happy.’
Gretchen writes in August as she’s contemplating the heavens to understand eternity in order to cultivate a contented and thankful spirit. She describes the circle of her second splendid truth and focuses on the second line. ‘One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.’
She describes being happy. ‘The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity and discipline to be unfailingly light-hearted yet everyone take a happy person for granted…he seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others.’
Other people cultivate unhappiness as a way to control others. They cling to unhappiness because without it they’d forgo the spiral consideration that unhappiness secures: the claim to pity and attention.
This circles back to thinking that in order to make others happy, you have to make yourself happy. Make yourself happy, and others will catch the bug. If you can find a way to make a situation better, why don’t you do it? Gretchen had a hair problem with her daughter. Instead of getting mad at the bed head, Gretchen decided to take action and ask her daughter for a brush, so that Gretchen could brush it for her. The situation didn’t change, but the effect of pretty hair made Gretchen happier.
Happiness in December: I just finished Gretchen’s book. In the end her husband describes her year-long happiness project. He says, ‘I think this happiness project is about you trying to get more control over your life.’ She replies (Yes!) ‘Having a feeling of autonomy, of being able to choose what happiness in your life or how you spend your time is crucial. Identifying and following my resolutions had made me feel far more in control of my time, my body, my actions, my surroundings, and even my thoughts.’
Resolve to do something every day to reach your resolution. Take them one at a time, and develop slow routines to happiness. I have found the easiest way for me to be proud of achieving my resolutions each day, each week, has been to involve a friend. My friend and I have challenged ourselves to compete in a sprint triathlon. We just signed up August first for the race at the end of a month, and in doing this, I feel a rising source of excitement coming on. I am excited, but it reminds me that I am also ready to compete! In trying to write more, I have entertained a 10-minute blog challenge with a long distance friend. We get to express our creative thoughts by ourselves, but then as a bonus, we get to read what one another blogs about, allowing us to live more closely and motivate one another in the process.
(bird necklace from Miss Vanda at Paraphernalia collection. Image used to create the first banner picture)