Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin's memoir: The Happiness Project

I am part of a wonderful book club (shout out to my ladies - woo hoo!) that reads a diverse and fun mix of equally wonderful literature.  Our group deviated a bit from our usual genres about a year ago and selected Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project.  In the writer's memoir about her effort to get "happier," she chronicles a year in her life, tackling an area of herself, (such as family, work, hobbies, marriage), one month at at time with a series of resolutions connected to each area.

Let's be honest.  The book had me at the title - happiness and project together.  C'mon - just calling my name!  I urged my book club to read it (it had been sitting on my shelf for months) and lucky for me, they appeased me (thanks, girls!).  It came as no shock to anyone in the group that I would then, proceed to embark on my own happiness project after reading this book...complete with spreadsheet and all.

I started my project last August and completed it last month.  A year of happiness projects.  With truth and transparency, I can say that I am happier.  More than that, I am more self aware, and hopefully, more evolved.  I am more conscious of the behaviors, attitudes, and habits that bring me joy, and more purposeful in the choices I make in my life, including how I play with my kids, when I say "yes" or "no", and what relationships I nurture.

The self improvement task master in me couldn't pass up this opportunity to fine tune every part of my life I felt lacking, especially with the promise of "happier" at the finish line.  Each month presented new challenges, with different resolutions proving to be easier than others, such as "Stop complaining" (hard), "Ask for what I need" (very hard),  "Practice forgiveness" (even harder), and "Turn off the computer earlier" (easier than I thought).

I posted my monthly resolutions on my office wall and checked them regularly.  They brought order to my daily chaos and grounded me with a vision of "better" that kept me going on many days when I struggled to find "happier."

Like the author, Gretchen, I was happy before I started this project, but also like Gretchen, I felt that I should be happier given the wonderful, blessed life I was living.  I too, wanted to find a way to live more joyfully.  It is no coincidence that my blog launched shortly after embarking on my Happiness Project and continues to inspire me on my good life journey.

I wanted to share my project with you, to perhaps inspire you to also focus on being happier.  In which areas of your life do you feel less than happy...or maybe just enough happy?  What areas do you feel should make your happier?  Work, fitness, hobbies, a relationship?  Make your list.  Those are the areas for each month of your project.  Next, list 1-5 things (don't overwhelm yourself) with a few small things you can do each day to help you improve your happiness in that particular area.  Now, do them.  Next month, do the next five things in the next area of your life.  Oh, and here's the fun part: keep doing the list of things you did the previous month and all of the months before that, until you get to your one-year month, where it's "Boot Camp Perfect" and you try do all the things on your list for every month.

Here's an example of what I charted out for a few of my months:

Lighten up.

1. Take time to play.
2. Make them laugh.
3. Enjoy the moment.
4. Say "yes" more.

Create sacred spaces.

1. Start a meditation practice.
2. Read Autobiography of a Yogi.
3. Commit to yoga.
4. Appreciate nature daily.

I encourage you to do the same, and don't get too stressed out if you don't do everything on your list every day, or even at all that month.  I found that although, I missed the boat on some things one month, I ended up finding my way to those very things during another month while working on another area of my life.  As it is said, everything in life is interconnected, and I was repeatedly surprised by how often my project weaved itself together with a life of its own that would bring me back to the very thing on my list I had missed and didn't even realize I was getting back to.

As I wrap up the year of this project, I realize I have learned so very much about myself.  I am clearer and stronger, and yes, happier.  I also realize that I have by no means finished my happiness project.  In fact, I think I will just re-label it my "happier" project because we are continuously evolving and enhancing our lives, and this self growth warrior wants to keep setting the "happier" benchmark higher for myself.  While this energy drives my husband crazy (I love you, babe), I believe it is what makes me,  And for that, I am happier.