While on a lengthy car ride from Durango, Colorado, to Tucson, Arizona, I listened to The Happiness Project (by Gretchen Rubin) which I finished shortly before entering Phoenix.
Upon the completion of the book, my brain was bubbling with ideas. I was determined to design a happiness project, and I wanted to do it all by October 1st—a mere few days away!
Gretchen Rubin masterfully narrated her book. I continually thought “great idea” or “oh, I want to do that!” At other times, my response was not as enthusiastic. Either way, I was thrilled at the prospect of designing my happiness experiment.
I quickly realized I had three problems:
I could remedy problem number one in two ways: 1) I could once again listen to the entire book on Audible, or 2) order a hardback copy of the book. Once I had said book in hand, I could gleefully mark, highlight, and partake in copious note-taking. I decided to do both (listen as well as order the book).
Problem number two would prove arduous to solve. The beauty of the Happiness Project was in taking the time to focus on one theme per month. Realistically, I couldn’t perform all my action steps in one month.
Even if I could, the prospect sounded daunting.
Rushing through my Happiness Project would be counterproductive. I probably would not learn the lessons I was longing to gain if I forged ahead at neck-breaking speed.
On the other hand, I was by all accounts impatient. A year seemed like a long time, and I wanted all my experiences infused into my brain “now. ” A sentiment typical of our times.
At this point, I had to surrender to the process. There is indeed happiness—and peace—in acceptance.
Problem number three was similar to problem number two. I wanted to work on twelve different areas, and invariably one subject would have to be last. How on earth was I going to pick the timing of my themes? They all felt crucial. Could I wait eleven months to work on my passion or my social bonds? What about altruism and energy?
Should I mindfully pick one subject or instead, as I was tempted to do, write my themes on a piece of paper, toss them in a hat and draw at random?
Not a bad idea, leaving everything to chance.
Instead, I determined to take the time to thoroughly brainstorm my themes even though I had less than one week to do so. After all, I had a model in the book, and while I did not want to work on the exact subjects Gretchen Rubin had picked—nor in the same sequence—her manuscript was a useful resource for me to model after.
On Monday, I sat at my kitchen table surrounded by my favorite colored Bic pens, a yellow legal pad, and my laptop.
First, I wrote Gretchen Rubin’s eleven subjects with the action steps within each theme.
Afterward, I wrote the list of happiness themes I found listed on the ProjectHappiness.com website.
Subsequently, I also wrote all the subjects which interested me or which felt essential to my happiness.
I anticipated that if I—proverbially—vomited all my ideas on paper, I would eventually be able to create twelve satisfactory categories for my experiment.
I did indeed collect plenty of ideas and action steps. My problem became how to organize them in some semblance of order. Some themes overlapped. Others subjects seemed too small; they could not possibly fill an entire month. Some categories were too broad; I would need to be split them over a couple of months.
At one point, I only had six categories, a bit later, fifteen.
This brainstorming was proving harder than I had forecasted.
I decided I wanted to work on Energy first as Gretchen Rubin had done. The theme “energy” made perfect sense. If I didn’t have enough vitality to drag through my day, how was I going to stick to new resolutions for twelve months? Without energy, I would eventually quit which wasn’t my desired outcome.
Beyond “energy,” even though I already have a great marriage, I knew I wanted to work on this theme as well. We can always improve on a good thing, right?
Kids were another obvious category as were friends.
“Friends” was a neglected subject in my life of late, one I teeter-tottered between being content with the status quo and wondering if maybe I was missing out.
I knew having a support system was important to happiness, especially during bad times. However, my support system was pretty much non-existent at this point.
I also knew I wanted—or shall I say needed—to work on authenticity.
I have always had a strong desire to be authentic. I also needed to be able to accept myself fully before expecting anyone else to it.
Self-compassion was essential to living authentically, and to love others as well. How could I give to others what I would not give myself?
In addition to these subjects, I had many others which seemed—as I mentioned above— to be either too big, too small, or to overlap with another.
I went through my whole legal pad and started afresh with a new one to do so.
At this point in my analysis, I felt stumped and decided to Google “happiness.” I furiously took notes on the pages of my new pad.
Additionally, I logged into my public library account to peruse their collection of books on happiness. I put a few on hold and a slew of others on my “for later shelf.”
Realistically, there was no way I was going to do a bunch of research by my starting date of October 1st.
I finally concluded I would concentrate on my first subject before planning for future months. Additionally, I would create some adequate action steps and a resolution chart.
Then, I would map out other subjects I knew I wanted to pursue. My more obscure themes, I would write on paper and leave them aside for a while. Maybe I could ferret some nuggets by walking away from this planning and taking a break.
Brainstorming is exhausting.
By the time I had all this worked out, it was close to ten PM, and I needed to head to bed (or at least, attempt to do so).
As of right now, this is still where things stand for me.
All day, life happened: A morning walk; kids; appointments; grocery shopping; a trip to the bank; making breakfast and lunch as well as distributing what seemed like a million snacks (please, tell me your kids also say they’re hungry every twenty minutes).
I even puttered around and wasted a fair amount of time which also seems to be a daily task of mine. Some of said wasted time was spent on social media, mainly Facebook (with which I have a love-hate relationship.)
Facebook is most definitely an area I need to tackle because it does not necessarily make me happy. It is a phenomenal tool to keep in touch with my family in France as well as friends all over the country.
Facebook is also a black hole.
Therefore, while Facebook does rank okay on my happy meter, wasted time most definitely does not. I am confident I squander way more time than I want to.
As evening nears and my kids are either riding (horses) with the neighbors or playing with the siblings of said neighbors, I plan on finishing my dinner prep in the hope of having some more time to brainstorm before my bed lures me into its welcome embrace.