Last night, I was at “it” anew. “It” being the brainstorming session I was once again tackling to nail down my happiness project themes. I would love to report everything fell neatly into place. It didn’t.
After an additional night of more writing, note-taking, and tracing on my legal pad, I called the whole thing off and trudged to bed.
I determined to work on my project again this afternoon by filling a new notebook.
I gingerly rewrote my lists with my predominant ideas.
I boldly halved a page with a stroke of my pen. I numbered the top half with a 1 and the bottom half with a 2. I repeated this process with subsequent pages until I reached the number 12. Six pages in all.
I proceeded to write a keyword – or group of words – at the top of each half page with corresponding action steps listed below. I also scribbled additional thoughts whenever something came to mind. For this purpose, I used a different colored pen. I considered no idea too small to put on paper.
Some themes came together crystal clear and concise while others took more time to ferret into some semblance of order. A few categories were evident in my mind, and I knew I wanted to work on them despite the fact I could not dredge up clear action steps. Lastly, I had action steps which did not fit well into any of my main categories.
My Happiness Project Themes
Some themes had emerged as “I most certainly want to concentrate on this.” Such subjects were:
- Energy – Vitality
- True Love – Hubby
- Kids – Grands
- Authencity – Vulnerability
- Money – Altruism
At this point, even though I still had many ideas floating around in my head, it was proving difficult to uncover more precise categories.
These are the themes I was playing around with:
- Forgiveness – Letting go
- Passion – Soul
- Spiritual Life
- Work – Purpose
Some categories seemed a tad redundant, such as self-care and passion for example. As a very busy mom who worked herself into adrenal fatigue due to a combination of stress and poor life choices, I knew self-care was essential albeit something I wasn’t putting into practice at the time.
Passion, to me, was similar to self-care. If mismanaged, rather than being nourishing, my passions could become a drain. Self-care should involve nourishment (I don’t mean food), not starvation.
The ProjectHappiness.com site mentioned seven keys to happiness: mindfulness, gratefulness, wellness, thoughtfulness, freedom, social, and soul. These categories were further broken down as follows (as well as associated with a day of the week.)
- Mindfulness: Focus and mindset ~ Monday
- Gratefulness: Appreciation and love ~ Tuesday
- Wellness: Motivation and self-compassion ~ Wednesday
- Thoughtfulness: Compassion, giving back and altruism ~ Thursday
- Freedom: Authenticity, vulnerability, forgiveness, and letting go ~ Friday
- Social: Connections, empathy, and nature ~ Saturday
- Soul: Meaning, purpose, and strengths ~ Sunday
I used these themes as well as those from the book – The Happiness Project – to fashion my own. Seeing I was having a difficult time planning for the entire year, I decided to focus solely on my first two categories. One would be more self-focused – energy – and the other more outwardly focused – true love. I initially planned to follow that weaving path – inward-outward – as much as possible. It seemed like a sensible idea.
I chose to spotlight inward goals first because I now acutely understand it is far from selfish to be self-focused. Instead, it is a necessity. I cannot give what I do not have. I can not use energy if I don’t have any. A better example of this notion would be this: I cannot give a $20 bill away if I don’t have one in my wallet.
While my first themes were now well defined and accompanied by satisfying actions steps, I quickly discovered they became less so as I went through the months. My subjects started to feel more like catch-all categories than distinct groups. At first, this fact was bothersome. I wanted to have my whole year well planned with clear and concise action steps.
Why couldn’t I grasp what I wanted to work on and then, lay it out in an explicit manner?
I desired to have my whole year planned with straightforward and concise action steps. I wanted a distinct and intelligible path to follow, not this weird meandering and fumbling around.
It suddenly struck me as funny that this brainstorming was very similar to life. At least, I should say, the way my life has been. As humans, we want precise and predictable. We like predictable. It gives us a sense of security (albeit a false one).
We don’t take well to the unknown and the messy. This brainstorming process was undoubtedly messy, and I was most assuredly not too keen on that fact.
This creative thinking was no longer exhilarating; instead, the process was becoming too frustrating.
In reality, I didn’t need to have everything planned out, all I needed was to know my first theme and its accompanying action steps. It was okay for my project not to come neatly packaged. If I were to wait for my Happiness Project to present itself in a precise manner, I would never start. I would quit out of sheer frustration and exhaustion. I would become paralyzed desiring perfection. Perfection is indeed the enemy of the good.
Humans and Perfection
Humans are mess makers; this is a fact of life. If I were to succeed on my new journey, I would need to embrace the fun, delightful, and inspiring as well as the messy, confusing, and tedious. My lessons were embedded somewhere in the entire process: the highs and the lows, the peaks and valleys. This fact was the very reason I wanted to do this experiment in the first place.
Why bother to embark on such a journey if the answers were already apparent to me?
With this new attitude, I proceeded to write my first theme and its accompanying action steps. I then designed and printed a resolution chart. I was officially ready to roll.
I won’t lie, I am very excited at this point and likewise, eager to start.