It’s all about the list

The real benefit to a structured Happiness Project, or at least the structured list, is that it measures balance.  A list of certain things to do each week requires that nothing gets neglected week after week. It’s so easy, especially when you’re busy, for time to all steamroll together, and the daily actions that make you what you are or want to be get put aside “just today”, again, and still again. Then you look up and days or weeks have passed without any attention to the things you want to do.

The list makes you look up more often.  Having a checklist to report to with all the truly important things on it is an ongoing feedback device that reminds you at a glance what is getting neglected.  I love my fancy weekly “nice list”, because I can tell instantly, where there is a gap between the stars, what I haven’t been paying enough attention to and voila, my attention turns that way.  It’s a natural balance meter.

My list has two sections: eight things I intend to do daily, and eleven things that I want to do 1-3x per week.  Of course it’s all jazzed up with bluebirds to make associations to the book, and inspirational quotes and colour graphics, on a half page sheet.
The daily things -mostly quick things that still need some reminding before they become natural habit -have their little grid where I can put checkmarks each day of the week.   The other, weekly things- naturally, bigger endeavours that take some time and effort – have little grey stars to indicate desired results.  When I execute one, I get to stick one of my fancy glitter stars over the hopeful little grey placeholder.  The satisfaction of doing this is all out of proportion.

My list of the week floats around and gets a bit crinkled over the week, then I make a week-end synopsis of what worked and didn’t and do a little review and analysis on the back of the sheet before I file it where I can occasionally see all those stars from weeks gone by.

Enough with my Happiness Project – next up: advancing with our fiberglass camper reno.

One week in:

Happiness Project assessment, one week in:

I found out that “write when I feel the urge” is easier than I thought it would be, judging by the complete row of checkmarks.  I only needed the validation of checkmarks by a list item to let myself seize those moments of inspiration.  That and the little warning flag I made to hang out for my husband to tell him to ignore me while I’m writing.  Which is working very well.

The only other new institution to have an unexpected 100% score is journalling.  While I write consistently overall, and sometimes I keep a journal, I never consistently keep a journal, and I would like to (I’ve begun to, as a matter of fact).  It seems the form was the key.  I got a dateless day planner with about an inch of space per day.  Thinking of it as a one sentence journal, although an inch will fit a few sentences if you write small, made it easy.  It takes about a minute to review the day.  So the secret is to make the task manageably small, which makes the bigger goal achievable.  This little journal reminds me now of the 92 year old woman who

Never was a list so serious

BluebirdTo kick off my Happiness Project, I made myself an official Happiness Project list.

Every project, before it can begin, requires a fancy supporting document, with at least a little colour, sometimes on the scale of a major arts and crafts event.  This one I wanted to do on my computer.

In a spectacular example of the wrong approach, I started the day with cookies, didn’t drink water, and spent nearly a day creating the list of my model Happiness plan.  The irony was not lost on me, as I flouted early entries ON the list, like hydrate; wrestled with text in a handwriting font when I could have written it by hand faster; and spent energy on an accessory, at best- creating a list instead of taking actions that were on the list.

I started out with a vision of digitally straight line tables and slick graphics, but never imagined it could take so long. I slaved away, using four different programs because I didn’t know how to make one do what I wanted, and got teeth-grindingly hungry and mad at the whole project.  I was too deep in it by then to give up, though.   There was probably a point of turn-around, where it would have made sense to write off the time already invested and not waste any more, but I missed it. Continue reading Never was a list so serious

Rules, Adages, or Guidelines for Happiness

Ok, maybe there is a place for “Rules, Adages, or Guidelines” (Read my last post first).

Some from the book that I like:
Buy anything you want at the grocery store; cooking is always cheaper than eating out.
Start where you are (an essential part of the Law of Attraction).
Talk to strangers.
Be polite and fair.
By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished, and What you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile.
First things first.  Definitely.  It’s all about getting priorities straight.  Drinking enough water is critical to having enough energy to finish the project you blaze into, and eating before you blood sugar dives is crucial to having a mood that permits politeness and forgiveness.  Similarly, like “the cook eats first”, one has to take care of oneself before being capable of going out in the world and giving.  You must be replete to be generous (therefore taking care to “fill the tank” is essentially unselfish).
If it takes less than a minute to put away, or do it right, do it now.  My corollary:  If it’s almost as fast to do it as it is to write it on a list, just do it.
Things that make you happy don’t always feel happy.  Damn skippy.  Challenging and threatening things that make you feel nauseous in the doing can the most rewarding to have done.  To wit:  marathons.

Here’s a few all my own:
If a system doesn’t function, change the system.  My husband gives me fantastic feedback on whether a system works (like, where things belong).  If it works, he puts things back where they “go”, because that’s the easiest, obvious place to put them.  If the system doesn’t work, he finds someplace else to drop them that displeases me, and I know my so-clever system isn’t functional and needs to be adapted.  You can’t force people to fit a system; only the system can be changed.  Whole design industries have grown out of this.

Continue reading Rules, Adages, or Guidelines for Happiness

My Happiness Project

Bluebird image from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness ProjectI’ve started a Happiness Project.  This has nothing to do with the new year, by the way, although it might have something to do with winter.   I’ve had a stretch of a scary bad time, so I figured it was time to recruit my natural list-making and determination selves for some change.

I pulled out Gretchen Rubin’s popular The Happiness Project for reference, and ended up reading it again.  It seemed more enlightening this time, and I found useful things that I didn’t remember seeing the first time.  For one thing, I’m married now, which makes a lot of her tips and experience in her marriage more relevant.

My husband has this amazing facility for change.  It seems that all it takes for him to make lasting behavioural changes is to notice and decide he wants to change it.  Much later I’ll notice that he doesn’t do that thing anymore.  He doesn’t write down intentions, make daily review sheets or success charts.  This amazes me, because I can’t imagine doing such a thing without paperwork.  This is where The Happiness Project really sings to me.  The whole plan is detailed and ultra-specific, she values the organization of physical environment to support goals, and everything revolves around a list.

That’s no exaggeration.   The book is really a riot of lists upon lists nested in lists, a perfect comfort for a certain type of person who’s into that, like me.  For example:  Resolutions (for example Sing in the Morning, Pursue a Passion), 12 Commandments (like Identify the Problem and Enjoy the Process), Secrets of Adulthood (like People actually prefer that you buy wedding gifts off their registry,  and If you can’t find something, clean up), True Rules (such as Whenever possible, choose vegetables), and Four Splendid Truths (The days are long, but the years are short).  Since they’re all sort of rules, intentions, or resolutions, they get confusing, barring the Splendid Truths, which are more philosophic Principles of happiness.  In fact, now there are 8 Splendid Truths.

Also, as she discovers over her year, the most important key to success was her Daily Resolution Chart.  I’ve known that for a while.  Reminding oneself of the goal, and some act of acknowledging when you succeed (like checking off a list, or writing down “celebrations”) tells a deeper part of your mind that that is what you want; that is the direction you want to change.  Then your sub-mind can easily create more of it.

I found that during the project design phase, I found that the things I wanted to do sifted into two categories:  vague intentions, such as to be nicer, say no less, and be healthy; and completable goals, like write a book.   In the second category, you know when you’ve done it.  Continue reading My Happiness Project