Aug 30, 2016

Happiness Project Part 2 (Inspired by Gretchen Rubin)

I read The Happiness Project and, despite having run my own mini project a couple months ago, and several people assuring me that I'd enjoy the book, I was just not expecting to be quite so blown away.  I LOVE how organized Gretchen's approach is.  I love how she splits the areas of happiness into 12 categories and has different resolutions each month.  I love how she quite candidly states that her 12 areas of happiness are probably going to be different than her readers' and everyone's project should look a little different.  Every time I ran into a chapter that didn't captivate me as much as the others, I'd remind myself of that.

For example, I was entirely taken by her month of fun.  I absolutely want to collect ideas from people and try out a months of suggestions, just like I did for happiness ideas.  But I was less enthralled by the relationship chapter, because the way Ryan and I function is so different from Gretchen and her husband.  For me, the answer isn't "Do stuff instead of asking him to" because that fosters resentment.  Instead I need to ask him before I start stewing about it and he is almost always happy to oblige me (which is amazing and I appreciate this so much about him).

I also really liked that Gretchen is so focused on research and analysis.  A lot of her prompts and choices for resolutions are based on actual studies and I learned a lot, in addition to gaining ideas for things to try on my own.

Another thing that really resonated was her point about hobbies and interests that we think we SHOULD like.  I've experienced this 2 ways: 1) Trying to continue finding joy in childhood hobbies despite the fact that it's just not working for me anymore and 2) Thinking I should like things because of how I'll be perceived if I do like them.

I want to like video games, both for the nerd cred and because Ryan likes them so much, but if I'm really, really honest, most of the time I'd rather read a book.  I do greatly enjoy the games we play together, but not all games are created equal.  I enjoy childish games like Zelda, Mario, and Lego Harry Potter because they're easy and fun and sometimes involve solving puzzles.  I like games that are visually appealing and that allow you some autonomy outside the basic plot, like World of Warcraft and Fable.  It didn't used to matter, but I no longer like playing games at my computer because it's so strongly associated with work and because I sit in that damn office chair enough as it is.  My butt needs a break!

I want to like classical music, but usually I'd rather just turn on my Dub/Electronica station on Pandora or listen to the Les Miserables soundtrack for the bajillionth time.  I want to like Smashing Magazine and other business and design oriented news sites and blogs, but I get bored.  It's work, not play.  I want to know more about world events and how our political system works, but researching it is a huge drag.  I want to be more into yoga, meditation, and spirituality, but in the end I think I'm happier as a dabbler than a devotee.

In The Happiness Project, a lot of Gretchen's realizations when something doesn't make her happy are that she's not really "being Gretchen."  And, while sometimes she does things she doesn't enjoy, the whole point of the project is to find the things that truly call to her.  I think this is a fantastic next step for me.

I spent a month trying out everyone else's suggestions and, while I found a few new things that work for me, a lot of it was things I'm already trying to force myself to like more than I do.  Or, like exercise, things that do make me happier in the long run, but aren't "fun."

12 months is a bit long for me, and I don't think I have as many areas I want to cover as Gretchen did, but I'd like to give this monthly resolution thing a shot.  I've got 5 months until R-Day (that's Reptar Day), at which point who knows what life will be like, so I'm choosing 5 areas to build on.
  • September: Career Development
  • October: Social
  • November: Self Actualization
  • December: Fun
  • January: Mindset

Happiness Project Month 1: Career Development

After spending some time debating which topic to tackle first (they all sounded so fun!), I reluctantly settled on career development, which is in the most need of some attention.  For those who don't know, I work a part time job Monday/Tuesday and I freelance the rest of the week.  Some months have been busy, but the last few not so much.

Rather than continue to play around during my free time, as much fun as all the extra reading has been, I'd like to channel more time and energy into my business.  I've got a couple things started or in the works already, so I figure now is a great time to build on that momentum.  My primary goals are to educate myself and gain new skills for my business and to make more connections within my field.  So some of these are projects rather than ongoing behaviors, but the projects are a lead in for a mentorship/internship opportunity I'd like to take advantage of, which would represent both a great learning opportunity and a way to get to know some other designers.

The Resolutions

  1. Spend at least 5 hours on business activities W, Th, F
  2. Track time usage
  3. Follow up with clients weekly
  4. Say yes to all potential networking opportunities

The To Do List

  1. Optimize website for mobile
  2. Redefine target market
  3. Build a Wordpress website
  4. Follow up with potential mentorship (the previous points were prerequisites to working with the company I'd like to get more involved with)

I'll check in at the end of each month with results and my resolutions for the next month, and I'm going to try to keep a checklist, modeled after the one Gretchen used (and makes available at her website!).

Have you built your own happiness project?  What did you think of the book?

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  1. I love this!! I knew you would love The Happiness Project. Like you, I really appreciated all of her research and analysis because that's my background and I like to see that in a book. I hope you enjoy your happiness project! I really realized while I was reading that book that there are so many little things you can do to foster happiness that I had never really thought about.

  2. I have been meaning to get around to reading the book but haven't yet. I love the idea of a month of fun. And I am with you on liking video games like Mario. Best wishes with your project!

  3. Yeah, I might have to read this. This was so interesting. I find myself trying and to varying degrees succeeding at different versions of this, but the organization you laid out here is really speaking to my soul.

    Also: "Another thing that really resonated was her point about hobbies and interests that we think we SHOULD like. I've experienced this 2 ways: 1) Trying to continue finding joy in childhood hobbies despite the fact that it's just not working for me anymore and 2) Thinking I should like things because of how I'll be perceived if I do like them." YES. I find that I was sort of subconsciously working on the #2 part of things for the last few months—maybe years?—and it feels like a release of mental clutter. Do what makes you happy is such an overlooked piece of valuable advice, for so many of us.

  4. I have this book on my TBR already, thanks to you. But now I really need to put it to the top of the list because I LOVE how you describe the book and it sounds like it is exactly what I need right now. I'm trying to figure out life, which means it's Tuesday, and I feel so darn scattered and all over the place. And I am someone who is notorious for playacting Tanya versus being the real me. I love what you're focusing on and can't wait to hear your results.

    1. It's so good. Just everything about it. I don't think I mentioned it in the post, but another thing Gretchen talks about is the line between "fake it 'til you make it" and being true to yourself. I like the idea that those ideas can work in harmony.

  5. i haven't read this book, i go back and forth on whether i want to or not.
    i struggle with reading about relationships in general, because everyone is different! KC and I are a mix of Gretchen and you lol, sometimes the solution to me is 'Do stuff instead of asking him to' and sometimes it isn't - I call it picking my battles. If I know I'll eventually resent him for it, I bring it up. If it's something silly or not that important, I just do it myself. Seems to be working okay.
    'should' is such an annoying word haha. there are so many things that i do or try and do because i think i should or because the internet tells me i will be happy like these people if i do it.. but i've definitely come to learn that it's okay if i don't like this or that, or wearing this or that, or decorating my house any which way. there are things i do because i should like exercise, like you said, but i still try and choose something i halfway enjoy vs something i completely hate.
    I love the idea of focusing on something each month. I will check out her website, thanks for sharing!

  6. I really enjoyed this book and then bought it to reference back to from time to time. I kind of did a happiness project last year and I really enjoyed it. I think I am going to try a new one in the new year after the wedding and other things coming up.. I think you picked great topics leading up to the little one. Good luck!

  7. The Happiness Project was eye opening for me too, I really had no idea happiness was a choice until I read that book.

    I've always thought I should do a happiness project but haven't really formally set anything in place. I find when I set a formalized plan for something "fun" it isn't "fun" anymore so I give up on it.


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