Last month I was perusing my local used bookstore when I came across something called "The Happiness Project". I began to read it and discovered it was about a woman's year long journey to be more happy.
The idea that she made happiness a goal for an entire year excited and intrigued me. So often I hear about happiness projects being a goal of 30 days or something similar. I could only imagine what would change for me if happiness was my priority for twelve months straight.
I then sat with the feeling that if making happiness a priority for a year feels revolutionary, it means I'm not making it a priority now. And if it's not my motivation, what is? My answer to this was two things - one, to accomplish things so I don't feel awkward when I'm socializing. I need to tell people what I'm doing and what I've done so that they won't perceive me as being lazy and undisciplined.
It stunned me to realize a large motivating factor for me is what other people think of me.
My other priority in life is how I'm going to feel taken care of. How will I make money? How will I survive? This too surprised me, because as a writer I had always told myself I was living the opposite of the pursuit of money and security. And yet this has been a driving force in how I feel and what I want for most of my life.
I'm so used to the idea that this world is about survival that even in the pursuit of my purest, most beloved passion I forgot to bring happiness into it.
What then would happen if I thought of what makes me happy and made that my priority?
The author of the book started on January 1st, dedicating each month to a happiness goal. This too felt revolutionary. So often we put all of our plans for change into one pressure-filled moment. We want our News Years resolutions to sweep through and change our whole life, without considering that each resolution needs time to be nurtured and rooted.
Since I bought the book in mid-February I decided to wait until March 1st to begin. That would give me more time to read about her journey, which was already inspiring and uplifting me. Just hearing about how someone else's life positively changes for the better can do so much to get us up and going. Even though I wouldn't begin for several weeks, I decided to go ahead and write my list.
Once I'd finished I'd wondered if I'd done a good job. Was it a good idea to make a month dedicated to laughter? How would I laugh more? Maybe that was too vague... and what about the goal to be outside more? I don't love gardening and yet I'd included that as part of an outdoor-oriented month...
The fact that I wasn't sure if I knew what would make me happier speaks volumes in itself.
But then I thought of something I wanted to add and as I went down the list there was nothing I wanted to remove to make room for it. So that was it. I had my list. (And I did sneak that thing in - it was a spiritual tome I've been wanting to read, and I piggy backed it on my meditation month).
It's now mid-March and I still haven't officially started my happiness project. I want to completely finish the book before I do so, as I know one of my non-happy habits is rushing. When I begin I book I devour it as fast as I can, sometimes falling asleep while I read. I get an idea for a project and I dive in, giving it hours at a time before I stop to ask myself how I'm feeling and if I'm ready for this next step.
I had already noticed my leadfoot when it came to kick starting things in my life, so I didn't officially put "slow down" in the list. I'm considering it an over-arching, year long goal that will support all the other ones.
You don't need the book in order to begin your own happiness project. The author has tons of information online, including a blog, podcasts and a starter kit for a Happiness Project group.
How do you feel about a year of happiness? Does it sound like a lot of work, or like you'd change your priorities and find a new way of living?