In 2009, I was lucky enough to hear Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, speak. As you might expect with a presentation titled “Delivering Happiness,” he spoke of finding meaning in lots of the typical (and, in many cases, typically vague) ways…”What could you do happily for the next 10 years, even if you never made a dime?” etc. During his talk, though, one thing in particular struck me instantly as true and profound. He asked, “What if you spent 10% of your time researching the science of happiness?”
In short, if that’s your ultimate goal (to be happy), why not take direct steps to get there, instead of throwing your resources at false intermediary goals (making money, running a marathon…all things done to make you, after all, happy in some way, or so you suspect.)
This idea was very exciting to me. Never before had I heard someone putting happiness-finding in almost scientific terms. “Why, it almost sounds legit,” my MBA-trained brain gurgled happily. Yes, let’s research ways to increase my happiness and find my ideal calling! Unfortunately, my research consisted mostly of pondering and whining, not so much by doing. I was unhappy at work at the time but unwilling to leave. I felt like I was stymied creatively. I didn’t feel like I had time to connect with my friends and peers. I needed to kick myself in the pants and learn to be happy by actually doing things that (gasp!) made me happy. Which brings me to one of my recently-finished (cover to cover) books, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
You can read more than you’d ever care to know about the book (and the project) on her blog. I don’t mean that negatively, it’s just a lot to absorb, and I recommend reading it slowly over a period of time so you can really try to think about how it may apply to you. I found it inspiring (though, on occassion, Gretchen’s apparent lack of actual problems can make you want give her the “Snap out of it!” treatment) but what I really connected with is her ideas and process, not necessarily her applications of it on all fronts.
Which is how, in the middle of a random session at SxSW this year, the one year anniversary of when Tony first put the idea of “experimental happiness” in my head, Gretchen’s plan for action took hold of me and I feverishly charted out my own 8-month happiness project, starting April 1 (fitting for something that in some ways is really a lark) and finishing on New Year’s Eve, just in time to reflect on my 33rd year on Earth and the first few moments of 2011.
And, as I found when I started my weight loss plan two months ago (nearly 20 lbs. and counting, people!), I feel that putting my goals out here on the blog somehow magically make them more real. I’ll be sharing each month’s goals on here so that you all can hold me to them!
So, this month is prep time. I’m almost done planning my months and overall resolutions. I still need to create the charts that are going to keep me, along with lots and lots of smiley stickers, motivated throughout the year. Other than that, I’m mostly trying to tie up some loose ends of things that have been hanging around for too long. I finally finished knitting the hat I promised my Mom, just in time for summer. And I sent it along with the DVD she brought with her for me to borrow–over a year ago (which I finally watched). Should I mention that I also finally included the Valentine Benji had made her? Well, it’s 11 months early for 2011 at this point, but whatever. Having those items gone from my perpetual to-do list was a huge psychic boost. I’m finding similar “zen” forms of happiness as I clean out the guest room, finish up our taxes and work in the garden.
Maybe this speaks volumes about my own mental health, but even planning on being happier has already making me feel happier. What gives you warm fuzzies these days?