For the past couple of years I’ve tried so many different ways to change, you know, trying to get fit and healthy, try to find time for my hobbies and things I love to do, cook great healthy meals, be more organized with my finances… the list goes on. The thing is, I never felt satisfied or happy. I’d lose energy and will and kind of fall back into the old routine. It was frustrating.
I was also confused as to why I was suddenly trying to make all these changes in my life. When I step back and look at my life, it’s the best it’s been in my whole adult life. I’ve got a wonderful husband. We hang out and talk a lot. We laugh a lot. I feel very safe in our relationship. My children are also doing wonderfully. They are growing up to be really great children in all aspects and I love my relationship with them.
Despite that, I do have a really deep urge to improve my life. I sometimes felt bad about it because I’d get some negative feedback from some friends on Facebook when I’d post about my progress. To them it seems I was coming across as a person who was showing off or gloating. I had expected that kind of response from some because I used to be very sarcastic and dark in my way of looking at the world, myself and people’s actions, not just because of being hurt in the past, but just mainly from having grown up in London, England where self-depreciating humor is the way to go. So, yes, I had expected that kind of response, but I also thought I had to put my foot down and not care about people wrongly judging my intentions and actions. I knew that if I put my efforts out there, there would be people who would support me and give me advice, and that’s what I needed.
But then I started really questioning WHY I wanted to be fit (and a long list of other things) and if that reason was strong enough or deep enough in me for me to actually achieve the goal. I realized that when I set out with the goal to be fit, I had set milestones in my mind; losing weight, feeling strong, feeling energetic, etc. Then, when you get a month or two into it, you haven’t lost as much weight as you wanted to, you don’t feel as energetic as you want, you don’t feel as strong as you want to… and your will to do it fades away.
I went to the bookstore last week and was browsing, not really intending to buy anything. It was a local bookstore that I had never set foot in and my husband and I had decided it was time to check it out. While browsing the books, I noticed “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. I was familiar with the book because I had been following her blog for a while, reading posts that looked interesting. I hadn’t really looked into what the book was about, except it was something that had to do with becoming happy. It’s hard to get an good idea of what a book is about without flipping through the pages, which is what I did at the bookstore. It immediately looked like the perfect book for me. A simple instruction manual on obtaining happiness. I love organization and being as efficient as possible, but I also like doing things my way, and the book allowed for both.
So Gretchen went about doing her happiness project like a scientist. She read all she could about happiness and what happiness meant to people through the ages. While reading the introduction it suddenly dawned on me why what I had been doing wasn’t working. I was doing things thinking the RESULT would make me happy, instead of realizing that actually doing those things would make me happy WHILE I was doing them, and thus, also afterwards. I was running to be fit and slim, which would make me happy, instead of running because I’ve always loved to run. I had kind of turned running into something that wasn’t as enjoyable because I was looking for results that I expected to make me happy. I remember running when I was in my teens because I loved running down the back dirt roads in the Andes mountains in Colombia. I’d look forward to that steep dip in the road where the bamboo trees were and where I’d have to jump over a narrow stream. It was magical to me. I didn’t go run because I expected to come home and feel satisfied. I ran because the actual experience of running made me happy.
I realized that my pursuit of happiness was based on physical goals and just mentally saying “are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” and not enjoying the ride.
And then after that realization, Gretchen jumped into the basics… what do you need to start being happy? You need energy and get rid of the things you just don’t need… the clutter. Well, duh! Dedicate a month to setting up habits that will just help you have the energy to do everything else. I knew what these things were for me; drinking enough water, taking my vitamins, eating right (without a huge effort… I skip too many meals), going to bed early.
So, I’m going to start my Happiness Project on January 1st. The reason I’m not starting it now is because I’m getting organized first. I’ve been cleaning out our home and getting rid of things that we don’t need. I’ve been giving everything a place so I don’t need to dedicate so much time to cleaning. I’ve been putting my “Personal Commandments” together and my list of “Secrets of Adulthood”. I’m feeling calmly excited about this coming year.