It was a couple of months back when my impending 30th birthday started creeping into my consciousness, and thoughts of ‘Where is my life going?’ and ‘Am I where I want to be?’ began appearing in my head. For me turning 30 has never been a big deal, and it still doesn’t feel like a big deal now it’s only a month away…but I would be lying if I said it hadn’t got me thinking about the direction my life is taking, and made me want to grab on to the steering wheel of the car of life and put my foot down.
Overall, yes, I am extremely happy in my life: I have a wonderful relationship, awesome friends and feel very lucky to have done some amazing things during my 20’s – study, visit 30 countries, move overseas, travel solo and last but not least, learn a helluva lot of lessons about life, love and what’s important. I’ve made a real push in the last two years to get where I want to be, and I’m happy to say I’m almost there – I have discovered and am still discovering my passions, I earn an income online, own 3 properties in London and I have an escape plan for leaving the corporate world for good to travel the world indefinitely. I know reaching this major life goal in the middle of next year will bring me extreme joy and happiness (not to mention relief!) but while the wheels are in motion leading up to this time, what about my day to day happiness? This monstrous goal is what a lot of my energy, focus, and definitely all of my money is focused towards at the moment, but in the meantime am I just supposed to pine for the future, and wish away my present? Hell, no!
In July I picked up a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s book ‘The Happiness Project’ and it has totally changed the way I think about my life. Working in a career that makes me miserable has been a drain over the last couple of years, but this book made me see that there are so many other ways I can find happiness, fun and inspiration while still working towards some of my major life goals. Time isn’t there to be wished away, it’s there to be savoured and filled to the brim with learning, exploring and making the most of what you already have.
For those who haven’t read the book, the basic premise is about a woman, Gretchen, who is basically happy with her life, but thinks she could be happier, so she goes about learning all that she can about happiness and how to find it. She dedicates each month to a new area eg Love, career or being creative, and then writes herself some goals which she ticks off each day in her happiness chart. Each day she tries to fulfil each one of her goals for that month, and then in the twelfth month, she tries to do everything from the past 11 all at once. The goals range from small – ‘Don’t nag’ to huge – ‘Write a novel’ and everything in between, and the whole idea of the project is to discover what truly makes you happy, and to make time for yourself to do those things more often. Throughout the book she shares her lessons, thoughts and ‘Rules For Life’ that she has discovered, and it’s such a good read I pretty much devoured the book in three days!
It was straight after this of course that I decided the time was right to start my own happiness project, which, after it’s 12 month completion would lead me right up to the time I plan on leaving my job to travel. I took this to be a sign from above (The happiness fairies, perhaps?) and then and there started pouring out all of my ideas of what I wanted to try or discover. Part of the book was also about just letting things happen and not being too hard on yourself, so for a hyper-organised goal-setter like myself, this will continue to be a work in progress, but I am slowly learning that time spent without goals or a to do list is not time wasted, but rather time ‘potential’ to make the most of.
My first month was entitled ‘Boost Energy and De-stress‘ and was devoted to just that – slowing down, clearing clutter and lowering my stress levels. My monthly goals and some of the ways I achieved them were as follows:
- Go Digital – In the month I cleared out all of the old documents I didn’t need, and anything I did was scanned and saved into Google docs. From now on, all documents I receive that I need to keep will be scanned and filed in this way, and then thrown out.
- Clear House Clutter – This links in with above, but in addition to documents, I either sold, donated or threw out almost half of my wardrobe (Hello, Ebay!), tossed old magazines, donated books and removed anything I either didn’t look at or hadn’t used in over a year. This one in particular, made me feel AWESOME!
- Meditate – Every weekday afternoon I would stop what I was doing for 5 minutes and put on a youtube guided meditation recording – it did wonders for work stress!
- Tackle A Nagging Task – Anything I was dreading doing, I did immediately…at first this probably made me unhappier, but eventually it was liberating getting things out of the way so I could focus on the things I did enjoy.
- Read Before Bed – I used to be guilty of crawling into bed with my mind chattering away my next days to do list (or passing out from exhaustion), so I made it my goal to give myself enough time to read every night before I went to sleep. By the end of the month, 5 minutes of reading had me sleeping like a baby!
- Walk More, Stretch More – Each day I would at the very least to try to get out for a walk around the park, or a stretch in the sun. Some days this was hard when I was in the zone of working, but I always felt a million dollars after some sunlight and fresh air.
- Write A Realistic To Do List – My boyfriend Mike will confirm just how many lists I have been known to construct at any one time, so this one was tough, but I did it! Each day I was honest with myself about what I thought I could get done, and anything that didn’t make the cut was left off. It was amazing how this took the pressure off, and some days I was far more productive than what I would’ve been had I of felt overwhelmed by all of the things I had to do.
- Listen To Music – I’ve always loved music, but I hadn’t been listening to much of it in a while, so I made it a priority to each day listen to some tunes at least once. It was surprising just how much this can perk you up in the middle of a work day!
So that was it for my first month, and I’m glad to say that I consistently met all of the goals without much effort and I relaxed into being more relaxed quite easily.
But I know what you are all dying to know…Did it actually work, am I happier?
Well, after my first month has been completed, I am so pleased to say, that it has been a success – I am definitely happier! I was starting from a pretty good place initially, but after a month of making a few small changes each day, I feel like a new person. And the great thing is, all of these actions feel like habits now, so I feel like I’ve been doing them forever! Part of my project was to not pressure myself into doing things I thought I SHOULD do, but rather listen to myself to find out what I actually wanted instead. And the thing is, this first month, all of these goals made me feel good and were true to my wants, so I feel like I will now incorporate them into my normal life moving forward. I’m still meditating most days, and making time to listen to music whenever I can…plus, my to do lists are getting shorter by the day, yet I’m getting more done – it’s all win win!
So now that my maiden month is out of the way, it’s full steam ahead for month two, which officially started today. This one is all about being creative and learning something new, so I’m really excited to get started.
I will update you on my progress at the end of the month, but if in the meantime you feel like starting your own Happiness Project, you should totally do it! If you do decide to take the plunge, let me know in the comment section below, it would be great to have some fellow Happiness students to share the ride with!