So whatever happened to that Happiness Project? I’m still committed to my happiness commandments but I fell off the blogging about it wagon. Focusing on energy for January, marriage for February, work for March and family for April definitely pulled me out of the funk of 2013. I feel like my old self again! I am so happy about the results, but the elevated mood, increased energy, better days at work and at home have had a negative impact on my blogging. Having to stick to a monthly focus made the blog feel like a project instead of an opportunity to just share. So I’m ditching the official project part and keeping the happiness part.
A quick list of happiness triggers for me lately:
God answering prayers and showing me positive signs, good friends, my Bible Study group, watching my son play lacrosse, a weekend where I felt like I excelled at my role as daughter, wife and mother, expressing my creative side at work, a sunny vacation, my mom’s pancreas biopsy yielding great news, BodyPump classes, gardening and planting flowers, long days, springtime, accidentally leaving my suitcase at home for a 3 day weekend and not freaking out, learning new things about my industry, home-made ice cream, Game of Thrones, helping others, meditation and walks around the block.
I had an a-ha moment tonight. I think it is one I’ve had before, but it landed fresh on me today. I realize that I am not comfortable with anger, whether or giving or receiving, it is an emotion I prefer to maintain a distance from. Anger breeds more anger which ends up being a slow drip of toxic resentment. I resent that someone made me angry or was angry at me. This emotion is not allowed, doesn’t everyone know that? Sometimes I kid myself and think that if I just vent and talk it out, the anger will go away, but that just feeds my self-righteousness and resentment.
I have definitely lost relationships over this. I’m a grudge holder. In the past, I’ve just worked on not getting angry, but anger is not the problem, it is my weird belief system about anger that is the problem. I wonder what would happen if I focused on forgiveness instead of suppression?
I just moved to a new city and I’m keenly aware of the need to make new friends. This is my second move in 8 years for my current company and I have the benefit of what worked/didn’t work in our last city to build upon.
The biggest lesson I learned was to make sure and have lots of friends outside of my job. In our last teeny tiny city, my co-workers became the cornerstone of our social network. They were amazing, wonderful people for the most part. I’m still dear friends with a few and Facebook friends with many, but there are many problems with the friends@work thing.
Problem #1: Non-stop talking shop during social gatherings. Painful for spouses and not the best stress reliever.
Problem #2: Gossip. What happens after work becomes fodder for discussion at work. With everyone.
Problem #3: Awkwardness as you/they move up/down the ladder or move around the organization.
Problem #4: Crazy awkwardness when people get fired or are performing poorly.
Problem #5: Double crazy awkwardness if those mentioned in Problem #4 suspect/believe that you had anything to do with their situation.
Of course there are good things about work friends, too. My favorite benefit is when I’m having a work-related crisis, they can come up to speed on my issue and offer advice or empathy quickly because they get it. The short-hand of someone who knows they lay of the land is a huge help when the going gets tough.
Outside of work, here are my recommendations based on my experiences the past 6 months:
Join a church. Some of our favorite people and deepest relationships in our last city were friends from our Bible Study small group. Knowing we could find a church and connect in this way was one of the things that gave us confidence to move again. We have landed in a small group and are enjoying getting to know this new set of brothers and sisters in Christ. They are wonderful people.
Say Yes. We have been fortunate to have received several invitations and I/we have consciously leaned in and said Yes to the following:
A neighborhood Christmas party
Attending the annual homeowners association (HOA) meeting
Volunteering to serve on the HOA board (my husband thought I was CRAZY!)
Hosting the quarterly HOA board meeting
Going to a brand new neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party based on an email blast to the HOA
Attending all of my son’s lacrosse games
Going to a new acquaintances restaurant
Coming Soon (Hot Yoga!)
Throw a party. We were inspired by the new neighbors who moved in Christmas weekend and then managed to host a New Year’s party just a few days later. They motivated us to put our last few unpacked boxes in the garage and start entertaining. We have hosted a small new acquaintance dinner party in February and then a larger party with about 20 neighbors for St. Patty’s. We also had a pot-luck with our new small group. We are looking forward to summer barbecues and keeping the festivities going.
Rekindle old friendships. One of the biggest blessings of moving here has been the opportunity to reconnect with a childhood friend who just happened to move to this same metropolitan area 6 months ahead of me. (thank you Facebook!) She is everything you would want in a dear friend and I can’t believe we haven’t been hanging out the past 40 years.
Don’t forget about your old friends. With Skype, texting, Facebook and hands free cellular built into the steering wheel of my car, it is easier to stay connected with my geographically challenged friends than ever. As much as I look forward to the new friends God puts in my path, I treasure the oldies but goodies, too. Occasionally when I feel lonely and wonder why I’m not beating new friend requests off with a stick, I think about the people I hold near and dear and the mutual respect and love we share. I must be doing something right to have these amazing people in my life.
As part of my Happiness Project I will devote the entire month of June to the quest for new friends. So I have two months to devise a game plan. One resource I hope will generate multiple new ideas is my next audio book. Looks like a fun listen!
I think my fascination with lists started as a teenager when my parents would leave me home alone for a few hours and would write a list of (super easy) chores to complete before they returned. Once I had conquered the list, I was free to talk on the phone, watch TV, raid the refrigerator. As long as each item was done, no questions asked. My love affair with lists continues to this day. Lists complete me.
Here is my Top 10 list of tips for getting things done:
Make a listof the task at hand and the sub-tasks that go with it. This will help you find manageable chunks of smaller tasks and will also highlight where you may have dependencies on other people. Get busy asking those people for what you need ASAP. Give them plenty of notice and ask nicely. Your emergency isn’t their emergency. Yada yada yada.
Put yourself in jail. “I can’t leave this office until I create that pivot table.” “I can’t lay down on this bed until I fold the clean laundry.” “I can’t have a glass of wine until I hit my 10,000 steps on my Fitibit.”
Do a mind map. Sometimes trying to write an orderly list is a barrier to getting started. You may need a less structured way to brain dump and find a path forward. If you haven’t done a mind map before, check this out. A great tool!
Set a timer. Shut out all distractions and set a timer for 10 minutes. You are only allowed to work on the 1 project for that 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, decide whether or not to do another 10 minutes. You’d be surprised what you can get done in a short sprint. I’ve written this list (so far) in about 10 minutes!
Get down and give me 20. Write down 20 things that will help you achieve your goal. Don’t give it too much thought just keep writing until you have 20 ideas. Getting to 20 is often a struggle. You will have to think outside the box to complete the list. Warning! Be on the lookout for breakthrough ideas.
Imagine if. Tell yourself a story of how the world will look when this project/task is done to perfection. When I don’t know where to start or don’t have all the details I just close my eyes and imagine that future place when this seemingly impossible project or problem is finished and I’m accepting an award for my outstanding achievement. Who is there? What are they doing? What has changed? What am I wearing? Writing myself a few paragraphs on what that imaginary place looks, tastes and smells like is both motivating and productive. Once I’ve glimpsed a better place, I have to get there!
Do the most unpleasant task first. It may be that this 1 painful thing is prohibiting you from getting started, so just get that 1 thing out of the way.
Reward yourself. Sometimes hard work is its own reward and sometimes you need a fro-yo or a mani/pedi. Right-size your reward with the task and make them both happen.
Outsource it. Is this really yours to do? Can you trust someone else to do it? Can you hire a service to do it? Many people (guilty!) bury themselves in tasks because they can’t give up control. Maybe your husband can be trusted with your fine washables. Maybe someone else on the team would be willing to arrange that meeting. Maybe your son is old enough to write out his own birthday invitations. Maybe you can bring lunch for a month and hire a professional painter versus spending two weekends on a DIY project.
Don’t do it. Will this matter in a year? What will happen if this doesn’t get done? Could this possible be a nice-to-have? Will this jeopardize another priority? Sometimes we are reluctant to start a task because we don’t see the value in doing it. Not doing it is always an option. Like the song says “Let it go.”
There are many things that make me smile. Overall, I am a smiler! Being greeted by these two faces when I walk in the door always lifts my mood. I like to take my coat off, set my purse down and immediately lay down on the living room rug and let them kiss my face. Sometimes I “fake” fight them off. It is a great ritual and a fun transition from my work life to my home life. My family isn’t bad either, but they don’t literally jump for joy when they see me.
Here is my scorecard on how I performed. The thing that stands out the most and that I will take forward above the others was the virtuous cycle that is set in motion by choosing grace.
I was going to go through the month without telling my husband about my focus. That all changed one day in the car when he said something that he knew was controversial and waited for me to react and take the bait. I sat silently and just let his words hang in the air. As I sat there peacefully, instead of assuming I was choosing not to argue he accused me of giving him the silent treatment! This was great insight into how I must normally behave. I like to be right. I like to manage my husband and wear the bossy pants. I like to think I’m smarter than everyone including him. It was eye-opening for me that it was easier for him to see me as punishing him versus recognizing that I was loving him and showing him grace. So I told him I was working on marriage for my Happiness Project and had revisited the many lessons learned in our marriage-changing workshop on Love and Respect. I told him I was being respectful and apologized for previous behavior that made him jump to the conclusion that my silence was a punishment.
From that moment forward, we have had a different dialogue. There has been a lightness to the way we engage with one another. He laughs when he sees I am choosing not to complain or argue. My decisions not to react have caused him to pause and evaluate what he just said that warranted me biting my tongue. He has apologized and laughed at himself when he gets heated versus feeling it is his right to behave any way he wants or that somehow I have caused him to act that way.
The results have been improved cooperation and communication in our household. As I serve him, he is motivated to serve me right back. Letting go of needing to be right in the moment has paid huge benefits of helping my marriage be on the right track in the big picture. Happiness Project month 2 has been a success.
I remain committed to my happiness project and this month’s focus is all about my funny Valentine. I’m upping my game on my marriage.
My husband is a wonderful man. Like so many (ALL) of us, he isn’t perfect, but he is the answer to my prayers. He is a Godly and humble man with a positive outlook. He would lay down his life for his family and will do anything to serve or protect us. He is smart, capable, considerate, selfless and funny. He has a level of integrity that continues to amaze and inspire me and at 48, he is still a total hunk. What’s not to love?
He deserves a month of extreme good-wife-y-ness and I’m going to give it to him. Here are my new habits for February.
Don’t nag, my schedule isn’t his schedule. He is going to do it when he is going to do it. I tend to notice a task needs to be done around the house and I ask him to do it without respecting what he’s doing. We talked about creating a better system to get things done and settled on communicating about the honey-do list via email. I’m pleased with the results so far.
Check in each day via a text, email or phone call. My husband and I have very similar, self-sufficient personalities and we don’t need to talk several times a day. But a phone call or text to say I’m thinking of you would be a bright spot in the day. I need all of the bright spots I can get!
Show affection coming and going. Hugs and kisses hello and goodbye are such an easy thing. I realized a few weeks ago that somehow this had become a not every day thing. It is back on the everyday list now.
Make him laugh. We have always had similar senses of humor and we find the same things funny. I’ve challenged myself to share/do/observe something chuckle-worthy every day. I also, make it a point to laugh at his or my son’s jokes. The sound of all of us laughing is music to my ears.
Choose grace. My significant other has his moments. Trust me, I’m no picnic either. For the month of February, I’m burning my membership card to the legion of the easily offended and am biting my tongue. I don’t care what he says or does, I’m going to react with grace, humor or worst case scenario walking into another room.
Just do it. I admit that I am guilty of procrastinating when my hubby asks me to or suggests I do something. “I’m so busy” has been a handy excuse to ignore requests. I’m focusing on doing it as soon as he asks and with a smile.
Listen and give him my full attention when he’s talking. I am sure I am not the only one who sits with the laptop open and pounds away at the keys thinking I’m somehow participating in family life. I miss a lot doing this. On all fronts.
No complaining. My husband is an amazing cook and cooks me dinner almost every night (I am the primary breadwinner). However, some nights I turn my nose up at the dinner I didn’t have to lift a finger to prepare. Too fattening! We just had that! So ungrateful, That is just bad form. Another thing I complain about is his questionable taste in television shows. Why are reality shows based in Alaska so popular all of a sudden? I don’t win the battle for the remote control anyway, so I’m not going to complain about it.
Praise him. This is an easy one. He does great things every day. I’m proud of the man he is every day. Consciously expressing it makes me happy.
Serve him. My husband is a true renaissance man and he can do just about anything. He can cook, manage our finances, install new flooring and carry a new toilet up 2 flights of stairs so when he needs me to help him, I will be his willing and eager helper. I am committed to proactively finding ways to serve him and lighten his load.
have a good 'ole rummage through the musings of a modern-ish mum; cherishing the good bits of life, enjoying the funny bits and looking forward to more best bits! Who knows what treasures we may find nestled between nostalgia and possibility...