Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stumbling on Happiness

I just discovered that I have Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert) on my bookshelf. I know I bought it recently but do not remember from where or why. Nevertheless, it looks like a good one. I will read it and report on it here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We are in this together!

The creator of Joesgoals recently posted about how his cute little goal tracker is being used. The top ten goals:

Goal Users Checks
Exercise 3973 48112
Drink Water 529 17584
Eat Out 1201 14391 (negative goal)
Brush Teeth 357 11814
Meditate 661 11026
Take Vitamins 367 10204
Floss 514 9502
Read 489 8573
Workout 637 7935
Eat Breakfast 401 7373

I didn't keep the formatting but you can get the idea. So many of us are striving for the same goals! It just warms my little heart. I have a few of those on my list: exercise, drink water. I don't need any goal for "reading" because if anything I read too much. And I'm good on the teeth brushing and taking vitamins. I can celebrate the fact that I have actually made habits of some good things.

Exercise = Happiness

My current happiness project work is in the area of health and fitness. I know myself and I know that I am happiest when I am exercising on a regular basis. However, I have a hard time motivating myself to get to the gym or go out for a walk. So my number one goal for this month is to exercise regularly.

My plan is simple. I will exercise only for 30 minutes 3 days a week. It's a very achievable goal, but I know it will still take me some work.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Are we just being trendy?

Wired magazine publishes a cute graph each month that spells out what's "wired", "tired", or "expired". In the October 2007 issue we have this range:

Expired: Getting smarter
Tired: Becoming happier
Wired: Staying creative

I should have seen this coming.

Certainly there has been a trend. I have noticed an increase in the number of books, magazine articles, and...uh...blogs...that look into the elusive state, "happiness". What I have found intriguing is that much of the research falls in line with my gut feelings - that happiness really is a matter of adjusting your thinking more than anything else. More and more we see what we suspected: more choices do not make happiness; greater material wealth (beyond a middle-level) does not make happiness. In other words, getting there, wherever "there" is, will not bring us nirvana (one of Gretchen's recent posts discusses this matter of how the 'process' of getting there should be the focus rather than the goal itself).

So yeah, it's a trend and we jumped on it here. Does that mean we should jump off and get into "staying creative"? I think not. In fact, creativity for most of us is indeed related to happiness. So let's just stay where we are and make real progress.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Using the fifth commandment

I am presently in one of those situations. I have a "tenant", a person I let stay in my place "while he looked for his own place". Sound a wee bit like my last post? There are some similarities.

Right from the start we agreed on rent. So that much is different. And intially I said it would be just for a couple of months. But then Paul brought it up: he'd looked at other places and how about if we make it more permanent? He had turned out to be a decent tenant - keeping to himself, keeping his stuff in his own room, that sort of thing - and he was working so I had time to myself. I worked part time so had afternoons alone in my house. I didn't mind having the extra income.

Paul also shared. He bought flowers. He bought wine. He supplied the biscotti and we both bought coffee. He took care of my cats when I traveled. So it was not a one-way situation.

Now, though, it is getting closer to one-way. Paul lost his last job last February. Or maybe January, actually, or earlier. He had money from the sale of his house (that he had owned with his ex) so he didn't rush to find a job. He said he was going to take a breather of a few weeks, then find a job. He said he was no longer going to be foolish and blow his money on a fancy car or motorcycle, as he had done in his misspent youth.

But he never did get another job. After several months he actually registered at the employment office but he didn't follow up. I guess he thinks they'll call him. But they don't do that. In the meantime Paul cashed in some kind of stock he'd gotten through his last employment and that kept him in cigarettes and beer a while longer.
He brought in some biscotti sometimes too, and shared his increasingly less expensive food purchases - bags of potatoes, bags of rice, split peas. He stopped going to Trader Joe's and went to Food 4 Less.

At this point I suspect he's clean out of money. He hasn't paid me rent since last February, which is why I remember that date. He's still doing anything I ask - taking care of cats, moving things from storage to here, hauling anything, taking out trash. I suspect he is trying to pay his way in this way, although he has always done anything I have asked. And he still keeps mostly to his room. We do share television time as our tastes are similar. So there is companionship there.

I have been playing with the "no" option. I know that once we make a decision our guts will tell us if it is the right one. So I tried it on: give him 30 days. How does that feel? Part of it feels good, part of it not quite good.

I am becoming more irritable. I think because I am thinking about this more and noticing and letting things bother me more.

When I have no choice about where I am or what I am doing I can make it work for me somehow. I can find the little pluses in a sea of minuses. Right now I am starting to choose to have a choice. But I am not quite there yet. Should this be a goal? How should I write it?

Another commandment...

When I was in my twenties I had a group of three close friends. One of those friends told me once about a young woman she had just met, who had left her family home to escape having sex with her brother. My friend, Barbara, said this girl, Twyla (I remember the name because it's unusual and it's the same as the dancer's), had no place to stay.

At the time my three friends all lived at home. One by one they all eventually moved out but at this time I was the only one living by herself. I told Barbara that Twyla could stay at my place until she found a place of her own.

That's bad enough. Really. Bad enough that I opened my doors to someone I didn't know, based on information that very well may not even be true. But I compounded it. I let Twyla and her boyfriend sleep in the living room, really the only room available (I am surprised I didn't give them my bedroom now that I think back), where I had to tiptoe around them and listen to their music played loudly on my sound system, and I let them use my car! I reasoned that I could take the bus straight to school each day while they would have a harder time looking for work without a car.

That may be true, the bit about the car, but why me? Why should I be the one to fix their problem?

There are times when it's good to take care of others, to be the one who steps in and helps when others stand by. Seriously, this was not one of those times. Twyla wasn't a baby. She was a capable young woman, and she had a boyfriend. They could take care of themselves. I remember being so horrified at the thought of incest that I believed she was deeply scarred and needed a refuge. I couldn't contemplate her sleeping on the street, which is the only place I expected she could go.

This was perhaps the time I went furthest out in giving of myself. As I said, giving is good and it is important to give, but we can't let others take away our own lives. This example may be the worst example of my sacrificing my own needs for others but it is hardly the only one. I am not Mother Theresa. I can easily believe that, in spite of her doubts, she was fulfilled by her mission. I'm not fulfilled when I let others walk all over me. And I am sure that even she didn't let that happen.

And that's because it's so hard for me to say no. I have to be able to draw lines and stick to them. I'm not talking about "lines in the sand" because I hate that expression and it suggests a line that changes, anyway. I'm talking about the line where I give up myself. I don't think it should be hard to define where that is. And this leads to my fifth commandment:


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Even a child can do it...


My daughter Mary shows her son Joey how to use joesgoals. We all like how easy it is to set goals and we all like checking them off. I especially like that you can put two or more checkmarks in one box - I use this for drinking water. My goal is to drink at least eight cups a day, so I set a joesgoals of four cups a day. That way I get to check that box twice if I get up to eight and three times if I zoom up to twelve. I like it.
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