Thursday, April 8, 2010

What Price Happiness?

Jim thinks I’m a rule-follower. It’s true that, deep inside, lives the soul of the six-year-old girl who never (ever) colored outside the lines. Who got the rare bad grade in art school when she had to emulate Jackson Pollock. And whose attempts at creating that “bedhead” look end up (literally!) falling flat.

But I think I've evolved into a slightly mellower version of that girl who, in hindsight, needed to feel she had control over some aspect of her life. (A story for another day.) For those of you who are chuckling at this claim, I've got proof! Several of the women in my “change group” were chatting about The Happiness Project, and one of them suggested checking out an article about the author,Gretchen Rubin, in the Sunday Times. Rule-follower that I am, I dutifully pulled it up on my computer screen, read it from beginning to end—and promptly ran screaming from the room.

My flight response wasn’t triggered by the theory that we can take charge of our happiness. Or my annoyance that a woman with her, shall we say, "unburdened" lifestyle, has the nerve to be unhappy in the first place. What freaked me out was the elaborate structure she’s imposed on the process of creating more fun in our lives. It requires a Toolbox, for goodness sake! Can she be serious?

It’s not lost on me that this rebellious response to following Ms. Rubin's rules might be connected to my resistance to goal-setting. The funny thing is, I'm still seeking some guidelines of my own. And I've been thinking that the Kaizen principle is something I can put into motion, even without having dotted the “i’s” and crossed the “t’s” on my intentions list. When my iPod died while I was out walking Friday, the resulting silence lead to an ah-ha moment about how I can use the one-small-step-a-day philosophy to create my own take on the Happiness Project!

Here’s how it works: I do one small thing a day and write it down. It could be in my journal. Or here. But it’s got to be noted in writing and acknowledged for what it is. A conscious effort to inch closer to one (or more) of my "big three" objectives:

1. Save money for a fabulous vacation
2. Reconnect with my inner artist
3. Lower my cholesterol without meds

It feels doable. And it’s not giving me heart palpitations! So I test-drove it this week. The small steps included swapping almond milk for soy; walking for an hour instead of watching TV; working on a mixed media art project instead of proofing a newsletter for work; tallying my March expenses on my budget sheet; and getting a free heart health assessment at Valley Hospital. Just listing them here gives me a sense accomplishment. And reminds me of the joy I felt as I made note of them each day. Hmmmmnnn…maybe I should create an Excel chart that maps out my progress? That sure would make the little girl with the crayons happy!

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