I’ve been trying to think of how to describe my week, and no words come to mind. With my goal of starting my happiness project on August 1, I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming and researching. Then I decided to give it a rest.
I don’t want to overdo it or over-plan, which is my natural tendency. I didn’t want my happiness project to become a list of have-tos, and I had a feeling I was setting it up to be that way. It was also looking like I had the rat-race mentality that last week I’d mentioned I wanted to avoid going back to (as if it ever left me…).
With this project, I really need to focus on the process, not the end result. Especially since it’s not like you get to the end of a month or the overall project and have ultimate happiness. One of themes I’m finding as I dive into my reading about happiness is that it’s doesn’t mean that you’re in a great mood 24/7 and never get upset or frustrated or sad. Instead, you’re able to find more joy and meaning in your day-to-day life. It’s about surrounding yourself with people and things that give you comfort or inspiration or purpose.
It’s was actually one of the people who gives me inspiration that pointed out the fact that I was probably overdoing it. On Monday night I met with one of my mentors for coffee, and we ended up having a great life chat (which is apparently a phrase I invented and throw around loosely). She wanted to know how things have been going in my life now that I’m done with school and almost two months (!!!) into my job. As we were leaving, my mentor goes, “Just so you know, I’m only giving you two books right now even though I’ve got a lot more I wanted to lend you. I know you’re ambitious, but give yourself a chance to sit back for once and just enjoy where your life is at. Slow down, Liz.”
I took note.
Then later in the week I got more perspective and better inspiration for my project. My co-worker Lindsay mentioned this in her blog, but yesterday for work we helped with the Point In Time Count in Missouri. Twice a year the state tries to get an accurate count of how many people are experiencing homelessness on a specific day. As part of the unsheltered count, we went traveling around two rural counties in northwestern Missouri.
To say it was eye-opening is almost an understatement. Between the insane heat we’ve been experience (probably three weeks of 100-degree heat index) and some of the living conditions we saw, it’s hard to imagine what some people are experiencing. It actually reminded me of the PostSecret I posted a few weeks ago. Seeing places like that definitely put things back into perspective. This morning I wanted to complain about how tired I was, but you know what? I got to sleep soundly in a comfortable bed in an air-conditioned apartment that I love.
I have so many things to be thankful for in my life, but I think that knowledge falls to the wayside when I’m tired and crabby. It also falls to the wayside in all my list-making glory, paired with my inability to slow down because I feel this constant need to be productive. My mentor’s right – I’m ambitious, but it’s time to slow down and actually enjoy the small day-to-day things that bring me happiness.
Then inspiration struck. I decided one of my goals (a little preview of what’s to come with my happiness project…how exciting!) for a month is going to be a gratitude journal. There have been a lot of things I’ve wanted to do like that, but I never felt it was worth the time or effort if I could be doing something more productive – working, working out, cleaning. But this happiness project isn’t about increasing my productivity or success. It’s about taking the time to do things that will help me enjoy my everyday life now.
This week was just the inspiration I needed leading up to August 1. Stay tuned for the goals to come!