A Little Inspiration Found.

Sometimes the hardest time to write is when the most stuff is happening.  Right now, stuff is happening.  It’s good stuff and bad stuff, and the dust isn’t near settling yet.  But I’m hopeful. 

I was looking for a little inspiration tonight, and I found it in two places.

First, it occurred to me to revisit the very commandments I wrote for myself just over a month ago.  Here they are:

  1. Be you according to you.
  2. Forgive, even yourself.
  3. Have the hard conversations.
  4. Accumulate fewer things and more experiences.
  5. Seek simplicity.
  6. Slow down.
  7. Ask for what you need, and offer what you can.
  8. Trust your gut.
  9. Act only when certain.
  10. Expect better.
  11. Look forward and up.
  12. Choose love.

It amazes me that each one of these commandments applies to the things I’m dealing with right now.  Dare I believe that my Happiness Project was, at least in part, preparation for my life as it is today?

Second, I spent part of my evening watching The Voice, as I’ve done a bit of these last few months.  For those poor souls who don’t know, The Voice is a reality show/singing contest.  It started with the celebrity judges (Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton) picking performers to be members of their teams based on voices without being able to see the performers.  Then it moved to the judges pitting their team members against one another.  Then it moved to the winners of the “battle rounds” performing against members of other teams.  And tonight, we are in the final round of selecting the winner of The Voice.

My personal favorite of the competitors, Vicci Martinez, is a finalist.  I adore her.  I adore her voice and her manner and her spirit.  And tonight, Blake Shelton said something about her that inspired me.  He said, “You insist on being a big deal.  Every time you get on stage, you will not take no for an answer.”

I’m not one to insist on being a big deal.  I usually walk in quietly, do the best I can, and hope that I get the recognition I deserve.  Maybe it’s time to do some insisting. 

Be true to my commandments.  And do some insisting.  That’s what I’m going to do.

The Happiness Project: Tasks

If you’ve been reading for the last month, you know that I’m working on a Happiness Project along the lines of Gretchen Rubin’s book.  I started out by writing my own commandments.  Then I came up with the categories of life that I want to improve.  For the last two weeks, I’ve been coming up with the specific tasks that I want to accomplish within each of those categories.  Maybe it’s the geeky list maker in me coming out, but I’ve enjoyed this whole process, especially this step.  I love me a good to do list!

Here is what I’d like to accomplish in the coming months:

Cleansing (June)

  • Do 10 days of the Master Cleanse (which I’ve done once before, so nobody freak out).
  • Empty cupboards of anything packaged or processed.
  • Reinstate a regular Bikram practice – three days a week.
  • Clean out and wash my car.
  • Go through (and likely toss) the contents of the last two boxes in my house that I failed to unpack.
  • Clean out my closet, including clothes, purses and shoes.
  • Clean out my t-shirt drawers, and donate extras to Open Arms.
  • Read through and recycle my magazine pile.

Health (July)

  • Maintain a practice of eating whole foods, allowing “junk” once a week.
  • Up my yoga practice to five days a week.
  • Swim, bike/spin or run five days a week, including one road ride each week.
  • Go to bed – lights out and TV off – by 10:30 on most nights.
  • Develop a mantra repeat to myself each morning while I’m getting ready for the day ahead.
  • Analyze how my “Taline dollars” are being spent.  Am I making time for myself? 

Faith (August)

  • Rediscover a morning routine of Bible study.
  • Start working through Simple Abundance.  (Thank you, Teri!)
  • Re-listen to recordings from Janet Conner’s Writing Down Your Soul workshop.
  • Re-read Blue Like Jazz and The Irresistable Revolution.
  • Join a small group study somewhere, preferably one that’s all women.
  • Write for one hour five nights a week.
  • Develop a set of goals for my writing for the rest of the year.

Finances (September),

  • Make a list of monthly expenses and trim them where appropriate.
  • Get a library card.  (Yes, book buying is a financial issue in my household.  Bread and Butter really need to get this under control.)
  • Meet with Robert about better managing my rewards accounts.
  • Develop a travel budget for 2012.
  • Meet with Amit to discuss my progress towards retirement savings.
  • Assess quantity and quality of donation dollars. 
  • Make one well-thought-out and highly indulgent purchase.

Attitude (October)

  • Speak positively to others and myself.
  • Look for ways to compliment myself, no matter what the circumstances.
  • Practice trusting my instincts (except when my instincts are to complain).
  • Send notes to family and friends.
  • Start writing my own 14000 Things To Be Happy About.
  • Re-listen to recordings from Janet Conner’s Plug In workshop.

Community (November) 

  • Assess quantity and quality of my involvement in groups, clubs and organizations. 
  • Plan trips to see three different friends who live out of town. 
  • Plan two trips to see aunts, uncles and cousins – a domestic trip and a foreign trip.
  • Schedule some sister nights.
  • Update my list of important dates, including birthdays and anniversaries.

Goals (December)

  • Look back at the goals I set for 2011 to see how I did.
  • Set goals for 2012, including goals for finances, writing, travel, and races.
  • Develop a race calendar for 2012.
  • Develop a list of writing contests to enter in 2012.
  • Celebrate my birthday and completing this project by purchasing a new computer. 

I love this list.  Now I’ve got a few days left to figure out how to chart my progress.  Then, come June 1, my Happiness Project will be underway!

Happiness Project Continued: Aspects for Improvement

I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, and I’ve been conducting a project of my own.  After reading the book, I wrote my own commandments, which have already produced good results.  Now, I’ve identified the areas of my life that I want to work on for the next seven months.

My original thought, when I set out my plan and deadlines, was to identify ten or twelve aspects of my life that I want to improve.  However, since I’m doing this project in seven months, rather than twelve, I’ve decided to focus on seven aspects – one per month.  (That would be me putting Commandment No. 5 – seek simplicity – into practice.)

I have come up with the following categories:

  1. Cleansing (June) 
  2. Health (July)
  3. Faith (August)
  4. Finances (September)
  5. Attitude (October)
  6. Community (November)
  7. Goals (December)

I could have gone lots of directions with this, both in terms of aspects and the order in which I plan to tackle them.  I think my rationale makes some sense.  First, I’d like to clean out my body, my house, and my car, all with a mindset for starting anew and, hopefully, keeping things clean.  Then, once stuff is cleaned out, I’d like to focus on good sleep, exercise, and nutrition, all of which I hope will lead to better energy.  Then I’d like to establish more of a routine for prayer, Bible study, and my writing.  (Yes, I put my writing in the “faith” category because (a) it’s that important to me and (b) the belief that something good will come of it is an act of faith.) After I’ve re-established a rhythm of looking upwards, I’d like to think about money – how I spend and save as compared to how I should spend and save.  With my proverbial house in order, which I believe largely will be the case if I stick with this plan, I’d like to focus on my attitude – specifically on not complaining, on being hopeful, and on being joyful.  Once I’m done dealing with my space and being, I’d like to focus on my circles of involvement – family, friends, and commitments.  Am I serving each well? Am I in the right ones?  Do I need to make changes?  And finally, in my birthday month, I want to look back on the goals I set for 2011 and see how I did, and I want to establish my goals for 2012.

I think this project makes sense for me. 

What I love in thinking about the Happiness Project effort generally is that no two projects need to be alike.  Gretchen’s made sense for her.  Mine is specifically for me.  If you’re doing one of your own, yours will look different, as it should.  I think it’s exciting that the concept is adaptable and functional and utterly personal.

If you’re doing your own project, I’d love to hear your categories and your rationale.  And I hope you’re excited about what you are doing.  I certainly am.

My Twelve Commandments.

Recently, I started my very own Happiness Project.  I got the idea from a book of the same name authored by Gretchen Rubin

The first step in the process was to finish reading the book.  I did that.  It was an easy and fun read.  I appreciate her practical and structured approach to self improvement.  I especially loved her conclusion: “I found out what I knew all along; I could change my life without changing my life.”  That’s what I want to do.  I want to change my life without changing my life.  I appreciate what I have, but I want to make small changes that have a real impact on the happiness I experience day to day. 

This week, I’ve been working on the second step of the process, which was to write a personal set of commandments for this project and for my life.  This part was harder than I expected, but I am pleased with the end result.  Here are my Twelve Commandments:

  1. Be you according to you.
  2. Forgive, even yourself.
  3. Have the hard conversations.
  4. Accumulate fewer things and more experiences.
  5. Seek simplicity.
  6. Slow down.
  7. Ask for what you need, and offer what you can.
  8. Trust your gut.
  9. Act only when certain.
  10. Expect better.
  11. Look forward and up.
  12. Choose love.

Each one poses a challenge for me.  Each one touches on something that I currently don’t do very well.  And that excites me. 

The next step in the process is to identify ten or twelve aspects of my life that I want to improve.  My guess is that identifying those aspects will be a little easier than coming up with my commandments, but we’ll see.  Easier or not, I feel like I’m on the right track.  That excites me, too.

The Happiness Project – Overview.

I first came across Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, last summer at Powell’s Books in Portland.  I loved the title.  I loved the bookstore.  I loved being in Portland.  I expected to love reading the book as much as I enjoyed the experience of finding the book.  But as life sometimes does, it got in the way, and the book sat on my shelf until just last night.

A friend’s Facebook post about her own Happiness Project sent me hunting for this book.  Ah – the power of Facebook.  Anyway, I found it on a shelf in my kitchen (because every room in my house is devoted in part to being a library).  I read the preface “Getting Started” last night and knew instantly that I would be a fan of the book.

First of all, the writing is conversational  and easy to read.  Nothing turns me off of a book more quickly than having to re-read something to make sense of it.  I can tell from the first few paragraphs that I will not have that problem with this book.  Second, I learned in the fourth paragraph that Gretchen Rubin is a lawyer-turned-writer.  That gives her instant credibility – instant pedestal status – in my mind.  Third, this woman talks about a methodical way of tackling different aspect of her life to make it happier.  That struck me because most people don’t associate to-do lists and projects as the path towards a happier life.  But she writes, “I wanted to perfect my character, but, given my nature, that would probably involve charts, deliverables, to-do lists, new vocabulary terms and compulsive note taking.”  My goodness, I have found a woman after my own heart.  Finally, I love her recognition that a happy life can be made better – that by taking on this project, she was not suggesting that life was unhappy.  She was, instead, recognizing that there was room for improvement.  I agree completely.  There always is  room for improvement.

She got my attention with her preface.  I’m in.  I want my own Happiness Project. 

So what’s my plan? 

  1. Read all the way through the book to get a sense for what she tackled in her own life and how.
  2. Develop my own Commandments, though I know I will steal from Gretchen and make the first “Be Taline.”  That is sometimes my greatest challenge.  (For a list of Gretchen’s commandments, see her website.)
  3. Identify ten or twelve aspects of my life that I want to improve.  Again, I’m sure I’ll steal from Gretchen on some of these categories.  Hers were vitality, marriage, work, parenthood, leisure, friendship, money, eternity, books, mindfulness, attitude, and happiness. 
  4. Develop the specific tasks towards each of my own categories. 
  5. Get to work on executing the tasks.

Gretchen started on January 1 and spent a year on her project – one month for each category she identified.  My plan is to start on June 1 and to spend six months.  Why?  My birthday is in December, and I want my celebration to include a celebration of having spent the better part of the year developing and implementing ways to make life a little better.

Here are my deadlines:

  1. Finish reading the book by May 1.
  2. Develop commandments by May 7.
  3. Identify the aspects I want to improve by May 14.
  4. Develop the tasks by May 28.
  5. Develop a tracking system/chart by May 31.

I invite anyone who wants to do their own Happiness Project to join me! 

I considered soliciting your thoughts on categories I might want to tackle, but then I remembered Commandment 1. Be Taline.  So I will come up with my own tasks.  See, it’s working already.