April has come and almost gone. There have been no Happiness Project updates this month for one very simple reason: there is no more Happiness Project.
I struggled with quitting my Happiness Project for the same reason I struggle to quit anything. I don’t want to give up. I want to see something through until the bitter end, whether I’m happy about it or not. But after much reflection in March, I realized that this definitely defeats the purpose of a happiness project at all.
I started my own Happiness Project in an effort to focus on happiness is 2014. Every New Year, I pick a word that I want to really embody in the coming year, and this year “happiness” was my word. I read the book, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Ruben right around Christmas and I was inspired by her task-master way of seeking happiness, one to-do list at a time. I promptly came home from my Christmas vacation and made my own Happiness Project for the year.
But over the course of the past few months, I have learned something about happiness. It can’t be found. It’s not something that goes missing from your life, and it’s not something that a to-do list can replace. Happiness is created by people, not lists.
The happiest parts of my year so far have not been diets or exercising routines. They haven’t been morning smoothies or bedtime routines. The happiest parts of my year have been times when I had no schedule or to-do list. Times when I was with my family or special friends or my students or in church or in grocery store lines or spontaneously found myself on a pirate putt putt course. Those times when life caught me by surprise and the moment that turned to happiness was the moment I embraced whatever goodness what right in front of me.
Happiness isn’t something we search for, friends. It isn’t a journey or a path or any of those other things we stitch on pillows or title blog posts. Happiness is something we create in the space where we already are. It’s created in late afternoon swims on school nights. It’s created in theme park lines. It’s created in sermons that speak to our hearts. It’s created in after school track meets where my students get to play with my kids for the first time. It’s created in those moments when we see a stranger that needs help and we actually put our phones away for one second and we reach out with our hands to do something.
I don’t need a to do list for those things. In fact, my Happiness Project list hindered my happiness. It was just one more thing for me to take care of, to standardize, to itemize. So, I’ve happily quit my Happiness Project, thankyouverymuch. Because happiness is here in my life already, and it turns out I don’t need a list to tell me that.