Why I Quit My Happiness Project

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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14 thoughts on “Why I Quit My Happiness Project

  1. you get it! you really do…I read the book and though i couldnt quite articulate it i believe this is the feeling i came away with also.

    but it was bestseller, so it must mean something to others just not you or i.

    1. I started reading it and returned it to the library. It just wasn’t for me, either!

    2. I read the book and enjoyed it. First, I knew a year long project would overwhelm me personally, so it wasn’t even feasible for me to attempt.

      But I really felt like happiness isn’t the right word for the title, because you are right, you’re actual happiness doesn’t come from those mundane day to day things. But I took away that if you found a way to release all those nagging “to do’s” that you never got to and allowed yourself to take a break, you would find happiness.

      You’re not a quitter, you’re just a fast learner and discovered that in a few months instead of a whole year.

  2. I love this, Katie! Yes yes yes!

  3. Sharon

    I love that you went to a track meet to see your students. You really learn a lot when you see your students outside the classroom. I have that book and haven’t taken the time to read it. Now I won’t!

    1. Sharon, it’s a great read.
      It means different things to different people.
      This is my 2nd time going through the Happiness Project.. I just read it month by month and it has enriched my life in glorious ways..

  4. Yep, you have learned the secret to happiness.

  5. Colleen

    So true! Good for you for realizing this

  6. jenny-bird

    Katie, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Lists and goals are good as tools to identify what you want and motivate you as you work toward your objective. But, they don’t create happiness. Only you can find happiness–whether it be in the mundane or in something special. Kudos to you for recognizing that your perspective is the key to happiness.

  7. Janet

    Yes. Perhaps another book to consider is C. S. Lewis’ “Surprised by Joy”. A classic for a reason.

  8. Becca

    I thought of this last night when I was rolling into bed at midnight…wondered if you were still making it to bed at 10:00?

  9. I think sometimes lists and projects like that can help us focus on what is important to us but at other times they can distract and hinder us. Kudos to you for recognizing that this project just wasn’t helping you any more. Your post reminds me of a quote I was given at a camp a number of years ago: Happiness is not something you find it is something you create. Go create.

  10. Becky

    Doesn’t really sound like you quit though…just found your unique ‘means’ to the same end 🙂

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