A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to do a Happiness Project for 2020.
A happiness project, a la Gretchen Rubin, is a yearlong effort to make monthly resolutions with the goal of increasing personal happiness. I’ve attempted happiness projects previously, but I’ve never stuck with them for an entire year. I’m not sure I’ll stick with this one all year long either. That might sound pessimistic; I don’t mean it to be. I’m realistic about my follow-through on projects like this, and I think mapping it out is as valuable and fun for me as following through on it would be.
In Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project, she chose a theme for each month and then made 3 to 5 small resolutions related to that theme. Her themes included topics like Energy, Parenting, Marriage, and Play. I love the idea of using a theme for each month, and also tying that theme into my blog posts for the month. (This, too, I have attempted previously – having a monthly blog theme.)
For my 2020 themes, there’s not just one word for each month; it’s often a pair or a trio of related words, all related to the resolutions I plan to make, try out, and write about.
These are the themes I’ve come up with for 2020:
January: Health and Longevity.
March: Mindfulness, Meditation, and Presence.
April: Minimalism and Decluttering.
May: Writing. (Get geared up for Summer Writing!)
June: Traditions, Celebrations, and Rituals.
July: Community and Friendship.
August: Habits, Simplifying, & Adulting.
September: Education and Awareness.
October: Laughter, Fun, & Play.
November: Being Intentional.
December: Life Alignment.
The topics I didn’t have room for were Balance; Rhythm & Routine; Travel & Adventure; and Goals. I’m including them in case I end up deciding one of these themes doesn’t work.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to make resolutions, or just reflect on the ways you’d like to live your life, a happiness project can be super fun and helpful. As I’ve been crafting this post, I’ve been drafting my posts for next year – developing resolutions that relate to each theme. I’m pumped to get started, because, as you can probably tell if you’ve been reading for a while – I love a good fresh start!
Last Monday morning, I got an idea while I was on my way to work.
I was in a grumpy mood. Ever since becoming a parent, I have disliked Mondays. I don’t like leaving my kids to go to work. It sometimes helps if we’ve had a fantastic weekend doing fun things as a family – or sometimes that makes it even harder to get started with the work week.
This school year has been a little bit better than the last two years were. Prior to this school year starting, I also was struggling with the Sunday blues – that feeling of dread and anxiety some people get on Sunday afternoons when they realize they’re about to face five days of work starting Monday morning. But that’s been better since school started in September 2019. I feel a little bit more confident and comfortable at my job this year, and the Sunday blues have been eradicated.
But Monday mornings? Those still suck.
So last Monday, I was on my way to work and I started using speak to text to do some “writing.” I opened up a Word Press post on my phone, hit the microphone button, and just started talking – about Mondays, and about my goals for the day, the week, and the year. It was really helpful. It’s not the first time I’ve done this. Basically, by “writing” a blog post using speak to text while I’m driving, I’m sorting through my thoughts the same way I do when I’m sitting in my armchair at home with my computer on my lap.
That morning, it occurred to me that I really need a Monday morning ritual that centers me and/or gets me excited for the week ahead. And I realized something: a Monday morning is a fabulous time to set an intention for the week ahead.
Here’s a few things I know about myself:
I love setting a goal for myself. Be more present. Write more. Exercise daily. Whatever the goal, I love to identify it and write it down somewhere with every intention of achieving it.
I struggle to follow through on my goals. I forget what I’m working toward because I’m distracted by the minutiae of day-to-day life.
One of the only reliable strategies I have to form a new habit is using the strategy (a la Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before) of the Blank Slate. A new house, a new car, a new phone, a new job – I tend to use fresh starts like these as a jumping block for cultivating new and better habits.
When all of these things swirled around and came together, I realized: I can attempt to use my Monday morning commute as a time to reflect and set an intention for my week.
I love this idea. I have so many goals on my mind lately – partly because I’ve been skimming Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours and partly because I’ve been jotting down resolutions for 2020. But when I have lots of goals, it’s hard to bring them all to the forefront of my mind, especially as a busy working parent who’s juggling a lot of responsibilities. If I use Monday mornings as a time to (using speak to text) write about my intentions, I can narrow my focus and zero in on the intention that’s the most crucial for me during that particular week. I’m going to give it a try; we’ll see how it goes.
The funny thing is, writing this post helped me to remember something. When I was in my early twenties, I remember playing a game with two of my college friends. We were on the Staten Island Ferry, and we started talking about what our different friends who be if they were a (fill in the blank). For example: If Kerriann was a holiday, which holiday would she be? If Matt was a subject in school, what subject would he be? It was silly and fun and pointless. And one of the fill-in-the-blank categories we chose was days of the week. We decided that one of our fun-loving party-going friends would be a Saturday night; we decided that one of our even-keeled, reliable friends was a Tuesday. And we – well, it was either all of us, or just me – decided that if I were a day of the week, I’d be a Monday.
This made sense to me, at the time. I loved college, I loved the work I was doing. I didn’t have the pull of little kids at home that I wanted to be with. I invested a lot of energy and enthusiasm into every job, activity, or class I attended. The start of the week never bothered me, because I made the best of everything and I always found something to be excited about.
So funny. I don’t love Mondays currently – but I used to. And it’s because I have always been a person who loves a fresh start and a new week. I’m so glad I remembered this about myself, and I really hope this new habit helps me to start my weeks off with a better outlook on the week ahead.
It’s December, and once again, I did not spend my entire year planning or purchasing gifts to give for the holidays.
And you know what? It’s okay. Maybe next time.
I think that’s a good mantra for a person like me, who is often thinking of things that would have been awesome at EXACTLY the moment when it’s too late to do the thing. I just thought of the perfect present to give my mom at EXACTLY the moment when she’s opening the present I bought her because I couldn’t think of anything good. Maybe next time.
For now, I am so excited for the holiday season. My boys are big enough to be enchanted by a holiday train garden and a Christmas tree, and I’m so excited to celebrate all month long. This year, there’s only a short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas – just about three weeks. Let’s do this! Here are my goals:
Be 100% present throughout December. Enjoy the holiday season to the max.
Create your 2020 goals. It’s so much fun to think of goals for the new year, and I’ve been writing out a plan a la Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project to potentially follow for 2020.
I’ve been learning about mindfulness for years, and yet I still feel like a beginner.
These past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how little time I have when I’m just daydreaming and letting my thoughts wander. In the age of iPhones and Netflix, at any moment, I can have a TV show or a podcast playing while I do something else. And I do that a LOT. I rarely bring my full, mindful attention to the task at hand. And I am definitely less mindful when I’m feeling stressed or have a lot going on
In his work, the writer Cal Newport (author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work) defines solitude as time when no input is being experienced – so, time when you’re not reading, listening to a podcast, watching television, but are simply allowing your brain to either rest or to process all the other input you’ve had recently.
If that’s what solitude is, I currently have very little of it in my everyday life. I am constantly multi-tasking, and I often am listening to a podcast or a TV show while completing other tasks. There are worse habits, of course, and I don’t want to beat myself up for having a very human 21st century struggle. But also –
I don’t want to waste my time.
Since becoming a parent, I am very aware of my mortality. I’m not sure what it is exactly about having kids that causes this shift, but I know I’m not the only parent who has experienced it. The time to do everything I want to do in my life is not limitless. And the time I spend listening to podcasts and watching TV is time I could be thinking about blogging or fiction writing. I read once that Toni Morrison used to scribble down paragraphs while she was in traffic, because she was a working mother with limited time to write. I want to be THAT kind of writer – the kind who uses every available moment.
And I know that I lose a lot of valuable time when I’m constantly playing on my phone or re-watching Jane The Virgin.
So, mindfulness. I sometimes think it’s the secret to achieving ever single one of my dreams and goals. And while I have always struggled to form and keep this habit, I’ve been doing two things well lately:
I’m using the Headspace app to refresh my mindfulness skills and meditate. I’ve completed a three minute meditation three days in a row. It’s only three days, but it’s something!
I’ve been putting my phone away – usually in another room, charging – when I get home from work. It hasn’t been perfect, and sometimes I’m tempted to just go add something to my grocery list or see if I have any texts. But I’ve been doing this pretty consistently, and it’s making my time at home with my family SO much better.
There are so many goals that I have that mindfulness will help – cutting back on caffeine, writing a novel, eating healthier. I could be wrong, but I think mindfulness is the answer. And it’s a great time of year to focus on being more present – the time of year that is all about family and celebrating. Wish me luck!
Not surprisingly, my goals for November 2019 are mainly going to be focused on house and home. Things are slowly getting unpacked, and there’s so much to do, from hanging towel racks to building a fence to establishing routines for us and the boys related to schedule and cleaning.
Unpack and declutter! Follow this maxim: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
Extend your break from fiction writing. I’m hoping this doesn’t turn into a “until 2020” thing. Once the moving is done and farming season is over, I want to dive back into novel writing.
Make a huge list of things to do and things to buy. (SO. MANY. THINGS.)
Establish new habits and routines related to exercise, cleaning, phone-free time with the boys, and family. I am all about using a move as a chance to start new habits! (Including meetings. That needs to be a priority ASAP.)