Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Aim Higher / The Happiness Project

For those of you who do not know, I have decided to read the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and follow along on her journey to find Happiness right where we are in life. I will be posting every month in response to the chapters topic that are set up in her book. You can follow along in my journey here.
 March: Aim Higher

I loved this chapter. I am beginning to think I just love this book in general. I feel it came to me at the most perfect time in my life. I have a hard time remaining true to myself as I always think that if I were only a little different or if I had a different life that I would be a much better version of myself. This is not true, and I know that, but its a struggle that I have constantly. This chapter has definitely been the hardest for me to follow because it seems to have brought up things that I have been trying to deal with all of my life. Which is awesome, difficult, and absolutely worth it. 

1. Launch a blog. 
"...I didn't want to be like the novelist who spent so much time rewriting his first sentence that he never wrote his second."  

Ahh, this section of the chapter probably spoke the most to me this month. I kind of wish I didn't have a blog so that I could share with Gretchen's "enormous rush of triumph" when publishing her first blog post. She started her blog as a way to challenge herself while still accomplishing something that she actually enjoyed doing - writing. I like to write and I can relate a lot with Rubin. One thing I do share with her is the need to remember to be myself. Be Emily. There are so many different types of bloggers and writers out there that it is so easy to see them and wish that I could write just like that or take pictures just like that. I get so caught up with rewriting and making my sentences "perfect" that I feel sometimes that my words have lost their meaning. Or lost their Emily-ness. I don't want to be that kind of author. I want to write raw and evoke emotion whenever possible. I want people to have their "aha" moments without me stressing about creating those moments for them. I want to write my story, use my words, and create nonfiction and fiction that captures bits and pieces of me. I took this challenge as a "how-to" transform my blog from the stage of me wanting to write good quality passages to actually just writing how I feel, what bugs me, or how I live my life. I don't want to get caught up in the "what if I offend someone ..." attitude. I want to help inspire someone. 

This, of course, also goes right along with the book I am writing. How many times to I edit, and reedit a paragraph until it measures up with the authors that I admire? I need to stop comparing myself to Gabaldon and just write like myself. It's a hard challenge for me to do, I am the most critical of my sentences and word choices. However, I do like the idea of a challenge, and more importantly, I like the idea of being me on paper or web. 

"One reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to expand your self-definition."
"Research shows that the more elements that make up your identity, the less threatening it is when any one element is threatened."

2. Enjoy the fun of failure. 
"I wanted to develop in my natural direction." 

I don't like the word "fail" or "failure." I think it is such a negative way to look at life or at something that may not have worked out the way I wanted it to. I have "failed" many times in my short life, but that is not the way I see them. I see them as growth, as figuring myself or figuring life out, as dreaming and living out that dream, even if it means that that dream wasn't really what I should have gone for. I like the idea of enjoying the fun of failure, because it changes the mind from making failure look like a negative enemy. It isn't, but so many people are afraid at failing. 

I am sure people would see my getting married so young as a sort of failure, my not going to university, or the whole Oman experience that didn't work out the way we wanted it to as a failure. I used to think these things, but I realized that I was more worried about how others saw me and my life. That put a major stress on myself and that is when I penned myself "failure." I failed in the eyes of ... I failed in the eyes of the world.

That is not how I see it now and maybe that means, in my wise old age, that I don't have a hard time with enjoying the fun of it all. I see all of my experiences as just that, experiences. The pretty, the ugly, the joyful, the sad. I have learned much from these steps that have made me who I am and I wouldn't change them for the world. Does that mean that I still jump with the risk of possibly landing on my butt? Yes. I may do a wee bit more praying or thinking or create a pro and con list, but I don't let the initial fear of rejection or of it exploding in my face keep me from just doing it. I am not supposed to be good at everything, even though I really want to be, and life will not always give me the happy results that I think it should. Now that I have landed on my butt a few times, I know that it isn't all bad. It can suck - yes, it can make me reevaluate everything - yes, but its about the journey not about the destination, not about being successful vs failure. So yes, lets have fun at failing, so that we can risk it, and try new things. Risking failure can lead to many dreams being met and successess occurring. "Pushing (yourself) can cause serious discomfort," but if we let go of this idea of being a failure, we can become free of what holds us back and live our lives to the fullest and most abundant.

3. Ask for help. 
"I often has the immature and counterproductive impulse to pretend to know things that I didn't know."

I don't have a hard time asking for help if it comes down to a skill or job or task that I need to do. If I don't know how to work a certain tool, or if I don't understand directions, I will wait until I have someone who knows what they are doing nearby so that I can ask them. However, I am absolutely horrible at asking for help when it comes down to life stuff. Needing a drive somewhere, needing help with planning an event, something hasn't gone the way I thought it would and I need help getting back on my feet. These are just a few examples. I know that people are here in our lives for a reason, to help build community and to help me out. I know that a lot of people have my best interest at heart, but yet still I find it hard to let me walls go down enough to admit that I need help. I don't know if this is just an Emily problem, or a life problem, but I need to get over my "I don't want to talk about it because maybe you will now think of me differently" mindset and just ask for help. Or ask for someone to talk to. Or ask for a listening ear. Or ask for advice. As much as I know that I am not a "failure," I have a hard time asking for help if people may still come to the conclusion that I am a "failure." I still care what people think, obviously. 

4. Work smart.
"I felt as if I never had enough time for all the work I wanted to do." 

I have felt this way for as long as I can possibly remember, that I never had enough time to get my dreams out into the world whether it is writing, knitting, blogging etc. I get so frustrated with myself and wish that I could go on a weekend retreat where I could just sit and create and be still and get it all out. As much s I would love to go out to the mountains and do all of this, it is so hard to actually plan since I do have a family to take care of. I feel like unless I have four hours of uninterrupted time to get it all out, that there was no way possible to get it all done. 

The idea of squeezing in a project in a fifteen minute gap that I may have seems daunting to me. What is the point of picking up my knitting needles or to write for only 15 minutes? That is barely anything. However, it would be way more than I am doing now because I am forever wating for the four hours of uninterrupted time to occur. Sigh. I need to fight myself on this one. Although, I have been applying this method to my house and am finding that it is staying cleaner for way longer, so HOORAY! A slight win. 

5. Enjoy now.
"Arrival fallacy: the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you'll be happy."

This is so far from the truth, at least for me, that the aim of enjoying NOW has been something that I have been trying to apply to my life for so long. My brain somehow thinks that only after I move to ..., when I write my books, when I have a home to call my own, and when I master making some form of very hard dessert, that then, and only then, when I be truly, truly happy. Even after all of the Now Blog posts I have written and conversations I have had, my brain still wants to go to that place of waiting for that something to happen. Where it thinks that I am not satisfied with today. This is when I remind myself to slow down. Life is about the journey ... how many times do I need to say that in one blog post? I need to remember to enjoy the process. I can get excited about the end result, but "though (I) may anticipate great happiness in arrival, arriving rarely makes (me) as happy as (I) anticipate."
I would love to hear from you, readers comments and discussions are always welcome. Have you read this book before? What are some of the things that you found challenging or easy? What was your favourite thing to learn? Without even reading the book, have you discovered these challenges in your own life? 

It is never too late to start a happiness project. If you would like to join in on it with me, I would love to hear about your journey. xoxo

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