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February 12, 2010

My Happiness Project Lessons and Lists

It has been no secret just how much I have loved reading The Happiness Project, or how excited we are for her to speak at In Good Company next week. This excitement only doubled last week, after finishing the final pages of the book, I decided to put rubber to the road and test-drive Gretchen's framework. I have started with two lists: my own Secrets of Adulthood and Personal Commandments. (I have included the description of these concepts below for those who haven't read the book yet.)

SECRETS OF ADULTHOOD - Remind yourself what you've learned!
The Secrets of Adulthood tool allows you to remind yourself of what you've learned with time and experience. What bits of wisdom do you have to share with other people?

Adelaide's Secrets of Adulthood:

* Everything in a house should have a home

* It feels better when things are straight

* Doing the right thing is usually not easy

* Good things feel right and comfortable even though they may be hard or take work

* What’s right for you isn’t right for all

* It only takes a little time to be thoughtful

* There’s almost nothing that is worth sacrificing a good night’s sleep

* The best way to get a goodnight’s sleep is to go to bed early

* Celebrate the romance of everyday life

*Honest and direct leaves less room for misinterpretation
and hurt feelings

* You need much less than you think

PERSONAL COMMANDMENTS - Identify principles to guide your life.

The Personal Commandments tool prompts you to identify the overarching principles that you want to guide your actions and thoughts. Making a concise list of your Personal Commandments is an excellent exercise in reflecting and articulating what you think are the most important values.

Adelaide's Personal Commandments:

1. Be Adelaide

(straight from Gretchen’s list!) Celebrate your uniqueness. Accept limitations and dislikes.

2. If it’s your choice don’t hold it against anyone else

Occasionally I am guilty of participating in a decision or making a choice that I am later resentful about. I want to remember that if I had the opportunity to exercise my choice, it is no one else’s responsibility but my own.

3. It’s not worth it to get annoyed for anything that takes less than 15 minutes

This one is especially hard for me. A person who cuts me in line can put me in a sour mood for at least an hour. Breathe, refocus, and move on. The truth is 15 minutes really doesn’t impact anyone.

4. Give proper greetings and goodbyes

Energy spread, both good and bad. Don’t pollute someone else’s time or day with a sour greeting or goodbye. Recognize your impact on those you interact with.

5. Don’t feel guilty about your boundaries or limits

The point of a boundary is to protect your energy, time or emotion. It defeats the purpose to set a boundary and then feel guilty about it. What you’ve got is what you’ve got.

6. Don’t get hurt on account of things that are not about you

I have friends and family members with issues (we all do). They can frequently do predictable things that are at best not thoughtful and at worst hurtful. I can recognize their destructive behavior BUT it is not okay to let my feelings get hurt when the issue isn’t about me. Like a duck, let it roll off.

7. It’s ok to bitch about things, but close issues with a forgiving truth of the matter

I grew up in a place and time where as a girl, I was told to smile if I wasn’t happy and encouraged to focus on the positive. I value speaking the truth and being honest about feelings even if they aren’t ‘happy’. However, it’s important to give negative talk its time and place and to “close” the issue so it doesn’t linger. A forgiving truth of the matter statement does the trick for me. Ex. “The truth is that you can’t make everyone happy all the time.” or in reference to above… “Yes it is annoying but in truth it has nothing to do with me.”

Recently my mom had a bad visit with my grandmother. Historically there are bad feelings because my grandmother spends only very limited time with us and will dash out of a holiday after only a couple hours. These major snow storms turned a trip planned for 4 days into a week-long stay. It wasn’t pleasant and my grandmother was clearly over-extended in the social grace department. In talking with my mom, we acknowledged the bad. I wanted to close the issue on a positive note though. I said “Well, I am not going to get upset about short holiday visits anymore, she clearly has a limit on her pleasantness and we should be grateful that she is aware of those limits.”

8. Aim to be honest, kind, appropriate and helpful in your all your interactions

9. Posture!

Be aware of it! Improve it!

10. Open and Close work

Autonomy and work flexibility is a double-edge sword. Working from home requires discipline and self-regulation. My tendency, in part due to my blackberry, is to have a stream of work all the time. Even if the work is not taxing, they are distracting, and after a while this leaves me exhausted and is dire need of a “break”. Additional it short changes my ability to focus on other things that are also important and require time, concentration, and energy…cooking, reading, etc. Having clearly defined work times provides a better balance.

11. Non-verbal communication counts too, recognize it and give it the credit it deserves

I learned this from reading Esther Perel’s book, Mating in Captivity (speaking at IGC on April 6th!). I work hard to verbalize my feelings and prioritize that in relationships. My husband on the other hand was, when we met, pretty certain that “normal” was a feeling. Not only that it, but it was also a satisfactory answer to most questions. While that has certainly changed (for the better), Esther’s point that conversation and talking is only one form of communication, one language is a very valid one. Non-verbal communication carries with it lots of meaning and significance. It should be recognized, acknowledged, and credited too.

posted by Adelaide Lancaster

image courtesy of McYarnpants

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