One of my aspirations for this year was to “take pleasure in an atmosphere of growth”. I’m quoting Gretchen Rubin, from her book The Happiness Project. Basically, I want to spend some time getting to know myself a little bit better. The last few years of our life have hurtled by and my family and I have gone through lots of changes. I want to redefine myself in light of those changes and find out who I’ve grown up to be.
Sound familiar? A lot of people seem to feel this way at the moment. There’s a tremendous amount of seeking going on and lots of resources out there to help you do it. But where to start?
I needed a plan that would take as little time as possible. As we travel so much, it also needed to be portable to avoid my finding an excuse to abandon it a few weeks in.
I chose two resources. One I had used twice before; the other was relatively new to me. I discovered Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance in 1996. It was incredibly helpful then, aiding my decision to embrace being a full time housewife and even indirectly leading to me developing the concept of The 21st Century Housewife. Although the website didn’t launch until 2002, the idea was formulating itself in my head way back in the nineties, and I wrote the first pieces for the website then. I turned to Simple Abundance again in 2008, after a period of great loss and challenge, including the loss of my beloved parents within weeks of each other. Although in a different way, the messages Sarah shared in Simple Abundance once again resonated powerfully with me, and facilitated my return to a new normal.
Simple Abundance somehow adapts to suit you depending on where you are in your life. I have given the book to others and they have said the same thing. It may work for you too. I highly recommend it for ‘cultivating an atmosphere of growth’.
The other resource I chose is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I heard Gretchen speak as part of a panel at the BlogHer ’11 conference and was so taken by her concepts that I bought The Happiness Project immediately afterwards. Although the book charts Gretchen’s personal journey, it provides a huge amount of inspiration to help you create your own Happiness Project.
To begin, I downloaded both Simple Abundance and The Happiness Project on to my iPad. As my iPad also allows me to use Pages for word processing, I can do all my introspective writing on it as well. If you don’t have an electronic reader, both books come in paperback editions and you could always use a pretty notebook or journal instead of an electronic device.
Next, I developed four files to work with. You could have a notebook with four sections if you preferred, or use multiple notebooks if portability is not an issue. The four files are:
This is a ‘master plan’ of things I want to accomplish in 2013 both personally and professionally. My dozen or so aspirations range from ‘making healthier choices physically and emotionally’ to ‘relaunching The 21st Century Housewife successfully’. I spent about an hour on a plane on New Year’s Day writing everything down. It was an hour well spent, but if that big a chunk of time is an issue you could always spend ten minutes here, ten minutes there until you formulate your list. Every morning, I re-read the list to help keep me focussed. It takes all of two minutes. In fact, I nearly have it memorized.
My Happiness Project
Following Gretchen Rubin’s lead, I am concentrating on three or four things each month in pursuit of the wider goals I set out in my aspirations. For example, January includes ‘Be kinder to myself’ and ‘Live in the moment’ as well as ‘List three things you are grateful for each day’.
Listing three things to be grateful for each day is pretty easy, even on difficult days. When I look back, even at the bleakest times in my life there has always been something to be grateful for. In fact, the more I notice how grateful I am, the more grateful I seem to be. I find myself looking for the positive side of things. For example, although I got the flu at the end of our trip to California and was seriously unwell, the positive side was that I was able to see a doctor in the US. This meant I was prescribed medication to help lessen the severity and shorten the duration of my illness. It’s virtually impossible to get prescription medication to treat the flu in the UK so if I had not been ill until I got home I’d still be feeling really awful.
One Sentence Journal
(as recommended by Gretchen Rubin)
This is literally a few lines a day about where I am and what’s happening. Of course, it isn’t always just one sentence, but the title inspires brevity. It reminds me of the date books my father kept as journals, writing a few lines each day over the last twenty years of his life. Reading them has been a huge insight into not only the things he loved, but also who he really was. I hope that my one sentence journals might provide me with that kind of insight about myself in my own lifetime.
Although this sounds like rather a lot of work the whole lot, including reading the essay of the day from Simple Abundance, doesn’t take me any longer than twenty minutes a day. This short time spent is already being outweighed by the results I am seeing. I hope you can find twenty minutes a day to spend on yourself as well. (You can always divide it up into ten minute blocks if you really can’t find twenty minutes all at once.) If you feel concerned about dedicating this much time to yourself, be assured, it will benefit those around you as well.
I plan to remain accountable in the pursuit of my aspirations this year and hopefully to encourage you in yours by writing about my progress from time to time. I hope you will also share your own progress with me as we journey into this wonderful New Year. If you feel your experience could help others and would like to write a guest post about your own journey, please do get in touch!