2010 and the Happiness List

Sometimes all you have to do is look around.  Last night I did, and see what I found? 2010 in shells laid down by an invisible hand.  Not only that, but the light was exactly right for a photo, and my husband had his camera.  With this kind of divine prodding, how could I NOT think about what 2010 will mean to me and you?

For most people, a new year means resolutions. This year, before the stroke of midnight on the 31st, I decided against resolutions once again.  I’ve learned if I tell myself I can’t do something, I want to do it even more.  Too many “I will not” statements in my head, and I know everything will go straight downhill.  So why set myself up?  I don’t want to fail.  I may even give up “failing” for Lent when it comes around this year–or maybe I’ll give up abstaining for Lent, since that’s a discipline that goes downhill pretty fast, as well. 

The biggest problem with resolutions is that they often have the word “not” in them.  I will not eat dessert after dinner.  I will not forget to exercise.  I will not let myself get swamped at work.  This year I’ve decided on a different approach. It’s not a resolution.  And it’s not a negative.  It’s a Happiness List.

Since I titled my summer book Happiness Key, I’ve loudly beat the drum about happiness here on Southern Exposure   After all, I was writing about the key to happiness (you got that, right?)  Of course, I was thinking about happiness, reading about happiness, talking to anyone who would listen about happiness.  

All that investigation had to result in something, and here’s what I’ve taken away.  My insight isn’t profound or anything you don’t already know.  It’s simple enough.  The universe doesn’t make us happy.  We do that ourselves.  If we wait for lightning to strike, it might, in a cataclysmic burst of white light, send us somewhere we’re not quite ready to go.

No, in order to be happy, we have to know what makes us happy and be willing to reach for it.  Unfortunately this isn’t something we’re taught.  In fact many of us have been taught that reaching for happiness is selfish, even dangerous.  If we’re happy, we aren’t thinking of others. We should put ourselves last. We should fall into bed every night with a long list of the day’s failures and all the “shoulds” we have to accomplish tomorrow.  (In Gestalt therapy, this is known as “shoulding” all over yourself.)

This year I’ve decided to fall into bed with thoughts about what made me happy that day, and what I’ll do tomorrow to be happy again.  I’m calling this my Happiness List.

Is this selfish?  Thoughtless?  Sacreligious?  Subversive?  Here’s the good news.  Being with people I love makes me happy.  Doing things for them?  Happy.  Doing whatever I can for the world in general?  Happy.  Breathing fresh air, appreciating the gifts I’ve been given, sitting quietly and just letting the world flow around and through me?  Happy.  Nothing dangerous or selfish there. Just a whole lot of happiness, which in our culture is sadly underrated.   

Over the next days, I’m going to make a 2010 Happiness List. I’m not going to resolve to do anything on it, or even to think about it too much.  I mean, if I’m not bright enough to follow through, will constantly checking a list change anything?  But I am going to put my ideas on paper, and I am going to give myself permission to be happy.  I have faith both will make a difference.

How about you?  What’s on your list?  Want to be happy with me in 2010?  


  1. Sylvia Bobbitt on January 11, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    I resolved several years to change the way I looked at resolutions also. Now each year I renew my committment to myself to take positive actions in the year ahead. To perform random (and often anonymous) acts of kindness, to make someone else smile, improve someone else’s day, to make someone’s else’s load a little less, even if only by letting them know I care. By sharing what I have and what I know, by touching individuals and providing motivation or inspiration.
    I just came back from a wonderful birthday celebration for an old friend. I realized as four generations of her family stood and spoke that these people were her legacy, what she had meant to them, what she had given to them was their inheritance and her love and lore would live on for many generations to come.
    I don’t have a large family, and I’ll never have a party like that, but I know what’s really important is that I make a difference in people’s lives and not that I get recognized for doing it.

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