My Happiness Project

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While on vacation over my holiday break late last year through early January 2010, I came across this blog post by venture capitalist and prolific blogger Fred Wilson. The post is about The Happiness Project, a book and blogging effort and personal initiative of Gretchen Rubin. Fred piqued my interest enough to purchase this book. I have since embarked upon a lightweight personal happiness project, nothing close to as intense as Gretchen’s effort, but nonetheless, it is turning out to be powerful for me.

Like Fred, I too consider myself to be a very happy person. I am healthy, was born to and raised by incredible parents providing me with life skills that have served me very well, had wonderful educational opportunities, at a young age met and married the love of my life, have two wonderful kids who are the biggest blessings of my life and have great friends. I could go on, but the point is that even with this backdrop, I found Gretchen’s book to be compelling.

Trust me, I don’t run around every day, all day, with a wide smile plastered across my face. Those of you that know me know this to be true. Kids and parenting bring stress, my job as a serial entrepreneur in high technology brings a lot of stress, and my personality requires me to bring stress upon myself despite any best intentions otherwise. These are all threats to my happiness, which is an ultimate life goal for after all; if you are not seeking to find happiness in your life, what are you really doing?

My goal in writing this post is to point people to Gretchen’s book – those that really need it and even those that generally consider themselves to be very happy can find a ton of value in seeking, attaining and maintaining that nirvana of happiness.

Fred mentioned Gretchen’s four splendid truths in his post, which I also found to be compelling. For quick reference, they are as follows:

  • To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth
  • One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself
  • The days are long, but the years are short (parents of young kids know this one well!)
  • You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy; corollary: you’re happy if you think you’re happy

I’m working to remind myself of these truths as I go through my daily activities. In fact, the reality setting in on the truth of “the days being long and the years being short” led me to pursue my project once I got through the first few chapters of the book.

My project is set out much like Gretchen does in her book. She identified 12 “areas to work on” for improving her overall happiness – she calls these her “important elements to happiness”. Like Fred and me, Gretchen was also already a happy person. Yet, as I read the book I realized that I found myself falling short of the four splendid truths on a regular basis and that attacks on my happiness were happening all of the time. I figured anything I could do on a habitual basis to improve my overall happiness will be felt positively by those around me – my wife, kids, family, colleagues, investors, and so on. The project was intended to make seeking happiness a habitual pursuit.

I finally got around to this plan by the end of February and committed to the process. I picked by 12 critical factors, and will work on one factor per month for the next 12 months. After a year, I will re-assess the factors and start again and seek to make this a lifelong endeavor; I expect many or most of the factors will carry-over from year-to-year as they will require annual tuning and attention because they are so fundamental.

My 12 factors for this year are:

Passion, Energy, Marriage, Parenthood, Work, Attitude, Money, Health, Friends, Eternity, Play, Mindfulness.

The ordering at the front-end had to do with some things happening in my life as I assessed my next 10 years, a period of time when my kids (quickly) will go from being very young kids to teenagers and when I will grow in the next stage of my career. I am approaching an inflection point in my professional career and would like to set a course for the next 10 years that builds well upon the last 10 years.

I’ll attempt to post about my findings on each factor after each month. I started the project with the element of Passion – with the thinking that if I found my core passion around work, career, and contribution to society, then that would help chart the course for the next 10 years. March just ended so the Passion post is coming soon.

Purchase Gretchen’s book – even without a happiness project of your own, you will be stimulated by ideas from the book that will make you and others around you happier overall!