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The Happiness Project: March, part II

March 12, 2010

I’m continuing to read through Gretchen Rubin’s NY Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, a book in which Gretchen proposes monthly ideas to promote happiness. This month, Gretchen discusses research that suggests people who work more are happier, and a week ago (forgive the time lapse), I mentioned how difficult, yet appropriate, these thoughts were in my own life, since I’m currently beginning month #8 without a full time job. There was a part of me that felt disconnected from this month’s chapter, and part of me that felt like I got called out.

In my life, there’s a direct relationship between quantity of work and efficiency; the more work I have to do, the dedicated and energetic I am as a result of completing said tasks. This trait helped me survive graduate school with few anxiety attacks; I eventually found a rhythm in which I completed my papers/reading in the afternoon and concentrated on clients in the evening. My second year in the program was a bit more taxing, as I added maintaining a marriage to my list of things to do. But completing MFT was a microcosm of my ability to succeed and find happiness when my cup is brimming with things to do.

This season in my life, working only 20-25 hours a week, has shown me the flaws in this approach to life. I sleep later and more than I want to, and as a result, lose an hour or two a day I could be reading or writing. Even though I have more free time, I’ve been inconsistent in maintaining the hobbies that give me happiness and peace, such as guitar playing, working out, and updating the blog. I believe I do well with the “Fake it till you make it” philosophy that Gretchen endorses in this chapter, but I still find myself quite frustrated with my circumstances.

Gretchen writes about working intelligently; she suggests evaluating what you do with each hour of your time. It’s embarrassing to think about how much time I’ve wasted during different spurts of this season; generally, my kryptonite is goofing around on the internet. She talks about organizing the day in smaller chunks; one of her problems was thinking that she needed three-hour chunks to complete writing assignments. Instead, she experimented and realized that she could only do about ninety minutes before her brain stopped working and wanted to move to something else. When I’m in a season of heavy work, I rely on my calendar to organize meetings and goals for set amounts of time. When I’m in seasons such as the current one, I just go from day-to-day. I just bought my 2010 calendar this week–I’m a bit embarrased to admit this.

Working intelligently also means realizing who you are and how you work. I’m gradually realizing that my college days of staying up until late in the night and watching movies or playing Wii are over; I’m discovering that my brain is freshest, if not wired, first thing in the morning. By about 10 pm, my brain is shot. I should just go to bed then and wake up at 6 in the morning, but several things make this difficult. For one thing, Katie is the exact opposite–it takes her awhile to gain full consciousness in the morning, and she dislikes the idea of going to bed early because the late evening provides intellectual stimulation for her. (I could evaluate our marriage at this point, but for now, I’ll just say that in this area, I’m not a very differentiated husband.) For another thing, I’m not great at pushing myself in times of droughts; I’ve come up with some pretty good ideas for providing happiness, but generally a sense of lethargy or fear of failure (Gretchen talks about confronting and accepting failure in this chapter) seeps in.

My goal for the next week (Spring Break) is to operate out of my own time schedule, giving myself tasks (such as guitar playing and blog writing) and sticking to them. I’ll provide some updates on the blog periodically, and my final set of thoughts on this chapter tomorrow.

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