Where Logic Meets Love

Building My Happiness Commandments

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

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Building My Happiness Commandments | Faith Permeating Life
Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project has a set of commandments, kind of mantras that help her remember how she wants to act during the day. What I love about these is that they're not resolutions, they're not self-improvement type ideas, but rather they're ways of seeing situations and making decisions that help her to be happier with her life.

It's kind of like -- to use a stupid example -- if you're trying to remember which way to tighten something and the phrase "righty tighty, lefty loosey" pops into your head. It's a phrase you've heard repeated that helps you know how to act. These are like this, but for making decisions that lead to greater happiness.

I'm trying to start by identifying some of the ideas I already use on a regular basis. There is one that I've started using more in the past year as a way to overcome anxiety: I find myself telling myself "One step at a time." This seems to happen often when I arrive at work and my brain tries to tell me to "takeoffyourcoat-takeoutyourkeys-openyourlocker-setdownyourpurse-takeoutyourcellphone-changeyourshoes-putyourlunchinthefridge-hangupyourumbrella-checkyourmessages-turnonyourcomputer."

I get to work about 20 minutes early anyway so I remind myself that I have plenty of time to do everything, and then I find a logical order: Set everything down that I'm carrying. Hang up any outerwear. Take everything out of my bags that doesn't need to get locked up. Unlock my locker. Put my things away. Change my shoes. Put my lunch in the fridge. I make sure to make myself some tea and get myself comfortable before I do anything like turning on my computer and checking my messages. I have a tendency during the workday to get overwhelmed if I have a lot of things to take care of right away (I come back from a meeting where my boss has asked me to do something, my voicemail's blinking, I have 10 e-mails, and someone's coming over to talk to me). So I remind myself: I can only do one thing at a time.

There's another commandment I try to live by, which I don't really have an elegant way of expressing, but which boils down to "Don't get in a pissing contest." As I said, not very elegant, but you get the point. Every so often (like today) I run up against someone who so desperately needs to be right about everything that I have to remind myself that it's not going to hurt if I let them think they're the expert and that they're teaching me something.

This was especially hard today when someone was lecturing me extensively on my own area of expertise. Because the lectures were starting to derail the project at hand, I did try a few times to hurry things along by responding, "I know what you mean, that same thing happened to me before," but I tried really hard not to otherwise show off my own knowledge or "one-up" the other person, and to agree with their suggestions whenever possible. Sometimes when someone is clearly trying to show off I'm tempted to take them down a peg, but I've learned it's not worth it. It doesn't make me feel any better, and it hurts my relationship with that person. And I also think people respect me more when I don't feel a need to show off.

Finally, one mantra I'm working to ingrain in my mind is "Don't feel guilty if you're not doing anything wrong." I am an obsessive rule-follower and feel excessively guilty if I ever break a rule, whether I knew it was a rule or not. Where I think this aspect of my personality interferes with my happiness is where I set up my own boundaries of what I should and shouldn't be doing. So for example, if I plan to do something and don't do it, I feel guilty even if it affects no one but me. (This is partly why I have such a hard time with Mike's tendency not to follow through on things he says he's going to do.) If I'm at work and I've finished my projects for the time being, I feel guilty for not doing work, even if I'm productively working on personal projects. (This happens despite knowing that my coworkers sometimes read the newspaper, watch movies, read gossip blogs, and otherwise engage in far less productive activities.) I'm trying to work on giving myself permission to let go of guilt when it's accomplishing nothing but hindering my happiness.

I'll continue to look out for other ways I can improve my happiness.

What are some of the mantras you live by?

1 comment:

  1. My biggest concern is not letting what people think of me get me down so my major mantra is to not care what people think of me.


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