Monday, January 7, 2013

my 2013 happy list + a theory on joy

[image source + type by caroline winegeart]

Thanks for bearing with me during my seasonal hiatus. It was great to just take a step back for a while, and now I'm finally ready to kick this year off right!

I don't know about you guys, but every time a new year comes along, I wait around for this feeling to magically show up. The one that makes it really seem like a new year - the feeling of possibilities, motivation, and change. But the funny thing is, that feeling rarely shows up right on January 1st like we all wish it would. At least not for me. So for the first week in January, every January, I inevitably run around doing things I feel like I should, hoping I can somehow trick that feeling into finally arriving.  This year I organized my document files, reformatted my budget sheets for the upcoming year, cleaned out my closet etc., crossing my fingers that 2013 would finally start to sink in.

Sure enough, after one week of thinking I'd be stuck in 2012 land forever, that feeling finally arrived! I woke up one morning with this inexplicable spark. I had all these things I wanted to do and new things I wanted to try and I suddenly saw the growth I wanted for myself this year. My brain was going so fast I could hardly keep up. Not knowing what to do, I simply sat down and wrote a list. A LONG list. Everything that popped in my head that I wanted to accomplish in 2013, I wrote down. And when I was done, I looked over what I had done.

Now normally, to usher in a new year I sit down and write a short list of over-arching goals. They're usually pretty vague and broad (I know, basically what every goal-setting exercise will tell you NOT to do) but I use them as sort of guideposts throughout the year. Things like "Make time for myself" or "Make more of an effort to keep in touch with friends." That method has always worked for me, but this year I wanted to try something different. (Surprise, surprise, the girl that gets bored all too easily wants to try something different.)

Before I get to that, let me give you a little preface. Over the past year I've done a lot of thinking (and writing) about pursuing happiness, and what I think that means for different people. In my endless curiosity about happiness, I also recently watched a great documentary on Netflix simply called "Happy," which explores different cultures all over the world and what leads to their collective happiness (or unhappiness as the case may be.) At one point in the movie there is a pie chart showing the different contributors to happiness. Their findings suggest that 50% of a person's happiness is dependent upon their genetics. The idea being that everyone is born with this sort of 'range of happiness' and 'happiness potential,' if you will. 10% is dependent upon your circumstances (a much smaller percentage than most people would probably guess.) This has to do with your job, finances, living situation, etc. But then that leaves 40% unaccounted for, and the researchers in this movie suggest that the remaining 40% has to do with what they call intentional activity. This could include things like learning a new skill, volunteering, spending more time with family - just actions that a person can take to bring them good feelings and over time an increased sense of happiness.

[image via Happy, the movie]

I found this theory to be largely accurate in my own life when I started reading Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project last year and implemented some of her suggestions in my own life. (Some people have hobbies like rock climbing or knitting. I research happiness. It's not weird, I promise.)

So what did I learn?

Being purposeful about creating your own joy can have a powerful effect on your level of happiness.

I truly do believe that happiness is largely dependent upon the choices we make and the things we intentionally do. Which is where the whole "trying something new" thing comes in. When I looked back at the list I had written for my goals in 2013, I realized that they looked less like a list of goals and more like a list of things I wanted to do to create joy for myself.

Now, I know the whole "list" concept - leap list, 30 before 30, 100 things, etc. - is no new thing. But I guess I never wanted to make a list like that before because it didn't feel intentional. It felt like I would have been doing it just to have a list. Now that I've come to grips on my own with why those lists are important, it feels a bit more authentic, and I think I'll get more out of it too. Will I complete everything on the list? Maybe not. But it's not really about that. I like to think of it more of a constant wealth of joy that I can revisit whenever I want.

So for now, I have no resolutions or goals for 2013, only one long happy list and one charge to myself: CREATE YOUR OWN JOY. The theory, of course, being that the more joy I can create, the happier I'll be, and the happier I am, the more good I will invite into my life. Again, we'll see if this theory holds true, but for now, that's what I'm rolling with!

You can check out my list below, and hopefully I'll put up a link to it in my sidebar soon so you can keep up with the progress. I'll let you guys know where things stand in a few months!

// Do you set goals or make lists when a new year begins? What would be on your happy list? //

  • learn to film and edit a short video
  • read a new book every month
  • do something that scares me
  • open an Etsy shop
  • teach someone something
  • hold a puppy
  • travel to a place I've never been
  • learn to make a new meal every month
  • create a tradition for an unimportant holiday
  • plan a 'girl date' with a friend once a month
  • send Jason on a scavenger hunt
  • practice calligraphy
  • try a new form of exercise
  • send a gift to a friend for no reason
  • take a photography class
  • volunteer together with Jason
  • take an Intro to Illustrator course 
  • do someone a favor
  • write a letter to someone in another country
  • plan a get-together for my family
  • watch all the special features on one of my favorite DVDs
  • make and wear a handmade costume
  • buy an impractical pair of shoes
  • create a date jar
  • have friends over to our house for dinner
  • watch a classic Disney movie (and sing all the songs)
  • watch a TED talk with Italian subtitles
  • learn to play a contemporary song on the piano
  • paint and hang a painting in our house
  • actually make a craft project I've pinned on Pinterest
  • set up a booth at a craft show


  1. Favorite line..."Some people have hobbies like rock climbing or knitting. I research happiness. It's not weird, I promise." I LOVE that you are creating a happiness list instead of resolutions. Such a great idea.

  2. This is such a great idea! I love the idea of a happiness list so much more than resolutions. It's pretty much set up so you can't fail, which means even more happiness!

  3. Thanks!! And I love that your favorite line just encourages me to keep writing the nonsense that pops into my head as I post. :)

  4. Thanks, Allyssa! That's the idea - no hard and fast rules, just endless opportunity for joy and new experiences! That's what I find fuels me to improve aspects of my life anyway! ps. Love your blog!

  5. I absolutely love this! I especially love "buy an impractical pair of shoes" on the list :) I have a pair of pumps I can barely teeter in but they do make me happy!


  6. Thank you so much, Chelle! That one I'm particularly looking forward to because sometimes I have a hard time not feeling guilty about buying impractical things... but it can make you feel so happy sometimes! We'll see what I end up choosing. :)