I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.
A new year has just begun, the traditional time to turn over a new leaf — a happiness-project endeavor.
One of the challenges of a happiness project is overcoming the conviction that nothing and no one can change. Another challenge is overcoming the disappointment you feel when you try to change, but no one notices your efforts. What’s the point, you may ask, when no one thanks me for clearing all the clutter? When no one knows how hard it was for me to keep my temper? When no one appreciates my efforts to plan something fun? This is a real problem for me. I crave those gold stars.
Even St. Therese of Lisieux remarked in The Story of a Soul, “I noticed this: when one performs her duty, never excusing herself, no one knows it; on the contrary, imperfections appear immediately.”
If all this rings a bell, read on. A thoughtful reader in his late 20′s — I’ve changed his name — emailed me a copy of a letter he got from his mother. I got tears in my eyes when I read it. People can change, people do appreciate your efforts, things can turn happier. In his email to me, “John” explained how happy this letter made him. That reminded me of my Second Splendid Truth:
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.
Here’s a copy of the letter John received from his mother:
This past Christmas visit was one that I will remember and cherish
forever. You were the John that I always remembered before age 11. I
thought he had gone somewhere else never to return. You were patient,
kind, and loving. You acted like you wanted to be around us, instead
of hiding in your room with your computer for hours on end. I only
hope that you enjoyed this visit as much as we did.
I wanted to tell you THANK YOU SO MUCH for the great present. It
is the first time any son of mine has ever spent that much money on
me…or even gotten me a gift that was reciprical to the ones I had
given them. I don’t know if you know, but my language of love is
gifts….so I DO get very disappointed when I put tons of thought, and
money into getting cool gifts for people, and they give me nothing I
want back…or give me something WAY LESS in value than what I gave
them. I love giving the gifts as well…and making sure it is
something you will delight in!! I have become a cool listener for
when people throw out ideas they think they would like to get…and I
can remember that all year…and I surprise them at Christmas or
birthday time. It is a passion of mine.
I cannot tell you how delighted your gift certificate to Amazon
has made me. I am thrilled about it….just as thrilled as you have
been with your new watch!! I still want to do a dance about it!!
I wanted also to let you know that a miracle has happened. I
never thought in my wildest dreams that you could let go of the anger
you possessed against me over the years that pent up due to mostly
misunderstandings, and not knowing the whole story on your part, and
negative self talk. You had said you were wiping the slate clean and
starting over in our relationship…and you had given that to me in
2007 for my birthday. I did not believe that your firmly held anger
and resentment against me would not flare up….on the next
occasion…and we would be back where we started….so I have been
waiting for the angry John to emerge. But, I have not seen or felt the
anger you used to hold, and the contempt in your voice, and the
calling me on every little nuance is gone….and you are delightful to
be around!!! I may have not noticed it so much had the other 2
brothers been around…but it was great to truly be forgiven by
I wanted to thank you also for your patience with me on learning
the pictures on the computer. It was 2am, and you had to get up
early…but I felt no anger, stress or urgency in your voice. Your
father would have thrown up his hands, and stomped out of the room!!
He has little patience when trying to teach me the computer….so I
try to plug along hanging on to what I know, and praying the computer
will not break so I have to disturb him to fix it.
It was great to have an eager, willing and patient teacher. I have
never known a patient teacher regarding the computer.!!
The love you showed me in this short time we had is OVERWHELMING.
I have not felt that from you since you were 8-10 years old. It makes
me cry even now when I think about it. I think I may be getting back
the son that I have prayed would return to me for so many years….it
is a miracle.
I tell you, I will never forget these past 3 days….and all that
they have meant to me. You are a very special and wonderful person,
John. I am glad you are back. I have missed you for so long.
Love you, Mom
The incomparable Leo Babauta, a blog pal of mine who writes the insanely popular blog Zen Habits, has a new book that just came out two days ago, but is already generating a huge amount of buzz: The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life. I can’t wait to get started.
Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.