Tag Archives: Happiness

Resolving to Be Happier: The Happiness Project

The Happiness ProjectI’ve never been a huge fan of resolutions, thinking that creating them all too often just sets people up with unreasonable expectations and too much pressure, but after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, I’ve not only changed my mind, but I created 36 resolutions of my own to follow in 2010.

As you know, Someday Syndrome has three different varieties: Someday My Ship Will Come In, I’ll Get Around To It Someday, and I Might Need It Someday. I’ve found books that I would recommend for the first and the last (The Comfort Trap and Unclutter Your Life), and now that I have Gretchen’s book in my hands it’s become the book to recommend for people who suffer from I’ll Get Around To It Someday.

The book is ideal for those who have a good idea of what they want out of life but don’t really do anything to achieve it. I’m the sort who learns from and gets inspired by people’s personal stories. Gretchen’s twelve month experiment in being happier while not making major changes in her life is exactly what I needed at this moment.

I don’t suffer from Someday Syndrome, having cured it with the help of The Comfort Trap, but I do need reminders periodically to stay on track and to stay mindful of the present. The Happiness Project has inspired me to do just that. And The Happiness Project Toolbox that’s the companion piece to the book and blog provides the additional push to follow through.

Early in the book, Gretchen says that she’s not the sort to look at whys or wherefores. She’s not interested in exploring her past to figure out why she acts a certain way. She embraces who she is and goes from there.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life figuring out why I act certain ways and even created the I’ll Get Around To It Someday ebook to help others figure that out, but at some point it’s time to stop looking in the past and to start doing now in the present.

Gretchen has a passion for research and yet doesn’t bog down her story with lists of facts. I love the book because she’s done the research that doesn’t interest me (yes, I know myself well and research is very NOT Alex). Reading her book gives me all the information I need to create my own Happiness Project without having to do any of the boring background work.

Plus her take on resolutions convinced me to try them out for 2010. Instead of goals to reach, I’ve set up my 36 resolutions in 12 areas of my life as mindfulness reminders – things to pull me out of the future or the past, turn off the autopilot and fix me squarely in the conscious present.

Basically, if you’re the sort who’s inspired by personal stories and love a good read, then go now (yes NOW) and order yourself a copy of The Happiness Project. I don’t recommend things very often, so if I’m telling you to go order it (you have clicked a link, haven’t you?) then you know it’s a good product that’ll rid yourself of your Somedays.

P.S. If you want to see what other books I recommend as Someday-Busting tools, check out my December post over on The Bridgemaker.

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Tackling Someday Head On: Achieving Dreams with Confidence

  • Someday Lesson: If you can’t fully commit to busting your Someday then how important is it to you really?

Aunt Owwee on flickr.comYou know what? It doesn’t matter what you want. It doesn’t matter what reasons you have for not following it. If you’re not pursuing a dream you say you want, then you have to ask yourself the question How much do I really want it?

Marie understands this. Her biggest Someday is finishing her degree she admits to only maybe wanting it. She feels that she should really want it but she’s burnt out and only kind of wants it. That makes any forward progress a chore and the moment something becomes a chore resistance kicks in.

Think about your life – what are you doing because you feel you should want it? Or I should say, what are you not doing even though you feel you should want it?

Johnny, despite saying that he wants a career in clean-technology, lacks confidence and lets his poor work habits and procrastination stop him. Tie that into his fear around not having enough money and bam! he’s completely blocked. He can’t move forward because he’s scared it won’t work out (based on past experience) and yet he wants to move forward because it’s supposed his dream.

What situation in your life is like Johnny’s? Where do you claim to want something but then let fear stop you?

When Michelle contacted me to become a Lab Rat, she mentioned that she fights her weight. She focuses on everything else in her life and ignores her weight. She doesn’t apply for jobs because she’s not happy with the way she looks. She says “it’s not fair!” about her size. And yet she knows it’s a whole lot easier to stay exactly as she is. It’s more comfortable to complain than to act even though the inaction makes her feel resentful and angry with herself. She’s waiting for it to be easy.

What aren’t you tackling because it’s too much work?

Helen has a similar challenge. Yes her life is great, but she lets her health get out of control. She knows that certain foods are bad for her and that she doesn’t get enough exercise, but she doesn’t make herself a priority. Work fills her life and she lets that dictate all the other things she does. Rather than making a conscious choice at every meal to eat well, she goes on autopilot and lets whatever at hand go into her mouth. She chooses the comfortable (although more unhealthy) option of sitting in front of the computer rather than going out and getting exercise. Even though she loves her home and her village, she’s not connected to it the way she is to a city like London which energizes her to be active. At home she curls up in her nest and hibernates.

Are you connected or disconnected from your environment? Are you actively engaged or on autopilot?

Now let’s turn to Joyce who desperately wants to get back to writing. She has had two books published but has writer’s block for her current projects. She says she wants to focus on her writing and yet in her list of Somedays Joyce wants to do a bit of everything, from advocacy work to moving to another part of the country. And with each new idea she takes herself farther away from her writing Someday. With so many projects that seem to have an equal importance to her, all of which are time consuming and emotionally draining, Joyce can’t choose any single one to work on.

How many projects do you have on the go at any one time? How good are you at prioritizing them?

And then finally we have Kristin another Someday-writer. She’s never made the effort to pursue her dream of supporting herself with her writing because she had a secure job that was safe. In her one of her hugely successful writing courses, 25 year writing veteran Holly Lisle says “SAFE never starts.”

SAFE can keep you locked up in your house, never daring to step foot outside the door. It can keep you locked in a job you hate that has no future, just because you’re afraid if you walk away you will never work again. SAFE can kill your hopes and dreams by telling you they were never worth pursuing, that you were never good enough to make them real, that you were only kidding yourself.

Where are you choosing safe over happy?

Basically it all comes down to excuses and because you’re getting something out of your inaction. For every single one of the Lab Rats that “something” is hope. As long as they don’t move forward, as long as they don’t follow through on their dreams they still have hope that the dreams will come true. Thing is, no matter how much hope they have, if they don’t act they’ve already failed.

It’s like being afraid to ask for help. Most people don’t ask for help because they’re afraid the other person will say no, and yet by not asking for help the answer is already no. In Spanish they have an expression “El no ya lo tienes” which literally translates to “The no you already have it.” If you ask or if you try then you have the possibility of the yes. But you have to do something.

Taking Action

So, what could each of the Lab Rats do? What could you do?

What are you not doing even though you feel you should want it?
Do you really want it? And if you don’t which is the “lesser evil”? Stopping or seeing it through? Sometimes you’ve reached a point where dropping the project makes no sense. On the other hand you might think it’s worth finishing when really you’re just flogging a dead horse and it’s time to accept your losses and walk away.

Where do you claim to want something but then let fear stop you?
Stand up and shout “I want this!” Or drop it and go find something else that you’re really passionate about. Can Johnny actually say that about his career in clean-technology? Think about people like Madonna or Gandhi (yes, I’m actually putting Madonna and Gandhi in the same sentence). Neither one accepted no. They wanted to fulfill their dreams so much they went out and did what they had to do (guided by their moral compasses) to achieve it. Of course, not everyone wants the same sort of world-influencing dream, but if you can’t say with 100% confidence “I want this” then why are you wasting energy, time and money pursuing it?

What aren’t you tackling because it’s too much work?
Human beings are inherently lazy. It’s a blessing in many cases. If it weren’t for our laziness we’d still be living in caves working hard all day long just to get enough to eat. However, there’s a dark side to laziness – inertia. It’s always harder to get started than to keep going. So, despite our desire to change we stay on the same path, repeat actions that do nothing to advance our dreams (or even hinder them) and then complain that we’re not seeing progress. If you truly want to change, you have to get active. Put your laziness to good use and find a way to create a new habit that will carry you to your dream in the same way your current habits carry you away from it.

Are you actively engaged or on autopilot?
One of my favorite phrases here on the blog is “life is choice” – from the decision to get up each morning through to going to bed at night (well for me the last one isn’t that much of a choice – my body just shuts down at some point and I get no say in the matter). Helen lets circumstances dictate her choices. It’s easier to go with the flow than to make active choices that might inconvenience other parts of her life. Getting out and getting exercise means not working quite so much. Taking time from work means the renovations on the house take longer and vacations can’t be as exotic as she would like. And so on and so on. If you grew up in the 1980s you might remember a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure. Life’s like that – full of choices with consequences. Are you going to decide what action you take or will you let some invisible author make those choices for you?

How many projects do you have on the go at any one time? How good are you at prioritizing them?
Multitasking has gotten a bad rap in the past century. Ever since the industrial revolution specialization and finding your niche have become the ideal to pursue. However, not everyone is so single minded. Some people have so many interests and so many brand new ideas every day that they can’t function trying to be specialized. And because no one has ever taught them to deal with all these ideas flooding in, they become paralyzed and so do nothing. Fortunately the author Barbara Sher has brought back the renaissance approach to life in her book Refuse to Choose. If you’re someone who likes to do it all, this book provides a way to handle all the ideas that throw themselves at you like a group of puppies in full play-mode. Joyce sounds like she needs this book. How about you?

Where are you choosing safe over happy?
Sometimes safe is important – for example in the basic needs of life, but beyond that safe does nothing but block our desires. Don’t risk, don’t stand out, don’t be different from anyone else. As long as you choose safe over happy then you’ll always feel unfulfilled and happiness will always remain out of reach. Happiness requires risk. What are you willing to risk to gain happiness?

Your Personalized Someday Assessment

How did you do answering the six questions above? Are you as blocked about your life as the Lab Rats are?

If so then it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to reach out and ask for help. You want to live more and to achieve your dreams. You don’t want to live on autopilot. You don’t want to go through life on autopilot and unconscious.

It’s time to wake up, take control of your life and make the changes you want to make.

By doing nothing you already have your no, so why not try for yes instead?

All you need to do is fill out the Personalized Someday Assessment and I’ll help you bust your Somedays and create the life you want.

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Someday I’ll Be Happy: How Live Beyond Just Getting By

kurtxio on flickr.comRobin contacted Someday Syndrome because she suffers from Someday My Ship Will Come In. She does not know what she wants. She just know that she does not want the life she has now.

When asked to finish the sentence “Someday I’ll…” she answered:

be happy.

She feels that she doesn’t accomplish much. She feels overloaded all the time and since she doesn’t know where to begin she does nothing.

She has tried reading motivational articles and journaling but neither has helped.

Finally, when asked how she pictures her life a year from now she said:

I really can’t answer that. Finances are short and I’m raising two small children alone. It’s hard to dream when you are barely getting by.

The Someday Challenge

First off, I congratulate Robin for getting by, even if it’s barely. Raising kids on her own is not a simple task and that victory needs to be celebrated.

There are probably many other things in Robin’s life currently what we could celebrate, but since Robin’s Someday is a general desire to be happy she likely doesn’t see much of those celebratory moments.

Speaking of her Someday, this is exactly what most people who suffer from Someday My Ship Will Come In feel. There is no future, no idea of what’s possible. There’s just blankness in the future and often bleakness in the now.

If Robin is going to bust her Somedays first we need to clear out this bleakness, then start building excitement.

The First Step

So, let’s take a look at this future blankness and present bleakness.

Many people will say things like “Come on! Put on a happy face! Fake it until you feel it!” and sometimes that works, but all too often it’s like painting over a damp patch in the wall that’s hiding major structural damage.

We need to pull the drywall down, clear out all the rotten supports and then rebuild the structure before we can decorate and make it look pretty.

In Robin’s case the unhappiness she feels is that rotten material behind the drywall. We need to clear it out before it causes the whole house to fall apart.

And the best way to clear out negative thoughts and emotions?

Put them down on paper. When emotions swirl around in our heads they build and build and build until they break out and cause more damage than a hurricane.

If however we let out the stream of emotions and thoughts in a controlled manner they don’t overwhelm or do damage. But putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard Robin can get rid of that overloaded feeling she mentioned.

Yes, it might seem like a strange thing to focus on the negative when we want to get Robin to a positive place, but unless she unloads all the negativity first the positive thoughts and actions will have no place to go. There’s currently no room for them.

Once Robin has this list of everything that’s wrong with her life right now, it’s time for one small success, some positive result based on a single action. Looking at the whole list of complaints, whines, moans and all the unhappy parts of her life, Robin will pick one small item and commit to changing it.

It might be as simple as a conscious decision to see mornings with the kids not as a battle to get them out of the house to playtime where she gets to spend time with them. Or a feeling that she’s not active enough and committing to a twenty minute walk three times a week.

Robin’s Homework:

  1. Write out everything that’s wrong with your life. Let it all hang out. Start with all the big stuff and take it right down to the minor irritations. Reward yourself with every page you fill. Nothing is too petty or going to be judged by anyone. This is just for you.
  2. Read through the list and pick one thing that you feel you could change. It needs to be something small, something that would take only one or at the most two steps to turn from negative to positive.
  3. Put the change into action and then pay attention to how the change makes you feel. Plus note if there are any side effects to this change (positive or negative).
  4. Pick a second small irritation and change that, then a third and a fourth, each time paying attention to the consequences of each change.

The Long Term

Once Robin starts to see the positive effects of the small changes she is making, she’ll then want to start building up the structure of the wall we’ve torn out.

To do that she’ll need to figure out what she wants out of life. Sounds easy but it’s not. It will require a lot of inward reflection and self-awareness.

The effort will be worth it, especially for her children. Robin can use them as a motivator – if she can find her dream and pursue it, think of the great lesson she’ll teach her children in the process.

What do you think? If you were Robin’s Someday Mentor what would you suggest? Join the discussion over on the Facebook Someday Syndrome fan page.

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Relieving the Pressure by Living in the Present: Cath Duncan Interview

I met Cath Duncan through her Ask The Coach posts over on the Location Independent blog (which I’m totally excited about being a part of). I love Cath’s very practical an answerings and how she encourages people to use the knowledge and the skills they already have to move forward and achieve their dreams. I wanted to see where this coaching perspective came from, so of course I just had to ask Cath for a Someday Interview – and wow, was the response a great one! Check it out for yourself…

Cath DuncanWho: Cath Duncan of Mine Your Resources and Bottom Line Bookclub
Cath is an Agile Living Strategiest who helps people to take action, learn and change more easily so they can create the life they want and thrive in these high-change times.

Name one moment in your life when you threw a pity party for yourself and the reasons why you felt you weren’t able to achieve your goals. Were you feeling stuck? Had you felt you failed? What wasn’t working in your life?
Right after completing high school, I knew I wanted to study further but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, so I decided to spend the year exploring lots of different avenues that interested me, taking lots of short courses, working part-time and doing some job-shadowing.

It could have been a seriously fun and full year, but I placed huge pressure on myself to make “the right” decision, to develop a clear and specific 5-year plan like so many people say you should, and to find my one “thing” I was born to do, and I ended up lost, depressed, stuck, creatively blocked and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life and felt like I was getting left behind.

Looking back now, I realise I had a bunch of stories about work and vocation that got me stuck – none of which are true, but they’re pretty common stories in our society. I now know that I didn’t need to get into such analysis paralysis about it all. There was no wrong decision because everything is an opportunity to gain experience and I can be happy doing lots of different things. I don’t have to have a 5 year plan – I only need to do what I love doing right now, and I can change my mind at any time I like. And I don’t have to choose just one thing – I can do many things I love and even invent my own job around the different things I like doing, as I’ve done now.

Even our lowest moments fulfill a need in us or express our desires. When you threw yourself that pity party, what did you hope to gain? What need did you fulfill?
I was never the kind of person to throw a pity party because I’m pretty tenacious and I used to think that being sorry for yourself didn’t solve anything so I’d just steam-roll through the difficult feelings or put them aside and keep working at my goals. But being that proactive can mean that I miss important intuitive messages from myself, which I’m learning to slow down and take more time to listen to these days. I’m also learning to appreciate the value in my “negative” emotions and to sit with them to receive the messages they’re trying to deliver to me. I think there’s great value in throwing a little pity party and meeting all my yucky feelings, because they’re always trying to do something important for me!

I didn’t realise it at the time, but I see now that my Essential Self gave me that depression as a way to get me to stop and take the time to withdraw from the crowds and be alone and listen to my own inner voice, and to question the social “rules” and assumptions that were making me feel so trapped. At my essence I’m someone who’s deeply curious, and loves variety, and depression gave me the opportunity to question everything I’d been brought up to believe so that I had the freedom to pursue what was truly important to me.

Tell us what you did to break up the pity party. What actions did you decide to take? Did someone help you buoy your spirits? Push you along?
I tried lots of things and worked very hard to try to clear my depression and decide what to do with my life – reading books, attending seminars, getting coached, visiting universities and sitting in on lectures, job-shadowing people in fields I was interested in, career assessment tests and more. And it seemed that the harder I worked to find the answers outside of me, the more depressed I got.

Something that helped me get out of that depression was a one-month trip to Namibia on a group tour, where I completely changed my context, got away from family and other social pressures I’d been paying so much attention to, and all the people who were trying so hard to help me to make the “right” decision. I took time most mornings to walk alone and write in my journal, I was barefoot with soil between my toes for most of the month and I gave myself the headspace to stop trying to solve the problem and just enjoy being where I am right now. There were some wonderful people on that trip with me and we had some great campfire discussions about life, the universe and everything, and those discussions opened my mind and gave me some perspective on how small and insignificant my problem was.

I had an enormous sense of well-being and head-space that month and was able to go back there mentally and find my clear headspace again on occasion, after I returned to Cape Town. A few months later, while accessing that sense of well-being, I made a decision to study Social Work – something that hadn’t even been on the cards before.

Can you look back on that moment and tell us how you felt when you did decide to take action? What results came about from your decision to take charge and move on?
I had been taking a lot of action that year (in spite of my depression!). It was just the wrong kind of action. And taking the wrong kind of action made me feel exhausted, frustrated, angry, anxious and stressed. When I stopped trying so hard and got out of stress and into a sense of well-being, I felt amazingly free, and I realized that that was how I wanted to feel in whatever work I chose to do.

When I decided to study Social Work, it was an emotional decision. I stopped trying to analyze what career options were the most logical or would rationally get me the best life, and I chose the one that felt good. My Social Work studies were what began my journey into learning about how our minds work and how to help people create the lives they want. I’ve moved pretty far from the world of Social Work now, but each decision and adjustment in my path has been made by asking myself, “What am I enjoying right now?” and “What else would I love to do and experience more of?” And my experience of working with people in extremely high stress and fear environments while I was doing Social Work is a big part of the inspiration I draw on in my work now, where much of my work is about helping people to get out of stress and fear and to access a state of well-being, where they’ll restore the quality of their thinking and performance and they’ll enjoy life more.

Everyone has a Someday problem hiding deep inside, even little ones. What variety of the Someday Syndrome do you currently harbor? What would you like to achieve but haven’t yet?
This is a really hard question, because I no longer set goals and right now I feel like I’m being and doing what I want in all the stuff that’s most important to me. I’ve articulated a list of values – what’s important for me to live and be, and I use that as a guide, and I make decisions based on these values and what feels good right now.

I’ve created a location independent business so I can travel around the world and keep doing the work I love. I love writing and I’m doing more of that. Andy and I have had 10 awesome years of marriage and every year gets better. We have close friends and family we share deeply with and who share deeply with us. I’m doing work I love with people who share a lot of my values, so that’s deeply satisfying. I’m learning from and with awesome people all over the world in areas that are incredibly interesting to me. I have a very drama-free life.

There’s still plenty of room for growth – I’m just no longer motivated to try to work hard to be “perfect” at everything right now because I know that’s unattainable and that way of living was stressful when I used to do it. I’d love to be more physically fit and flexible, to earn enough through my business for Andy to do the Social Development Work in Africa that he loves to do full-time. I’d love to clear our mortgage on our house in Cape Town completely so that we don’t have to rent it out and we can pop back to Cape Town and stay in our own house, and have guests stay there comfortably with us whenever we want. I’d love to make more art, Andy and I still have lost of places we’d love to visit and motorcycle adventures we want to take, and I’d love the opportunity to care for and guide a few children (our own or others) in a very committed and intimate way at some point in my life.

These aren’t goals – some of them are the natural result of what I’m doing right now, and they’re all experiences that would be aligned with our values and give me a good feeling when I think of them now – but I’m more focused on how I’m living right now, and I’m open to having our values met in other ways too in the future.

Examining your Someday Syndrome problem, what are you currently doing to resolve it and eliminate it from your life?
I’m being the person I want to be now, and creating experiences I enjoy right now. When Andy and I got married, our vows were along the lines of committing ourselves to helping each other to be who we want to be and to experience life fully. So it’s kind of like living with a coach (with additional benefits!) and we’re always talking about what’s important to us and how we can live more of that, and that kind of stuff, so our relationship keeps me agile.

I’m very committed to learning and developing my general resourcefulness, so I invest a lot of time, money and attention in learning experiences such as developing my coaching skills, reading about how our minds work, traveling, and meeting interesting people. I’ve just recently formed a mastermind with 3 other business people I really respect and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from and with them, particularly in relation to evolving and growing my business.

Many people suffer the same problems you do. You’re not alone, and neither are they. What would you tell people in your situation right now to help them avoid what you’re going through?
Don’t try so hard. Relax and let yourself feel good right now, even while you work at changing things in your life. Question everything that makes you feel yucky, and stop questioning the stuff that makes you feel good. Stop trying to “get somewhere.” Be here now, and focus on creating ways you can enjoy or change your life in some small way right now. Love all the parts of your life and yourself – even the ones that “aren’t where you want to be yet” or feel like they might be getting in the way… it’s all natural, safe and healthy, and part of living a fulfilling life.

I know some people will worry that they’ll get nothing done if they’re not driving themselves with goals and fear and feeling bad, but I’m much more productive than I ever was living this way.

If you could ask for one thing, right now, to help you overcome your Someday Syndrome, what type of help would you ask for?
I’d love to do more cool stuff with awesome people. Working with authors over the past few months to create the monthly Bottom-line programs has been very cool, and I’ve realised that I’m totally ready to start doing joint ventures with other coaches and leaders. I’m exploring a few possibilities, and I’m open to having more of the right people find me now, and to see where that goes…

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For Better and For Worse: The Lab Rats Blow Up Their Dreams (Part 2)

  • Someday Lesson: Your dreams don’t exist in a vacuum – you have to consider the people you share your life with.

(Last week we looked at the extreme dreams of Lizzie and Alessio and what they were willing to do to change in their lives or in their dreams to make the two match up. This week, we look at what Wendee and Horatio decided.)

Evil Erin on Flickr.comAs I said last week, when I was deciding where I wanted to live, if I wanted to stay with my boyfriend, I needed to consider his situation and choices. Even now two years into living with him, although I have itchy feet and think about creating a life that involves living in a variety of places, my desire to be with my boyfriend is stronger than my wanderlust so I adapt my dream and stay where I am.

Sometimes the dream is stronger than the connections to others and we leave. This happens often with family. For example I know my mother would be happier having me near her in Ontario rather than across the ocean, but my desire to live in Europe is stronger in the instance, so here I am.

There’s another reason for doing this dream-big-consider-limits exercise. In reading Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds (yes, I’m talking a lot about the book, but it’s just packed with information), he talks about a series of experiments that showed the best type of visualization about the future combines thinking about the best possible outcome then immediately considering possible obstacles and limits.

The experiments showed that people who held the two opposing thoughts in their mind at the same time (a type of doublethink) were much more likely to achieve their dreams than people who only focused on the positive outcome or only on the obstacles and limits.

So, let’s see what Horatio and Wendee came up with by engaging in a little doublethink:


In his extreme dream, Horatio sees himself living in a gorgeous flat with fulfilling challenging and sometimes even difficult work a thirty minute walk from him. His work involves solving problems for others using mathematics and molecules. He travels a lot and gets invites to visit colleagues around the world.

He doesn’t mention where the flat and the job are, however, but that missing bit of information gets explained when you look at his limitations, which mainly focus around his girlfriend. He notes as a limitation that he has “a relationship to maintain.” That may seem cold, but it’s not.

It’s the truth, plain and simple.

He would like to consider moving to a different part of the world to pursue his work and the apartment of his dreams, but the reality is that he’s emotionally attached to someone who enjoys working and so any move would involve a huge change on her part as well.

So what has Horatio chosen to do? He’s decided that he won’t make any rash decisions and that before anything, he will research options that will benefit both of them. He will explore other locations where both of them could work and he will plan things out slowly so that his girlfriend has time to adapt to the idea of a major change.


Something fascinating showed up in Wendee’s extreme dream that I haven’t seen before. She’s talked a lot about teaching others about art and how much she loves teaching, but the idea of selling her own artwork has been a minor theme, if she remembers to mention it at all.

However, in her extreme dream her artwork appears to be a major income source for her. The reason for its exclusion earlier shows up in her limitations one of which is the belief that fine art is not a “good” way of earning a living.

I think in this exclusion we might have found what is really blocking Wendee from getting rid of so many of her Somedays. She would love to produce art for a living, but feels that it’s not a proper career so focuses on teaching, on volunteering and on projects that skirt around the idea of earning from fine art.

So what stops her? Fear of not being an equal provider in her relationship and of not being able to support herself if necessary. Having been divorced once and having to start over from scratch, Wendee doesn’t want to be in the same position again, so looks to ways to support herself with “proper” work.

Unfortunately as I found out with my own desire to live my life producing art, no matter what I did to avoid this desire, it kept coming up and I kept sabotaging things that took me in other directions. When I acknowledged this dream, suddenly a world of possibilities opened up as ways for me to earn a living while pursuing my dream.

But it took acknowledging my real dream before I was able to move forward.

I may be mistaken in reading into Wendee’s exercises that fine art as a primary source of income is Wendee’s true dream, but there’s something that’s been blocking Wendee and this might just be it.

Measuring Progress

After his breakthrough moment a few weeks ago Horatio’s progress has settled into a steady forward motion. He continues to look for new work and he’s refining exactly what he wants from his future, including what he can do now to make that future come more quickly and with less struggle.

As for Wendee, I think this week includes her breakthrough moment even though she might not have been aware of it. If indeed producing fine art is her true Someday dream, then acknowledging it will make figuring out the rest of her life that much easier.

At this point, I’d suggest Wendee does a quick review of prior exercises to see how the new dream might change her answers and send her off in a new direction.

And if the fine art thing is not her true dream, then in the worksheets she sent in this week she identified a very workable to-do list of things that she wants to change about her current reality, each of which is realistic and measurable. Either way Wendee has made some great progress with this series of exercises.

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Lessons in Happiness

The following is another guest post by Jane Matthews.

benpaarman on flickr.comEven three decades after leaving school, being summoned to the headteacher’s office fills me with nerves.

This appointment wasn’t even about me: I’d been called in to talk about my son who was in danger of flunking school. The days when he actually used to skip into the classroom, ever fibre in his body excited by his life, were a distant memory. Ever since moving to the secondary school the energy had been leaching from him. Each year, the reports got worse. My son never turned in any homework, never spoke in class; above all he was miserable.

So there we were, being shown into the head’s office, me more nervous than my son, to talk grades, exam results, reports and options.

Instead of which, the head wanted to talk to us about happiness.

Big questions

“What are you passionate about? What makes you happy?” he leaned towards us, smiling. “What do you enjoy so much you’d spend all your time doing it if you could?”

We lost the headteacher for a few minutes then while he told us about his own passion for Russian history and how he’d read every book he could lay his hands on, taken himself off to watch Russian films, and how that had taken him to university and then naturally into teaching because he knew he wanted to light the fire of learning in others.

Then he was back, gently asking my son why he’d chosen to stay on and study for his A levels.

“So I can go to university.”

“Why? What do you want to study there?”

My son’s head dipped. “I don’t know.”

Even more gently: “So you can spend more years studying things that don’t interest you, because you don’t know what else to do and what’s what everyone else does?

“This isn’t about what anyone expects of you but what you should expect from life.”

Learning to be happy

For many of us, it’s only in midlife that we start to ponder whether doing what everyone else is doing is making us happy.

Just imagine how different our lives might be if our teachers had decided, like this head, that the most important lesson any school has to teach is to find out what really turns us on, what makes us so happy that – in our minds at least – we feel like skipping when we’re doing it.

What makes us happy may change with the passing years, as we change. But we would have learned that at every stage along the way we can choose not to follow the crowd. That we are the experts us on, once we’re given – or give ourselves – permission to make happiness our priority.

As I write this I’ve no idea where my son will be when school restarts. I suspect at 17 he won’t find the courage to give up halfway through his A levels, either to study something else, or go and do something entirely different.

And why should he? He lives in a world in which most of the adults he sees have precisely the same attitude, continuing on the same treadmill, even though it doesn’t make them happy, doesn’t bring them alive, because that in breaking out they may lose the way, lose friends, lose approval. Fearful that to make a change is to admit they may have wasted years moving away from their dreams rather than towards them.

And because they never had a teacher who told them the thing to do is the thing that makes them happy.

About Jane

Jane MatthewsJane Matthews is a writer, whose next book, The Best Year of Your Life, on how small changes can make a big difference will be published in 2010. She also runs personal development workshops in self esteem and Heal Your Life, Achieve Your Dreams. For details of these, and her other books, see www.smallbooks.co.uk.

Check out her blog at http://someonenicer.wordpress.com. Or follow her on twitter @janematthews

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August is Happiness Happens Month: Win a Book!

59 Seconds by Roger WisemanAccording to the Secret Society of Happy People, August is Happiness Happens month.

Ten years ago the Society declared August 8th as Admit You’re Happy Day (now Happiness Happens Day) and in the year 2000 they expanded it to cover the whole month of August. The Society has two purposes of the month:

  • Recognize and express happiness
  • Don’t rain on other people’s parades

Unfortunately, for many people the idea of being happy is a Someday they feel they’ll never reach.

Here’s the thing though – that’s not true.

More and more research is showing that to be happy, all you have to do is choose to be happy.

The most recent book looking at this research is 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman. I’ve only read the Intro so far but the man and his research back up what I’ve been saying here on Someday Syndrome since I started the blog – by consciously choosing to act and repeat small steps regular you can achieve happiness.

As the book’s website states:

From mood to memory, persuasion to procrastination, and resilience to relationships, 59 Seconds presents the new science of rapid change.

And if you want to win a copy of this book, all you need to do is leave a comment on any post between now and August 27th. The more comments, the more chances to win (but of course only one comment per post counts).

Yes, it’s that simple!

I don’t care if you’re happy or not – all you need to do is raise your hand and say:

“I’m here! And I want that book!”

Because happiness starts with a choice to act in a small way.

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