Why I’m Trying to Do More and Get Less Done

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I’m goal oriented. I’m motivated by deadlines, checkmarks, and gold stars. I get a thrill from getting things done, from the accomplishment of finishing.

This is both a strength and a weakness. Lately, I’ve been running up against the weakness part.

Specifically, I’ve noticed that I’m struggling to follow through on process goals, anything that can’t be defined by results.

For example:

  • I say I want to practice yoga, but more days then not I skip pulling out the mat.
  • My hands itch to make stuff, but there never seems to be a good time for arts & crafts projects that aren’t for something specific.
  • I want to write more often, but I get stuck when faced with a blank page and no clear purpose for writing.

I tend to justify time spent with results yielded, but a lot of what makes me happy is rooted in the process instead of the product.

So much of living is in doing, not in having done.

One of my goals for 2015 is to do more, even if that means getting less done.

experience

I practiced DOING yesterday when I decided to spend an hour painting. I wasn’t painting anything special or frame worthy (seriously, here it is on Instagram), and I didn’t get to check anything off a list when I was done. In fact, I didn’t even get to finish before I had to head off to lead a Girl Scout meeting, but I spent that hour living joyfully. Just because.

This morning I danced around in my pajamas for 20 minutes before I got into the shower. I didn’t measure calories burned or count steps taken. I just enjoyed every single beat, because dancing makes me happy.

I don’t want to stop achieving entirely. A life is, in part, measured by what has been done. I am grateful for my ability to tackle a project and Get Shit Done.

But the best stories are not told about standing on the podium; the most memorable tales are about what happened in the trenches.

Plus, doing just for the sake of doing helps pull me into the present moment. It helps me to let go of my expectations about the future when I’m not mentally attaching my current actions to a future outcome. (That is much easier to write than to do!)

In the spirit of doing rather than achieving, I’m consciously avoiding turning this into some kind of project or goal. I’m not promising myself to be more in the moment in future moments, because that would be the exact opposite of the point.

But boy am I tempted.

And that’s how I know this is an important shift for me.

New Year’s Resolutions that Will Actually Make You Happier

Humans are weird. We are hardwired to crave happiness, and yet we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy. That’s one reason why so many of us fail to stick to our New Year’s resolutions for very long.

That doesn’t stop us from trying, though, year after year after year.

This year, before you set yourself up for a wave of guilt in March (or February), consider choosing a resolution that will actually make you happier.

How do you know if your New Year’s resolution will make you happier?

Make sure your resolution isn’t a big fat should. Don’t commit a year of your life to living by values that aren’t your own.

Ask yourself WHY you want to do xyz, and then listen to your body. Does it respond with a puking sensation or a physical “yeeee-HA!”

That’s happier living 101.

I recently did a Google Hangout with Mona of VivaYourRevolution. We talked about nailing down the right resolutions for you – and I revealed the best and worst resolution I ever set.

Check it out:

Now, let’s talk specifics. What kind of resolutions are more likely to make you happy than the typical “lose weight, make more money, eat less sugar” stuff?

Here are 5 specific things you can do that are proven to help you be happier.

New Year's Resolutions that Will Make You Happy

1. Start a gratitude practice. | 2. Meditate 10 minutes a day (or, you know, most days.) | 3. Go outside. | 4. Move your body. | 5. Don’t should on yourself.

 Will you be setting a resolution or intention for 2015? Tell us about it on Twitter or Facebook.

On Hurting the Ones We Love

sisters“You always said you had two brothers.”

“I did,” I admitted. “Oh my God, I did.”

It was late; everyone else had gone to bed, and my sister and I were sitting up in my dad’s kitchen having our very first heart to heart.

I was hearing for the first time why we’d never really talked before.

“You didn’t claim us,” she said.

And she was right, I realized.

I do not have two brothers.

I have three half brothers and one half sister. I’ve had twelve step siblings – I say have had because the lines get confusing when the ties that bind you divorce and move away.

But the ties between my sister and three brothers are permanent. They’re blood. They’re undeniably family. And yet I have denied half of them over and over again for decades.

I didn’t do it to be mean.

“It’s because we grew up together,” I justified, because the brothers with whom I share a mother lived in the same house as me when I was a kid.

“I was always taught that didn’t matter,” she said.

“So was I,” I told her. So was I.

I know what it feels like to not be claimed, to not be chosen, to not feel special or loved enough or as important as. I carry those exact scars on my heart and have aired them out in therapy and lengthy prose.

And all the while I was inflicting the same wound on someone else – two someone elses – and was completely oblivious.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. And I was; I am.

I’m also so, so grateful that she had the courage to tell me. I would have never figured it out on my own.

Because what I learned in this conversation is that we can hurt people without ever knowing. We walk around as the narrators and heroes of our own stories, and we are so often blind to the roles we play in others’ histories. We rarely imagine ourselves as the villain.

This is important to remember.

It’s important to tell people when they hurt us, because most of the time it is unintentional.

And it’s important to believe people when they tell us we have hurt them, because our intentions don’t matter half as much as the consequences.

And it is important to never forget that our story – our perspective – is only one of the many in which we have a part.

A Short Story About Spending Time Together

I keep forgetting about the importance of time spent together.

I put caveats on time. It has to be quality time. We should be doing something, something that matters, something sustaining or fulfilling or super, duper important. We should be connecting – eye contact, empathetic listening, deep and meaningful dialogue.

Otherwise I’ll just go read my book over here, and you can watch TV over there.

In my house we sometimes fall into this rut of doing our own thing. I’m naturally a pretty autonomous person, and so is my son. My husband and my daughter make do, or they watch slapstick comedy together on the couch.

I think it’s no big deal, or I don’t think of it at all. I don’t make the connection to the little annoyances that start to pop up, or the resentment that seems to settle in the spaces between us.

But then the choice to spend time together or not is taken away, and suddenly I’m ravenous for it.

Jared has been working a lot of late nights and weekends lately. Last month my own schedule was packed with after-hour events and meetings. I was acutely aware that the four of us were rarely having dinner together.

So, when Jared walked in the door last Thursday at an unusually reasonable hour, I couldn’t help but jump up and down like a school girl whose first date has just arrived.

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Yes, he’s still on the phone – and I’m STILL excited he’s home!

I plopped myself down on the couch where I knew he’d be doing paperwork and we didn’t talk about anything important. Somewhere in that insignificant conversation, something was said that prompted me to pull up “Let It Go” on my phone, and that lead to listening to “Defying Gravity”, and that lead to pulling up YouTube on the big TV and having a show tunes marathon.

We didn’t even have to ask the kids to join us. I guess the draw of my dramatic lip syncing was overwhelming.

Or maybe they’d been craving that unstructured family time, too.

It was a great night. One of those that results in no pictures or remarkable stories, but that cements our family story. We are a family who sits around watching videos from our favorite musicals, and some of us sing and dance along.

The great night rolled into a great weekend. Again Jared and I were both not working, which meant we both got to watch our teenager compete in a biathlon. And we both got to watch our 9 year old stagger to the car after a sleepover, shoeless and still wearing the previous day’s clothes. And we both participated in the tree decorating and light hanging (OK, some of us are most decidedly not involved in the light hanging), and we both got to sing Happy Birthday when our oldest turned 15 – 15! – and celebrate with a rousing game of dominoes.

Because we are a family who plays games together, too.

This time together filled me up, and I didn’t even know I’d been empty.

Looking back I can see it. I can see the tight shoulders and the can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-why stress. I can see the low-level depression and the getting by. I can see it now, but in the fog I’d forgotten all over again: we are a family who needs to spend time together.

How to Deal with Negative People

How to Deal with Negative People

There is no getting around the fact that we are, each of us, in charge of choosing our happiness. In fact, I dedicated the first section of my book, An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness, to personal responsibility.

There’s also no getting around the fact that we live and work with other people – and sometimes those people aren’t so happy.

Those unhappy people – and our inability to avoid them all together – are the inspiration for today’s Q&A video.

Carly asks:

What’s your philosophy on how to handle it when you have to be around people that seem devoted to misery? It makes me sad, so it’d be nice to have a coping strategy.

My philosophy on how to deal with negative people can be boiled down to three parts.

How to Deal with Negative People

  1. Limit your interaction – yep, it still comes down to taking ownership for how much time you spend around crabby people.
  2. Don’t engage – if you don’t validate negative people they will look for a new outlet.
  3. Let miserable people be miserable – it’s not your place to foist happiness onto someone else.

Ultimately, the key to dealing with negative people is to accept and respect other people’s right to be where they are.

Remember: you don’t have the market cornered on what it means to be happy and positive. (Click to tweet.)

What about you? How have you dealt with negative people in your life? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

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