Weekly happiness challenges help you simplify the pursuit of happiness by giving you one small challenge to take on each week. These tiny assignments are based on science, research, and good old fashion experience. Want a new happiness challenge emailed to you each week? Get Started Here!

Past happiness challenges:

Growth: Play the Lottery Game

here's hopingIn Chapter 8 of An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness, I talk about the uncertainty that comes from taking risks and trying new things. While growth and change make us happy – and we often hear stories of people who discovered their passions by starting a new hobby – there is no guarantee that we’ll find our purpose at the end of every experiment.

And yet, happy people keep going. They risk looking foolish, wasting time, and spending money on projects that ultimately find an end in the donation box.

But where do you start? There are so many interests you could pursue!

The lottery game is a great way to uncover your next New Thing.

Give yourself 15 minutes to indulge in a fantasy. Imagine that you have just won the lottery, and you are suddenly free of all obligations and responsibilities. Anything that needs to get done can be handled by someone else, and all of your bills are paid.

How will you spend the day?

Make a list of all the things you’d do. Would you meander through town taking photos and then finally find the time for Photoshop? Would you hop on a plane and head to the beach? Maybe you’d renovate your wardrobe on day one, or remodel your bedroom. Let your imagination run wild and worry not about practicalities.

Give your mind room to roam.

When you’re done, put the list away and let the fantasy sit in the back of your mind for a bit. Then, later that evening or the next day, choose one thing on the list that you can fit into your existing life in a modified form.

Maybe you start scheduling time to pursue that photo hobby.

Maybe you clean out your closet or take on a wardrobe challenge.

Maybe you DIY yourself a new headboard.

Maybe you join the YMCA and start swimming every morning.

Playing the lottery game is a good way to get in tune with your heart’s desire. It helps to silence all the should voices in your head so that you can start to hear beyond what’s reasonable. Listen to your imagination and it will tell you what New Thing to try next.

Growth: Write a Poem

IMG_9839This week’s challenge is easy to describe, but the degree of difficulty can vary from simple to THERE IS NO WAY I CAN DO THIS!

You can do this.

I promise.

This week, I want you to write a poem.

It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be profound. It doesn’t even have to rhyme.

Just write a poem.

How will writing a poem make you happier?

Creativity is a happiness booster. So is doing something new. If you don’t write poems everyday, this counts as doing something new.

If the idea of writing poems makes you uncomfortable, showing yourself that you can do what makes you uncomfortable can definitely make you happy. It can make you brave. It can make you proud. It might even make you aware that you can do absolutely anything.

So write a poem.

Sharing it is optional.

Growth: Update your biography.

Hello my name is... At Moo.com's openhousePersonal growth is often hard before it’s rewarding. Never is this more than true than when it comes to the business of growing into a new identity.

Growth that results in a new label or a new image for ourselves – whether it’s good or bad – is often the hardest to accept.

I’ve held on to all kinds of labels and often struggled to make positive changes in my life for fear of the change it would require in my identity.

  • Going from a homeowner to a full-time traveler and then to a renter was surprisingly difficult.
  • The thought of no longer being a wife or a “happily married woman” kept me out of marriage counseling for years when it was obvious there were problems we needed to address.
  • My fear of being “someone with depression” prevented me from seeing a doctor for months.
  • My discomfort as being less cool stopped me from quitting smoking for years.

I’ve known lots of people who have avoided positive change in their life, or found themselves surprisingly unhappy with it, because of the resulting identity struggle. Dropping our labels means letting go of what is familiar and stepping into the unknown. Changing our self identity means shifting the foundation upon which we build our lives.

It’s scary stuff!

So, of course, I’m going to challenge you to do exactly that this week.

What labels are you holding onto, even though they no longer represent you? What new labels are you resisting using because they don’t feel right even though they are factually accurate?

This week, I challenge you to update your biography. Go through your About section on Facebook and Twitter. Update your signature file in your email. Update your resume, and take off that college job that no longer has anything to do with your career.

Introduce yourself. Who are you today?

This challenge was inspired by Chapter 6 of An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness.

Growth: Do something new with an old friend.

karaokeNovelty is a part of happiness that can make us uncomfortable. We know that buying something new can make us happy, but we also know that thrill is short lived. What is new becomes old, and then we have to find something else to make us happy.

The prospect of having to always be searching for the next thing is exhausting. Surely, we think, real happiness must be more sustainable than that.

Yes… and no.

Happiness is not a destination you arrive at, unpack your bags, and settle in forever. It’s an ongoing process as much as it is a mental state that must be continually cared for and maintained.

Think about relationships. A new relationship is exciting. An old relationship is comforting, but can also be boring. Most relationship experts will advise you to find a way to both appreciate the comfort and to cultivate newness.

This week’s challenge is to practice that balance.

Inject an old relationship with a little novelty. Do something new with an old friend. Share something new with your long-term partner. Discover something new about the relative you’ve known your entire life (remember having to interview your parents for projects in school?).

Make novelty and growth a part of the relationships that offer you stability and comfort.

This happiness challenge was inspired by Chapter 5 of An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness.

Responsibility: Figure Out What Your Choice Is

Last week’s challenge was from chapter 3 of An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness. This week’s comes from chapter 4, “When Happiness is Hard.”

Gurus have been telling us for decades that we choose what our lives look like. In reality, however, it’s a little more complicated than that. In the real world, we don’t always get to choose between being miserable or being blissed out of our minds. Sometimes the choice we have to make is between shitty and less shitty.

Being faced with hard choices, one in which all options are less than ideal, sucks. It can make us feel powerless and happiness seem impossible.

Neither is true.

Happiness is always a possibility.

And, as long as we have choices to make – even if the choice is hard – we have power. We have the power to move towards our own definition of happiness.

The first step is to recognize the choice. To name it. To identify for ourselves what, exactly, our options are.

And if those options suck, we can kick and scream and pout for a bit. We can be pissed off at anyone else who contributed to our current circumstances. We can be pissed off at ourselves even. But then, with both the possibilities and our responsibility put out clearly before us, we can move forward with intent and embrace the consequences as ones we have selected.

This week, I challenge you to identify what choices you need to make.

Are there tough options in front of you?

Security of a job you don’t love vs. The uncertainty of walking away

The familiarity and comfort of the status quo vs. The pain in the ass of rocking the boat

The ache of resentment from leaving things unsaid vs. The nightmare of conflict from opening your mouth

We already make these choices every day, but all too often we make them behind our own backs. We tell ourselves we have no choice, and then we have nothing to do but be ticked off at the results. Acknowledge the choice and you can be happier knowing that you are, in fact, in charge. Plus, you can give yourself the opportunity to make the decision that is most in line with your values.

Figure out what choices are in front of you, and take responsibility for them.