Does Progress Equal Happiness?
As a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (book and blog), I know that many things can contribute to one’s happiness, from kittens and rainbows and enjoyable activities, to personal relationships and spirituality. I know that deep, abiding happiness is not the same thing as momentary delight. I also happen to know that organizing, and being organized, makes Gretchen very happy!
One of the things that contribute to my own happiness is the maintenance of a clean, orderly, functional, attractive home. It’s not that I love the act of cleaning sinks, clearing clutter, and paying bills – I would really rather be sitting in my hot tub and/or reading a good book! — but I do love the resulting comfort and peace of mind that those activities provide me. Another thing that makes me happy is reaching a goal. But both of these things – the everyday routine, and the little steps along the path to completing a big project – can also be discouraging at times. (Are we there yet?)
I recommend to clients that they reward themselves for finishing projects, reaching goals, even achieving small milestones along the way. The trouble is, it doesn’t seem to work for me. I make lists of big rewards and little ones; rewards that involve food and/or money, and those that are free and involve the simple pleasures of life. I determine which reward is suitable for which milestone or project completion. But I don’t always follow through with the reward. It’s not that I deprive myself, exactly – I pretty much do what I want, when I want to, anyway. Sometimes I buy myself a treat in ANTICIPATION of reaching the goal…which, um, kind of defeats the purpose.
I finally realized that I would really like to enjoy the process more, to not always be reaching for the goal and the reward. I don’t want to have to WAIT to be happy. I want to be happy NOW! But how??? If happiness doesn’t equal goal completion and rewards (in the case of doing things for one’s own good, like regular home maintenance and organizing), what does it equal?
So…one day I was watching a TV show about Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey. It was the one where he convinced her to walk on hot coals. Tony said (although not in direct relation to hot coals), “Progress equals happiness.” He said many other inspiring things as well, I’m sure, but that’s all I heard: “Progress equals happiness.”
My internal compass said, “Ding, ding, ding! That’s what I think too!” It resonated with me so much that I made it my mantra for the year. I haven’t written about it until now because I’ve been testing to see if it’s really true. Well, it’s been nearly a year now, and I can say that, indeed, it’s true for me. Progress equals happiness. Completing a big project or reaching a goal is nice, and fun, and exciting, and satisfying. But at the end of any particular day, do I need to have completed something big? No. Do I need to have made progress towards my goals to be happy? Yes. Do I have to make progress on every single project? No, just the most important ones. And each has its own cycle of needing attention. Does it matter how MUCH progress I made? Not really. Do I feel the most un-happy when I have not made any progress that day, or in fact done some active backsliding? Yes. Do cleaning a sink, clearing clutter, and paying bills constitute progress? Yes, indeed, they do! Is that enough for me to be happy, or do I also need a reward?
It’s enough for me. Progress equals happiness…in projects, in personal growth, in relationships, in health, in home maintenance, in everything I can think of. I wonder if it would be enough for you too? Or, perhaps you already have a mantra/slogan/motto/theme that you’d like to share in the comments?
Don’t get me wrong, I still like treats and rewards! But my happiness does not depend on them.
Copyright 2012 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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