Happy New Year! This is my final week away and I’m happy to introduce you to Pat as my guest blogger. Pat is another blogger who writes about and explores many SMART Living ideas that we can all use to create a happier and more meaningful life. She also has a lot of wisdom for those of us entering the “third act” of our lives and readily shares it on her blog Retirement Transition. Thank you, Pat, for filling in for me and for explaining how we can create happiness by design and then put that design into action.
As we enter this New Year, I ask myself, how can I better live my values?
I’ve often said that our life will happen, either by design or by default, and it’s our own responsibility to make it what we want it to be. Personally, I want to design my life at this stage. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want this stage of life to look like.
But there is design, the plans and intent–and then the real action, or what you actually do. Sometimes intention does not turn into behavior. At this time of year, that can become very apparent with New Year’s resolutions!
So it’s not just about designing your life, it’s about activating it as well.
I like the science behind happiness in Positive Psychology and how it can relate to designing your life. Positive Psychology research has found that happiness is linked to your values, interests, and strengths.
- The happiness theory indicates that when activities we engage in are connected to our interests, they provide a Level 1 kind of happiness – a feeling of pleasure and fun. These fun activities are secure and comfortable, help us simply enjoy life and spend time with others in pleasurable ways.
- When our activities are also connected to our strengths, skills or talents then they provide a higher degree of happiness, a Level 2 intensity of happiness. Using our strengths in a personally rewarding way creates feelings of engagement, involvement, challenge, and accomplishment and raises the happiness level.
- Level 3 happiness is when activities we engage in are also linked to our core values and help us feel part of something bigger. This higher intensity of happiness is often called life meaning or purpose.
Using this happiness by design approach, you can begin choosing the activities and pursuits that clearly link your values and interests in order to design an enjoyable, fulfilling life.
Having intended plans is one thing. But, be sure to ask yourself: do my actual activities and actions line up with my values-based plans? Essentially, can you fill in the statement, “I spend my time, energy and money on a, b, c because I value/am interested in X”? The New Year is a great time to reflect on this.
Start with a bit of looking back – what did I plan in the past to do based on my values and interests? And then what did I actually do? Where exactly am I spending my time and energy? When I did my own review, it helped elevate some of my activities by recognizing they are linked to my values. Yay! It also identified activities I engage in that really don’t fit my values or interests. Hmm?
I used a chart layout to help clarify this for me. For example: I value belonging so I spend my time creating and implementing intentional connections via blogging, setting up dinners with friends, and planning girlfriend walk & talks. Because I had both my intentional plans (based on values and interests) and my actual activities (from my daily calendar) my review actually allowed the following chart to be filled in (only partially shown here):
This intentional assessment had me contemplating why I had not done as much in certain areas as I intended and a realization that I spend too much time playing games. There were some hard self-reflection questions: I spend time on on-line games and Facebook because I value what? What was holding me back from more learning and experiential activities?
Now, looking forward, I can use the same approach as I plan what to do in the New Year. Perhaps by making the links even more intentional, I can even increase my perception of life fulfillment: I value Knowledge, so I will spend my time, energy and money on learning/doing something new! What new mini-adventures and learning experiences can I engage in as we snowbird this winter? I’m putting new foodie adventures, link to local Audubon, Sarasota day trip, and the Dali museum on my Florida to-do list! And hopefully, that link to knowledge will encourage more activation.
Having a plan full of values-based ideas is the first step. Activating them is the second. This goes beyond New Year resolutions by linking the planned activities to my values in order to make them more meaningful.
Being very aware of my values also helps me recognize values-based serendipity when it happens (the invitation to a foodie dinner last month with new acquaintances). I can even fill my life with values-based simple pleasures. I now recognize that my pleasurable daily crossword habit is not a time waster, but rather a behavior that reflects my value of knowledge. Or when the sun peaks out one afternoon, I might spontaneously go for a walk and feel so much better both physically and mentally, because it fits my interest of getting outdoors and moving daily.
2019 is a perfect start for all of us to create a happy and fulfilled life – by design and by action.
Okay, your turn. Does this approach seem beneficial to you? Have you articulated your own values and considered how you are actually spending your time and whether that links up to them? Please share any thoughts in the comments below.
About: Patricia (Pat) Doyle retired in 2014 from a 30+ year corporate career with one company. Although offered a very attractive early retirement package, she did not have a plan in place for this early retirement. A planner by nature, the days after the retirement event became a journey of transition. Once she uncovered her innate desire to write, blended that into a love of research, and a desire to advise/teach others she created her blog: Retirement Transition. Pat currently lives in the Midwest (Cincinnati) with her also-early-retired husband and their Lab-mix dog, Taylor.