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.
Dr Sock says
Pat, I usually take time at the beginning of a new year to look back over the past year, and also to look forward to my intentions for the upcoming year. My reflections have all three components: the value (category), the intentions, and the actions. But your chart is such a clear way to summarize! And yes, FaceBook is one big time suck that I have almost completely moved away using.
This is an awesome approach. Your comments about spending too much time gaming set my brain in motion. Where am I spending too much time that affect my progress in other interests/pursuits.
Too much TV. Binge watching Netflix is a real problem. I don’t have to watch every episode in one sitting. I’d probably enjoy it more if I spread my programs over time.
Good Old Procrastination
I’m sure I can find more black holes in my daily routines that prevent me from doing what I really want to do.
Good points you’re making here, Pat. There is a balance between planning too much and have it lead to disappointment because goals can’t be met, and just going with the flow. I like all the reflection you’ve done for yourself and how it helps you for the future to make those goals and values more active and intentional.
The introduction of the memoir I’m writing starts with “We are all born and we all die. What we do with the time in between is up to us.” So, your post resonates with how I think about our precious lives. That being said, I’m not in a position to plan things out, as I am a nomad and life on the road comes with plenty of insecurities and the need for flexibility (and money). So, for me, just knowing that I want to travel and write, and making that happen somehow, is as far as I can get. If I would be retired, or financially stable, my lifestyle would be a little bit different, as in where I’d be in the world, but not much.
Thanks for this insightful post, both of you!
I like this idea of values-based goals, Pat. And I do get the distinction you make about them and, say, resolutions. One can make all sorts of promises to do this or that, but it helps if that goal goes to a core belief you hopefully hold. My own struggles of late are that so many of my own values tend to go toward societal needs, which border on politics. I want to move away from that because satisfaction and achievement in that realm can be pretty opaque. So I’m focusing instead on service organizations to fulfill those same goals. It’s a collective process hopefully, or at least it should be.
Great post, thanks for the chance to comment on it!
Janet Mary Cobb says
Great post Pat! You are certainly much more of a planner than I am — but I’ve always tried to get my actions to align with my values for major life events. I think it is in the minor things — like too much time on social media — that drag me away from my plans and desires. And, hey, I didn’t realize you live in Cincinnati. That isn’t too far away! If you ever head towards Chicago, let me know.
Janet, I haven’t been intentional about living my values until retirement. In fact, I needed to spend time really figuring them out (versus what I thought they should be). I’m not a huge fan of social media, but I can spend lots of time playing on-line games if I don’t watch out!
I’m putting a list together of where all my blogging buddies live…. so if I’m near-by I can meet some of you all. That would be amazing! Pat
P.S. I bought Brussel Sprouts today… I’m going to try that recipe you gave me!
Janet Mary Cobb says
Pat – let me know how you like the Brussel Sprouts!
Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com says
Hi Pat! Thank you for guest posting for me while I am just returning from our trip. And thanks for more thought provoking ideas about how to approach 2019 as it unfolds. While I assigned dates for when the post would go live, I left it up to you (and all my guest posters) to write about your own “SMART” idea for the blog. It is no surprise to me that your post and Michele’s fit one another and look at the idea of intentions, goals and direction from different perspectives. I’ve always said that if 50 bloggers were given the same topic they would all come out differently–because each of us is unique. Thanks again and I plan to be back among the “family” next week. ~Kathy
Kathy, Thanks for letting be guest post over here. It was an honor. And you are quite right about different ways of looking at things….it’s one of the reasons I love reading other bloggers! Hope your trip was wonderful… and welcome back! Pat
Tom @ Sightings says
This is great advice, in part b/c you’ve presented it so clearly that it makes such perfect sense. I wish I’d read this post when I was 25 years old!
Tom, Thanks for the compliment. If we only knew at 25 what we know now, huh? Pat
Nancy Dobbins says
This posts mirrors my exploration at my blog in my Pursuit of Happiness…I am actually about to start a MOOC course from UCBerkeley about the Positive Psychology around happiness. I love your chart on actionable steps to address your core values.
I was tickled to see your post and look forward to reading more.
And thanks Kathy for sponsoring such enlightening guest authors!
Nancy, This is completely based on my (limited) reading on Positive Psychology! I’m a strong believer in trying to take things into actionable things…. so lots of charts and action steps for me. How fun to be taking a full course on it from UC Berkley! Pat
Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au says
That was really interesting Pat (and fits in so well with your goal making skills!) I hadn’t thought about being intentional when it comes to happiness, but it makes a lot of sense. I think I’ll start looking at those moments when I’m happy and smiling and see where they connect into my values (I think I need to do this in reverse to figure out where my happiness and core values intersect!) Great post x
Leanne, Looking at moments when you’re happy is a sure-fire way to identify your values! Since I’ve been more intentional in linking activities to values, I think I’ve been more content with where my life is at! Thanks for joining the conversation. Pat
Hi Pat, your post is a great one to follow up my post here last week about planning goals for our lives, not just our work. Our values and interests should drive how we spend our time, and without conscious thought, it doesn’t always happen that way. I have made a similar chart to yours, which helps me identify where I am meeting my goals and where I am lacking. Goals are a lot easier to set when they involve things that are important to us and not just things we think we should do!
Michelle, And mine was written weeks ago…. Kathy must have done the order on purpose. Or perhaps it’s just serendipity? The more I consciously link my goals and activities to my values, the better I am at making things happen. Not always, but better. Pat
Hi, Pat – Great to see you over here at Kathy’s. A few months ago, I spent a bit of time analyzing how I spend my time. Although I used a fair amount of detail, I didn’t directly tie my time spent into my values. Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking piece.
Donna, It’s made me appreciate some things I do even more. As I mentioned to Janis, things others might consider frivolous are actually linked to my values. Justifying them to myself perhaps, but helpful. Pat
Great post, Pat! I, too, spend more time than I should on frivolous things that don’t align with my values and interests. Your chart is a good way to identify supportive activities and help create an action plan. Great to see you over here on Kathy’s blog!
Hi Janis, So wonderful to hear your voice on-line again! I love charts; it’s part of my structure-nature. This value-activity link is really helping me feel more positive about things I do as well… some things others might say are frivolous actually fit me and my values. Perhaps those frivolous things in your mind fit your need for self-care? Anyway, Happy New Year to you! Pat
Woo hoo!! So glad to see you back, Janis!
Diane Dahli says
Very comprehensive! I like your suggestion to align your intentions with your values—seems the best way to go! Also like your self-reflection questions and the way they actually resulted in change!
Diane, And now it’s about trying to make those changes stick going forward. I’m really working on the Connections and Out & About this New Year as we begin our snow-birding adventure. Knowing these things align with my values makes the effort feel less heavy. Thanks for commenting! Pat