Tag Archives: The Happiness Project

the finish line

The finish line at the end of a career is no different from the finish line at the end of a match. The objective is to get within reach of that finish line, because then it gives off a magnetic force. When you’re close, you can feel that force pulling you, and you can use that force to get across. But just before you come within range, or just after, you feel another force, equally strong, pushing you away. It’s inexplicable, mystical, these twin forces, these contradictory energies, but they both exist. I know, because I’ve spent so much of my life seeking the one, fighting the other, and sometimes I’ve been stuck, suspended, bounced like a tennis ball between the two.

Andre Agassi

So. Real. I don’t think it’s ‘inexplicable’ or ‘mystical’ though. Isn’t it obvious what pushes you away from the finish line? Once you cross it (unless you’re in a position to rest on your laurels for the rest of your life, which most of us are not), you have to find a new goal, start over. Starting is always hard, but it’s even more so when you’ve been focused on a major goal for a really long time. And when you’d like to something different than what’s seen as the natural next step, the decision can be fraught.

I’m not done my dissertation draft, but I’ve officially reached the point at which I would have a 12- to 15-page paper the night before it was due (all-nighters ftw). Which means for the first time in this process I can see the finish line. Realistically, a few more weeks and I will be sticking a spork in it. I’m… relieved. Maybe the thrill will come later, after I’ve finished formatting it (so not looking forward to that), or after the feedback process, or after the defense, or after the official “yes, you are graduating” notice, or… well, let’s just say, I’m not one for counting my chickens before they’re hatched. But a weight lifted this week.


work worth doing

“I can tell you what I believe is the secret to a happy life,” [Sandra Day O’Connor] said.

“What’s that, Justice?” I asked. … “What’s your secret?”

Work worth doing,” she answered firmly.

“What about relationships?” I asked. …

“No,” she said. “Work worth doing, that’s all you really need.”

The Secret to Happiness, in Three Words,
According to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

being yourself / what comes naturally

“You really want to find a way to get paid for being yourself,” [Oprah] told the audience earlier, with reference to finding your purpose in life.


During the course of my life, I’ve worked very hard, and often with success, at things that didn’t come naturally. But in the end, I do best—and certainly most enjoy—what comes naturally.  By the way, the fact that something “comes naturally” doesn’t mean that it’s easy or doesn’t require tremendous amounts of practice.

Gretchen Rubin

Photo Diary

This morning at The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin wrote:

I wish I could tell my younger self: Make a photo diary before you leave this place! You think you won’t forget, but you will! Instead of taking photos of unusual sights, take a photo of the most usual sights. In the future, you’ll be a lot more interested in seeing a photo of your dorm-room closet or your laundromat than seeing a photo of the Louvre.

How about you? Do you ever wish you had photos from ordinary days in the past?

…and it’s been driving me nuts all day because I knew I’d written almost exactly the same thing once upon a time but I couldn’t find it—Snark Zone? no. AB article? no. Blog post? no. Random musings in some long-forgotten writing file? no. And then blam, just a few minutes ago, I realized what it was. First Communication paper I wrote back in 2005. Bingo, in the section titled “The Value of a Diary”:

Once, perusing an old photo album, I noticed I was spending more time looking at the background of the photos than the foreground, looking beyond the smiling faces to the bits and pieces of life accidentally captured in recording the “big” life moments. I suddenly felt that this record of the ordinary mundanity of life was significant—not only did it have an authenticity that the posed foreground did not, but it was important precisely because it would otherwise have been forgotten. Reading a diary is like noticing the background in old photos. It is a record of the things one did not fully notice when one was in the moment because they were just there.

Ok, now I can get back to work 🙂

Do good, feel good

[Y]ou don’t get healthy self-esteem from constantly telling yourself how great you are, or even from other people telling you how great you are. You get healthy self-esteem from behaving in ways that you yourself find estimable.

For instance, you feel better about yourself when you keep a difficult resolution, meet a challenge, solve a problem, learn a skill, or cross something unpleasant off your to-do list. And one of the best ways to feel better about yourself is to help someone else. Do good, feel good.

I had a friend who went through a period of tremendous rejection: she was fired from her job, she didn’t get into the graduate program to which she’d applied, and her boyfriend broke up with her. Everything worked out fine, and I asked her how she got through such a tough time. She said, “I was practically addicted to doing good deeds for other people. It was the only way I could make myself feel like I wasn’t a total loser.”

Gretchen Rubin