five things i want to be


I finally got around to reading The Happiness Project. I'd been resisting it after I had read a few unsavory reviews, and began noticing the recent over-marketing of happiness. In my opinion, happiness is very much defined by its occasional absence, and I'd been trying to reject the notion that it is important to be happy all the time, and instead pursue the idea of presence.

Anyway, I stumbled across it in the library and decided to give it a shot. I almost gave up on it a few chapters in, when I decided dear Gretchen was much too focused on fluffy things ("And just like that, I thought of a solution. File boxes."), and was being passive aggressive instead of genuinely letting go ("I took a moment; then, careful to use a light tone, I remarked, 'I wish you were wearing something a little nicer.'").

But...I stuck with it. And I'm glad I did. Maybe it's because Gretchen was on this journey of personal growth, but I found her insights more and more valuable as the book progressed. I was able to leave behind my nitpicks and take away the positive from her experiences. (I think she'd approve of that part.)

One of the pieces I really loved actually came from one of her blog readers, who commented that she encourages her clients to think about people they idolize and identify the characteristics they admire about them. She continued:

Then I tell them this (very Jungian, but very useful to know): whatever it is that they admire in these individuals...is something that is nascent in themselves, but that they have not yet brought into being. 
That...is the real reason why they admire it in the others. Once they have begun to bring these characteristics forth in themselves, they will begin to admire something different in others, in order to continue the cycle of growth into inner freedom and happiness.

I loved this idea, especially after I wrote a post about a few women that I admire so wholeheartedly. I took that very blog post, and reflected on what it is that I find so inspiring about the women I mentioned. For me, the list came down to five ways of being:


Without putting too much pressure on myself, I wanted to stay aware of those ideas, and encourage them in myself. So I wrote each word on a slip of paper, and taped it to a wall in my house. Conveniently, we have five main rooms in our apartment, so I matched each one to the place it seemed most appropriate, as a reminder of the ways I'd like to be.

bedroom - self-accepting
The bedroom is the place where I stand in front of a mirror before leaving the apartment, scrutinizing my outfit, hair, face. It's an easy place to feel inadequate, and it's also the place where late night self-doubt creeps in. In practice, I want my bedroom to feel like a sanctuary for self-acceptance.

office - authentic
The office is where I do all the things that relate to performance: blogging, emailing, working. In all these endeavors, I often want to feel perfect, am seeking approval, or am inspired by the lives of other people. Though none of those things are entirely negative, being authentic is a priority that surpasses them all...being authentic allows us to relax, directs us to our true path, and ultimately feels more rewarding. And I am always a huge fan of people that make me feel comfortable because they are comfortable.

kitchen - kind
Besides being a great opportunity for alliteration, this match made sense, because the kitchen is a place where I am often irritated. Joe and I both love cooking (and eat a lot), so we are constantly bumping into each other in our small space. I'm often hunting for surface area, or grumbling about the dirty dishes. Since the kitchen is a place I love so much, it should also be a space where I am welcoming and understanding.

bathroom - lighthearted
Because poop. And also, as Joe pointed out, a great place to sing in the shower.

living room - positive
When Joe and I talk about our days or ask each other for advice or discuss all the problems of the world, we are usually sitting in our living room. It's easy to get discouraged when conversation gets serious, so this is a nice reminder that there is always a silver lining, and I'm happy to be the person who finds it.

Who inspires you and what would your list of characteristics be?


  1. I read about 1/3 of The Happiness Project. While I couldn't stay motivated to finish it, I did find a few helpful tips within. One was so obvious that I'm shocked that I didn't realize it on my own: I wasn't getting enough sleep at night. When I got married I moved into my husband's house. My commute to work went from 12 min. to 50 min. This meant I had to get up an hour earlier. That lost hour made a huge diff. in my attitude. I now go into work an hour later but I still leave at the same time therefore cutting my hours back just a tad. What a difference!

    1. I had a similar experience...the big picture of the book didn't resonate with me as much as particular ideas. Sleep (and working with my own schedule) was one of those ideas. Another big one was "be comfortable"...taking care of your own needs with respect to sleep, hunger, warmth, etc. makes you happier and better able to interact with others!

  2. Wow I love this idea - I think my five things that I want to be most (as well as struggle most with):
    confident, patient, laid back, positive and joyful

    Thanks for the reminder, Clair

    1. Glad you enjoyed...I think I'm going to love hearing people's five things. Laid back is a great one!

  3. Love this post. Thanks for always inspiring me! xoxox Jillybean

  4. Clair I love this!
    I didn't read the book.... because I was writing my own Happiness Project ;) lol
    and it's not over-marketing but reminding ;) although I know what you mean and I laughed at that one ;)

    I love your words and I love how you used them in your home to bring a daily reminder to stay focused and connected with these meanings...

    For me, it's hard.... but I would want to be more dedicated, keep promises better especially to my daughter, be more caring, more present and take care of my beautiful home more (this guy is the last to get my attention - I need to be a better housewife ;))

    This is wonderful Clair, made me really think about what's important ;)
    Thank you my sweet friend ;)


    1. You're so right...it is definitely important to be aware of happiness and nurture it from day to day. But I do think we have to be careful of we approach it...similar to the age-old issue of pursuing health or beauty, you know? We should be pursuing deep, robust happiness...not some sort of illusion.

      Knowing you, I am deeply trusting of your approach to happiness. =)

  5. I love this! (Especially "Because poop.")

    I would definitely have authentic and positive on my list, and include patient, nurturing and ambitious.

    1. Ambitious will definitely be in my next round, I think! I rejected that for a long time, because I was so burned out after college and wanted to just relax and find myself. But now I find that I'm more and more inspired by high-achieving women and just really want to feel the weight of my own impact in the world.

      Great thoughts!

  6. Your note on the bedroom here is exactly how I feel about my bathroom. It's where so much of my anxiety clusters and it's the first place I go in the morning and the last place I am before bed. Earlier this year I decided to take hold of the space and make it my own. We painted it a bright white and I put up prints of quotes that I love in the space to help reinforce positive thinking while in that room.

    This book is high up on my reading list for summer. Cannot wait to dig in myself and so thrilled for you that it's made an impact! I love this, Clair!


  7. Thank you for such an inspiring post! I haven't read the book, but I've seen some of Gretchen's articles and poked around her blog. I think part of being happy is to take the bits of advice that make sense to you. I love the idea of posting an attribute in each room to remind yourself of a quality that you would like to cultivate within yourself.

    I feel like I'm in such a transition phase of my life right now, I'm not sure who my female heroines are. My grandmother, however, is always tops on my list, and her qualities that I admire are how loving she was, her sense of humor, and the way she brought the family together. I wouldn't say these qualities are lacking in me, rather I feel I've inherited them. I think it's good to remind yourself of the good qualities that you already have, as well as strive for those you feel you could work on.

  8. This is exactly what I loved about the book: the organization and purposefulness of it makes improving your life/self seem possible (unlike the concept of just "trying to be happier"). The concept of the different concepts in different rooms is genius...divide and conquer! I think my aspirational list would be more phrases than words: purposeful with my time, ambitious in what I decide I can accomplish, having my activity reflect what I value, being non-lazy physically and mentally. Can I put those into words? And rooms? I don't know. I have some thinking to do.
    Loved this. Seriously.


  9. Great post :) I read the Happiness Project a while ago, even though I was a bit skeptic in the beginning. I think happiness should be defined by everyone for themselves but reading through what Gretchen had to say made me more aware of how I could tweak things in my life to be even happier.
    Self-acceptance and positivity would definitely top my list. I have to work especially hard on self-acceptance and I think for me personally that's the key to happiness.

  10. "Because poop." Pahaha! You are a treasure. I loved reading this reflective, affirming post and finding a poop joke in the middle of it. The Happiness Project has been on my "eh, maybe" list for a long time. I do really like the comment and exercise you shared. My five would be creative, positive, self-assured, zealous (in the good way), and strong. I'll have to think more on those words as I set goals for myself and reflect through journaling.

    Jaybird Blog


Thanks for making me smile. =)