The Happiness Project

One of my favorite personal-improvement bloggers, Alex Shalman, recently had a series of posts that he called The Happiness Project. Basically, he asked several of his favorite bloggers and authors to answer a few questions related to their happiness. Then he posted their answers over the course of the month. I found the interviews to be thought-provoking and uplifting. So, when Alex invited his readers to join in, I jumped at the chance.

See my thoughts about happiness below, and visit The Happiness Project to learn more about Alex and his provocative ideas regarding self-improvement.

How do you define happiness?

Happiness for me is a present sense of satisfaction as well as a feeling of hope for the future. Happiness can range from a warm sense of well-being to a glowing feeling of euphoria.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your happiness now, versus when you were a child?

I would rate my happiness as a child and as an adult around an 8 or 9. I've always been a happy person, which is highly improbable given my genes and the way my life started. My mother, my maternal grandmother, and my maternal grandfather all suffered from depression. My mother committed suicide when I was three years old.

Luckily, I seem to be hard-wired to be happy. I attribute a great deal of my propensity towards happiness to a healthy, positive upbringing with my father. He discovered the power of positive thinking and affirmations in the seventies and taught me those life skills as he was learning them. Then he married a very funny woman who is one of my best friends today. There was a LOT of laughter in my house growing up.

The only time that I've experienced the sense of helplessness and despair faced by my mother and her parents was when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 38. But I bounced back quickly from that bombshell once I had a plan of action to conquer the disease. In fact, the diagnosis later helped me re-prioritize my life plans, and I started my Professional Organizing business soon after I completed cancer treatments.

What do you do on a daily basis that brings you happiness, and how consistent is the feeling of happiness throughout your day?

I am consistently happy throughout the day. I really enjoy being busy and having routines and productive habits. I like to rise before 6:00 a.m., eat a healthy breakfast, exercise, pull out my ACTION folder, and plan my day.

I get immense pleasure from teaching people how to be better organized and more focused. It's great fun to grow a business by providing a service that so many people need. I can honestly say that I love to help people sort through their clutter, develop filing systems, and color-coordinate their closets. Yep, I'm weird that way. Only another neat freak would understand.

In my "down time," I enjoy laughing with friends, riding my bicycle, reading non-fiction (history, business, personal development), or surfing the web in the office I share with my husband. But the best part of each day is when I curl up in bed with a book and my sweet dog, Ruby, jumps up on the bed and lays her head on my feet. It happens every night, and it never ceases to put a smile on my face.

What things take away from your happiness? What can be done to lessen their impact or remove them from your life?

The things that take away from my happiness include not scheduling enough time for exercise, and saying "Yes" to too many commitments at once. I also get frustrated when I don't schedule enough time to write. I've recently said "No" to some commitments in order to help me carve out that time for exercising and writing. I'm also hiring people to do more things for me so that I can focus on the most important (or fun) tasks.

Oh, and I try not to dwell on the whole cancer thing. It happened, it's over, I'm healthy now. Next!

What do you plan on doing in the future that will bring you even more happiness?

I plan on writing more because it enables me to help more people at once. For the same reason, I want to do more motivational speaking. Public speaking is something that I really enjoy (another one of my freakish qualities). There's a great high that comes from making people laugh while you're helping them learn new skills.

And for the really long term, my husband and I are quickly becoming debt-free and are saving as much money as possible so that we'll be able to retire in our 50's. I personally love to work, but I want the option of only doing work I love and then only working when I want to. Now, that's my idea of happiness and personal freedom!