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Alas! The Happiness Project Toolbox Is Shutting Down.

I’m very sorry to say that I’m retiring the Happiness Project Toolbox. It was so much fun to create and run–but the web changes very fast, and the Toolbox is several years old now, and very creaky. It needs a major overhaul, and when I looked at what changes should be made, I realized that the whole thing should be revamped. And just to keep it running reliably, as is, would be enormously demanding, in terms of both time and money.

I know many of you have used it, so I’ve hesitated a long time before deciding to end it. But it’s time. Alas! I apologize for any inconvenience that arises for you.

The last day will be November 30, 2012, so if you want to make copies of any of your entries, you have until the end of the month.

There are lessons from happiness here. My resolutions such as Abandon a project and Enjoy the fun of failure are meant to remind me that if I want the time and mental energy to experiment and create, I have to allow myself to end projects, fail at projects, and abandon projects. I find this very, very difficult. Sheesh, I have trouble not finishing a bad book once I’ve started it.



Want Some Tools To Boost Happiness? Try the Happiness Project Toolbox.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

I love visiting this blog’s companion site, the Happiness Project Toolbox – it’s fun to add to my own Inspiration Board, keep up with my own One-Sentence Journal (mine is a journal of what I’m reading), check my Lists, etc.

But I’m really addicted to the site because I love looking at what other people are writing. I can’t get enough of reading other people’s favorite quotations on the Inspiration Boards, seeing other people’s Personal Commandments, and all the rest. (To see what other people have added, you can click on the Tools listed across the top, or on the “more” running down the right side.)

Today, instead of proposing one of my resolutions for your happiness project, I gathered six of my favorite resolutions from that section of the Toolbox:

1. Proactive not reactive
2. Participate — life is not a spectator sport
3. No one notices your toe polish
4. Skip junk
5. Try a little tenderness
6. Laugh out loud each day

One of my all-time favorite resolutions from the Toolbox is “No pressure knitting.” I have never knit a stitch in my life, but that resolution gave me such a clear picture of that person and that happiness project! I laughed out loud; I know exactly what that means.

One note: we all have a limited capacity for sticking to resolutions, so I try to make sure I’m getting the biggest happiness bang for the buck. For example, I’m probably be better off using my precious resolution-energy toward going for a ten-minute walk instead of trying to drink more water.

The Toolbox has a great new feature: if you’re on Facebook, you can also post your entry to Facebook, so your friends can see what you’re up to — the resolutions you’re making, the books you’re adding to your Inspiration Board, etc. It’s a lot of fun.

What resolutions have proved most helpful in your happiness project?

* I got the BIGGEST KICK out of this Funny or Die video: the very well-known singer Jewel went in disguise to sing her own songs at a karaoke bar. It’s really worth watching.

Tell Other People about What Makes You Happy — a New Feature of the Happiness Project Toolbox.

A few days ago, I wrote about the happiness of creative collaboration. Another collaborative project which has been a huge source of happiness, novelty and challenge, and fun for me has been the creation of my companion website, the Happiness Project Toolbox.

What is the Happiness Project Toolbox? As I was working on my happiness project, I invented several methods that helped me to boost my happiness. My one-sentence journal, my Personal Commandments, my Secrets of Adulthood, and of course – most important of all – my Resolutions Chart.

I remember exactly where I was when I got the idea for the Toolbox. I was walking up Lexington Avenue, between 77th Street and 78th Street, when I thought, “Wow, it would be great to have a site where people could chart their resolutions.” About ten steps later, I thought, “But a site like that should also allow people to keep their one-sentence journals, or post their Secrets of Adulthood.” Then it hit me. A Happiness Project Toolbox! I was so struck by the idea that I literally stopped in my tracks – I remember that the woman behind me ran into me and shot me a very annoyed look as she passed.

It was easy to have the idea; hard to turn it into reality. As with so many things in life, if I’d known how challenging it would be, I might not have attempted it. But now that it’s done, I’m so happy I did it.

Novelty and challenge bring happiness; they also bring frustration and anxiety. In this case, despite periods of frustration and anxiety, I also had a tremendous amount of fun – in large part because of the brilliant, creative people at The Chopping Block, the web design firm who built the site. They love the project, too – they wrote, “The Happiness Project Toolbox is easily among the best projects in our twelve-year history. We’re excited about the potential for building of a large community audience.”

They had a lot of good ideas to add, and also helped me figure out if some of my ideas were possible. For example, I’ve always been mesmerized by Post Secret, where people anonymously post their secrets, and I’m fascinated whenever people post on my blog with their own Personal Commandments, etc., so one of my favorite Toolbox features is that you can see what other people have posted (unless they choose to keep entries private).

To see other people’s entries, click on the bar across the top. It’s super-addictive to see what other people write.

It’s fun to see what other people do; it’s also fun to let other people know what you’re doing. So we just added a terrific new feature. When you post, if you check the box at the bottom, “Post to Facebook,” you can share what you’ve added with your Facebook friends.

So if you add a book to your Inspiration Board, or make a new Resolution, discover a great new Happiness Hack, when you note it for yourself, with one click you can also share it with both your Facebook friends and other Toolbox users. Another way Facebook can boost your happiness.

The Happiness Project Toolbox offers eight free Tools:
Resolutions: record and track your resolutions.
Group Resolutions: challenge several people to a group resolution.
One-Sentence Journal: keep a journal on any subject you like (my online one-sentence journal is “What I’m reading today” though I admit I’m sporadic about keeping it up; I read a LOT).
Personal Commandments: identify principles to guide your life.
Secrets of Adulthood: record what you’ve learned so far.
Happiness Hacks: share your hacks about clutter, exercise, mindfulness, etc.
Lists Tool: keep any list — to-do, favorite things, things-to-do-before-I-die, etc.
Inspiration Board: pull together your favorite books, quotations, images, and websites.

Check it out! I hope it will help you reflect on your values, keep your resolutions, and pull together material that inspires you. And I hope it’s fun! Please pass the link on to anyone else you think would enjoy it.

* I really enjoy the funny, thought-provoking blog Notes from the Trenches. A major theme? Searching for ways to focus on the joys and pleasures of everyday family life, even when your kids are driving you crazy. The days are long, but the years are short.

Do You Treat Yourself? Why You Should.

I offer free, signed bookplates to readers, and after I’ve signed them, my younger daughter helps me get the envelopes ready to mail. While we do this, we watch endless re-runs of the brilliant TV show, Parks and Recreation. (Before Parks and Rec, we watched The Office. What show should be next?)

She’s thrilled, because if she helps me, she gets to watch extra TV. I get free labor. Everybody wins!

Last night, we were watching the Parks and Recreation episode “Pawnee Rangers” in Season Four. In it, Tom and Donna celebrate their annual “Treat Yo’ Self!” day. They spend the entire day in treating themselves.

Watch here.

But perhaps surprisingly, there’s a real skill in “treating yourself.”

When they’re getting ready to set off, Donna suggests that they ask their friend and co-worker Ben to come along on the treat-yourself adventure day. She explains, “He really seems like he could use a day off. He’s like a skinny, little rubber band that’s about to snap in half.” It’s true: people who go too long without treats often become brittle, drained, and impatient.

But Tom protests (in a line I love), “There’s no way Ben can slow down enough to keep up with us.”

Now Tom and Donna treat themselves to a lot of flashy, expensive purchases, and they give each other permission to indulge. And that doesn’t seem like such a great idea. Secret of Adulthood for Habits: Make sure the things we do to make ourselves feel better don’t make us feel worse.

But as the show unfolds, it becomes clear that “Treat Yo’ Self” day is about having a fun day, two friends spending time together, doing their favorite things. “It’s the best day of the year!” as Donna sings. They share this day. They have little traditions. I bet even Tom and Donna would admit that the day together matters more than the fine leather goods or the massages.

I would love to plan a “Treat Yourself” day with a friend, with lots of healthy treats, all loaded into one terrific day.

And the fact is, when it comes to sticking to our good habits, the Strategy of Treats is a very important tool in the habit-change toolbox. When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more of ourselves. When I’ve gone on a perfume adventure with a friend, I’m better able to get myself to keep going to the gym.

When we feel that we get no treats, when we feel deprived, we start invoking loopholes like “I’ve earned this,” “I deserve this,” and “I need this.” These loopholes often get used to justify breaking our good habits — but when we get healthy treats, we don’t feel justified in our unhealthy habits.

I write about the delightful Strategy of Treats, and hilarious Strategy of Loophole-Spotting, in my new book,  Better Than Before, about how we make and break habits. In it, I reveal the secret of habit-formation — really! Sign up here to be notified when it goes on sale.

Can you imagine planning a “Treat Yourself” day with a friend? And what healthy treats do you have for yourself? We all need as long a list as possible.

Resolution: Cross a Finish Line.

A common happiness hurdle is the arrival fallacy. We think that we’ll be happy once we arrive at some destination: a new job, a new apartment, a promotion, whatever. But often, arriving doesn’t make us as happy as we expect.

That’s very true, and I struggle to remember it, and also to remind myself of what my father says so often: “Enjoy the process.” But this week I’ve also been reminding myself of one of my Secrets of Adulthood: the opposite of a profound truth is also true. Just as I should enjoy the process, and not wait for the happiness of crossing the finish line, I should also do the opposite, and revel in the happiness of crossing a finish line.

Too often, I don’t take the time to experience the satisfaction that comes from finishing. I turn immediately to the next thing I need to do, or the next finish line I need to cross, without pausing for a little moment of triumph.

For instance, if all goes according to plan, next Monday will mark a giant finish line for me. I’ve been working for months on a major overhaul of this blog, and on Monday, you’ll see the new and improved version. I hope you like it! It was an enormous undertaking, but I can already feel myself starting to think, “Okay, now time to tinker with the Happiness Project Toolbox,” “Now I can focus on Pinterest,” “I need to tackle that new stack of research,” etc.

But–this will be an exciting moment. I want to appreciate it.

Enjoy the last few days of the current design! I should take some screenshots as mementos (except that, truth be told, I’m not exactly clear how to take a screenshot).

It’s important not to expect too much happiness at the finish line, but I don’t want to enjoy no happiness at the finish line. As Nietzche explained it: “The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”

Do you ever find yourself doing this: not taking a moment to enjoy crossing a finish line? It seems as though it would be so easy, but I find it difficult.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in —no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.