My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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Embrace a Milestone Moment – In My Case, No More Editing.

Milestone2I’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’m a big believer in using milestone moments as cues for evaluation, action, and reflection. Even though it’s a bit of a cliché, I’ve seen many examples — including in my own life — when people were prompted to make positive changes because they’d hit a milestone like a major birthday, marriage, the death of a parent, the birth of a child, loss of a job, or the accomplishment of a career marker like getting tenure or making partner (or not). For example, our wedding anniversary is our yearly Be Prepared Day.

Major milestones don’t happen very often; minor milestones are more frequent, but it’s easy to let them go almost unnoticed.

I’m trying to pay more attention to milestones – including one I just passed.

My book, The Happiness Project, is due out in January, and about ten minutes ago, I completed my work on the stage called “second pass pages” (why it’s called this, I have no idea). After this, NO MORE EDITS. This is it. When I send this stack of pages back to my editor, my book is out of my hands. We still have to decide the cover art, and the jacket copy, and a million other details, but my work on the book itself will be finished.

In my rush to go through the book this last time, and to take care of all my other daily duties, I almost didn’t appreciate this milestone. In fact, as a relentless editor of my work, I was more inclined to view this stage as the terrifying point at which I lost control.

But thanks to my resolution, I paused to give myself a moment to reflect. For better or worse, I’ve achieved the vision that I had that April morning, several years ago now, when I was riding on a bus as it passed through the intersection of 79th and Park and asked myself, “What do I want from life, anyway? I want to be happy. But I never think about what it means to be happy, or whether I am happy. I should have a happiness project!” I didn’t have the idea to write a book about my happiness project for a long time after that, of course. But I had an idea for what my happiness project should be, and in my book, I’ve explained as best I can how I’m doing it.

This is a happy moment! I’m just going to sit here and drink it in. I feel so grateful for everyone who has helped me, and I feel so lucky that I do for work exactly what I do for fun. I wonder what the last word of the book is? Ah, it’s “window.” I love my book!

Transitions of any kind can be a helpful prompt to a more thoughtful and grateful frame of mind. Have you had an experience when passing a milestone spurred you to greater reflection or action?

* I’m sure there’s a study that explains why nothing makes you smile faster than watching babies smile, coo, and laugh (evolutionary reasons, right?). Check out this video on Gimundo of four laughing babies.

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.