Why Your Future Plans Won't Make You Happy

Obviously I’m all for setting intentions (not goals!) for myself around here but I’ve come to some realisations over the years, and I’m sure some of you have been through scenarios like this too.

Have you saved up for a new car (or any new possession), dreaming what it will be like to finally have it, then a week or maybe a month after getting it (and trying to keep it sparkling clean!) it becomes no big deal?

Did you plan your milestone birthday / wedding / other occasion, working on every detail and planning the perfect outfit, only to come crashing down to earth the day or days after when the anti climax of the event being over kicked in?

It’s all a little depressing yes, but all comes back to the false theory of “I’ll be happy when…” I hate to break it to you readers but this is all an illusion.

If it wasn’t, wouldn’t you be happy now, since I’m sure you’ve had those thoughts before, reached your goals, and thought I’ll be happy when I’m done with ‘X’?

So what can you do to be happy right now?

Practice gratitude

An obvious one, but a goodie. One of my guided meditations from Stop, Breathe & Think is all about gratitude and I love choosing this one in the morning.

It asks you to think about all the people who have supported you in your life, all the people you don’t see who make the world tick as it does for you (think roads, food in your grocery store, etc) and to think about the freedoms you have in your life that so many others don’t.

I love thinking like this and not taking seemingly obvious things for granted. Look around readers, there’s a lot to be grateful for right now.

Go after feelings, not just goals

I’m sure many of you have heard of Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map. I haven’t done it fully myself but do support the idea of picking core desired feelings and aiming for those instead of focusing solely on goals.

Not to the level of Danielle’s work, but I have picked my top three desired feelings for each day in the past and came up with ‘excited’, ‘energised’ and ‘satisfied’.

If I keep that in mind when deciding what to do each day (or even approaching things I don’t get to decide on with those feelings), I notice a huge difference. You can try Brooke Castillo’s worksheet on this here.

Realise this is all there is

A little morbid but I guess we all know we’re not necessarily promised any future other than today. That’s a struggle to comprehend but is incredibly grounding too.

One of the exercises I did in Self Coaching Scholars was to write out my ideal day.

What really surprised me was that, despite often trying to improve, I’m really not that far from the days I want to have.

Although it can sometimes seem boring or repetitive, on my ideal day, I would still do yoga, meditate, write to you guys, do some coaching and exercise.

I could pass them off as ‘have to’ tasks in my life, but after completing the exercise I realised I really want to do all of them.

How can you find happiness now, instead of waiting for it in the future?

 

March Recap and April Intentions

Well, Q1 of 2016 is about done lovely readers.

It did go quickly but I take that in a good way - it means I was busy doing enjoyable things and not feeling bored or sluggish.

Let’s take a look at how I did with my March intentions and set one for April.

Enjoy the weather

I totally embraced this intention in March.

I sat in the backyard and watched our cat munch on grass, I walked along the river as the sun was setting and we ate dinner out on the balcony as often as possible.

Although the warm weather and light have been so enjoyable, the mornings are becoming darker and I’m ready for the clocks to change and the cool months to roll in.

But then again, my April intention may be swaying that position...

Less personal development

This was truly hard!

I had an inkling, but it’s totally been confirmed that I am addicted to podcasts and blogs with themes of self-discovery and personal development.

I found myself wanting to catch up on my regulars, and had to make a concerted effort not to.

In being mindful of not overloading my brain with too much ‘self-help’, I focused on podcasts with a wider variety of interviews and read some more light-hearted blogs and news sites.

April intentions

Embrace our trip fully

As I mentioned, maybe I’m handling the thought of cooler weather better because we’re about to escape it for a few weeks.

With our trip to South East Asia ahead, I’m excited to see new parts of the world and escape everyday routine for a while.

Enjoying the food, lazing on the beach and walking the streets (if I can learn how to navigate crossing the road in the bigger cities) are high on my list.

How has your March been? Let me know below!

 

January Recap and February Intentions

How has the first month of 2016 been for you dear readers?

Mine has been pretty great - with no specific intentions and a fairly free schedule, I’ve been able to enjoy the warm weather, take my time with thinking about 2016 and I’ve also been practicing a fair amount of gratitude (more below).

So here’s what’s changed at Where the Light Plays this month:

Journaling

I’m pretty sure I was 16 the last time I kept a journal. And it was mostly to document my crushes…

I’ve mentioned them a few times but I’ve become even more obsessed with Alex and Mimi Ikonn lately. On the surface they lead a pretty glamorous life but their backgrounds, outlooks and goals are very sincere.

I’ve been wanting to pick up The Five Minute Journal for a while but the overseas shipping is pretty exorbitant. Apparently this will change soon so I think I’ll still purchase my own copy when the time is right.

The great thing is the authors, Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas, actually give the planner away for free on their website. So I mocked up my own journal to start trying out this habit in January.

journaling-ikonn-cactus.jpg

And? I truly love it. It puts me in a great frame of mind when I think about what I’m grateful for each morning and makes me more conscious about what I want from that day.

I can check in on the journal after work to make sure I’m on track with what I wanted, then I practise gratitude before bed. I totally recommend trying this (even without buying the journal).

Productivity Planner

The obsession with Alex and UJ continues… again, for free.

As you probably know, I’m always up for trying new strategies to be productive and manage my time at work. I’ve been using the Productivity Planner worksheets to plan my week on a Monday morning, listing out my most important tasks. I then complete a review of the week on Friday afternoon to see how I’ve tracked with the goals and what I’ve learned and want to take forward into the next week.

A few weeks in and I’m finding this a very useful tool with a particular benefit being you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot by the end of the week.

Kittens!

Newsflash - I’m not the hugest risk taker in the world.

Luckily my husband has more of a taste for getting us out of our comfort zone, so persuaded me to agree to looking after two kittens for a week while his coworker was away on a business trip in January. I was pretty concerned about our current cat being put out and the general disruption to our house.

In the end it was such a rewarding thing to do - to know they didn’t have to go to a cattery, to get to hang out with two beautifully natured kittens and to help our cat socialise with other cats.

The lesson? The best fruit is out on the furthest branch, so take a risk!

February Intentions

And as for February?

Focus on home decor

We moved into our house almost two years ago now and I’ve been wanting to update some furniture, buy some rugs and do the final declutter ever since. February is my month to get this done!

I’m depending on Gray Malin and Danielle Moss for online inspiration. Check out my Pinterest boards here and here.

Plan a holiday

I’m very excited that we have an overseas trip planned this year. Almost 4 weeks in the States and Mexico is on the cards and I can’t wait! Time to trawl accommodation sites and plan sightseeing and (mainly) eating and drinking in each city.

If you have any Austin or Mexico City recommendations in particular, please let me know below!

Do my rehab

I spoke about this in an earlier post, but I have a niggling, continuing hip problem that gives me pretty bad lower back pain from time to time. I have a series of rehab exercises I need to do a few times a week but I always find an excuse not to do them.

The benefits definitely outweigh the time it takes me to do the exercises so I’m committing to three times a week through February.

What are your February intentions? Let me know below or over on Facebook

 

Light Links: September (+ October Intentions!)

Hi lovely readers. I’m going to mix it up with this last post of the month.

Along with the regular Light Links, I’m also going to look forward to the next month and set some intentions (I love this word over ‘goals’ - thanks Jess Lively).

Then at the end of each month we’ll recap and see how I did. Sound good? Ok, let’s go...

October Intentions

Cut off technology at 10pm (and read hard copy books)

So my reminders plan was going along brilliantly, but since I finished my last hard copy book, I’ve been a little lost after 10pm and have either been reading on my Kindle app or (let’s be honest) perusing the internet again.

This month I’m going to pick some books to replace the internet habit and wind down before bed without a screen.

This time last year...

This time last year...

Enjoy the daylight

Spring has rushed into Melbourne and I’m noticing the longer days more than ever before. I think because our new house has lots of natural light, it’s more obvious than in previous years.

I’m planning on sitting on our balcony or in our courtyard with a glass of wine after work as often as possible in October. 

Revel in upcoming events

I have some exciting plans for October - things I booked in months ago that are now almost upon me. It’s my birthday, I’m going to Soulfest and I’m spending a biennial weekend away with all the women in my family. I really connected to Laura Vanderkam’s post on how to make time slow down. This month I want to enjoy the moments I’ve been anticipating for so long and remember Laura’s quote:

“For the door does close, and eventually I will look back on all of this. Even happy moments bear in their shadows this melancholic reality. All moments, good or bad, are finite. All you can do is deepen your experience of them.”

September’s Light Links

And for those who enjoy my favourite links of the month, here they are for September.

Some measures to help you get to your higher self

It is 100% worth getting organised Friday afternoon for the week ahead: 

A fascinating article on intuitive eating and the intrinsic need to control

Anyone else struggle with being an adult some days

And finally, don’t forget to let go of perfection. 

Light Links: December

 
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Happy December lovelies. It has been a fun one for me – holiday parties, our housewarming (6 months late!) and some great weather.

I hope you’ve had a great December and enjoyed some celebrations too. 

Time to enjoy some of my favourite links from the last month. Happy new year, thanks for reading and see you for lots more in 2015! 

Oh and a quick note - I'll be posting on Mondays in 2015, so hopefully my posts will help you start the week off right.

A moving but confronting post on miscarriage and those things we need to stop sweeping under the rug.

Ready to change jobs or career path next year? Use the holiday downtime to get prepared for a change in 2015.

One of my resolutions is to improve my body image and stop stressing about my weight. Here's someone who has stopped the weight obsession. My favourite quote? "Never again would I confuse my self worth with a number, no matter how high or low it was."

I'm always fascinated by these experiments. What it's like to live a week based on Pinterest's most popular pins.

What looking back and looking forward can do for your goals. How Laura Jane Williams changed her life in 2014.

Gratitude 101

 
gratitude.jpg

Do you feel like you’re always reaching? Like when you buy that thing, or get that job, or finish that goal, you’ll be happy? I’ve heard these aspirations called many things including shiny pennies, carrots, vision boards, bucket lists.

On the flip side, I’ve also read a lot about gratitude and living in the present moment. No longer reaching and living a life of ‘I am happy now’, not ‘I’ll be happy when…’

Back when I started looking into positive psychology, I shared the strategies to a more satisfying life from Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, researcher and author of The How To Of Happiness. Even though they sounded simple, I wanted to look further into her research.

A good proportion of the tactics she discusses come back to gratitude – being grateful, expressing wonder at the world around you and counting blessings. Research has shown that practising gratitude regularly can have a huge effect on your outlook, disposition and overall happiness.

The truly fascinating part of Sonja’s research is that she has ascertained that:

  • 40% of our happiness is in our control and can be influenced by intentional activity
  • 10% is based on circumstances outside of our control
  • 50% is genetically determined.

Only 40% control makes me want to work harder, so gratitude is a new focus. When I say working hard, the premise is actually to be satisfied with your life as it is, but that can be harder work than I thought...

Below are some of my favourite practices, and some I’m yet to implement:

Five grateful thoughts each morning

This is perfect for the newbie to gratitude or those that feel they don’t have enough time to be grateful (an oxymoron?). Every morning before I get out of bed, I list the first five things that pop into my head that I’m grateful for. It sets a good frame of mind for the day and stops me moaning that it’s too early to get up.

Mantras and affirmations

Taking a mantra through your day is something I learned from Gabrielle Bernstein’s book May Cause Miracles. The book is based around daily practice in meditation, but also gives you an affirmation to use as needed over the course of the day. You can either set a few reminders in your phone or go back to it when you’re feeling overwhelmed or when you have a quiet moment. A few of my favourites are:

  • I’m grateful for this moment
  • I could see peace instead of this
  • I am responsible for what I see

I could go on and on with these ones… And she also has a very cute app that you can use as your alarm.

Journaling

I’m not a regular journal-er but it’s a popular gratitude practice. Writing down at the start or end of each day what you’re thankful for helps ground you and is great to refer back to on a not-so-great day. Plus there’s so many nice journals out there to choose from right?

Photos and quotes around your home

Ok, I’m not a big fan of the ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ sign, but there is strong research into the fact that having an uplifting quote around the home and surrounding yourself with photos of family and friends increases gratefulness. The photos in particular remind us of the amazing people in our lives, the places we’ve travelled, the celebrations that stood out. Even when we’re in the humdrum of everyday life, reminders of these can keep us grounded and increase our satisfaction with life in general.

   Some moments I like to remember.

 

Some moments I like to remember.

Gratitude letter (and visit...)

I’ll be honest and tell you this one terrifies me a little. Martin Seligman, pioneer for positive psychology, developed this exercise. You think of someone who has made a major impact on your life, write them a gratitude letter and visit them to read it in person. I would love to hear if anyone has done this or is interested in doing it. I imagine it would be a hugely powerful experience.

Celebrating moments

I am so guilty of this one and am working on this for 2015. I am a goal setter and luckily most of the time, a goal achiever. But what I forget to do is stop and celebrate each goal, rather than rushing right by on to the next one or brushing it off as not a big deal. Living in the present moment is about celebrating these achievements, for yourself and others. And why not take a photo and put it up in your house to remember it?

I’d love to hear how you practise gratitude? Or if any of these are enticing you to start?