Mar 092012

The Happiness Project

Has your life’s exclamation point . . . become an exasperation point?  The highlights of life can be sabotaged by discontentment, discouragement and frustration.  Sometimes we have to re-arrange the way we do things, in order to boost the energy we need to catapult us to greatness.

When I worked in public relations, every day was crazy, exciting, unpredictable – full of “pats” on the back or “kicks” in the rear; one way or the other, you knew where you stood.  I’ve worked from home, in the office, worn the heels, gone from suits to sweats and am now somewhere in the middle.

On any given day, I find myself researching a new business venture, catching up on laundry, planning girls’ night out, conferencing other parents to discuss a class party, meeting deadlines, all the while thinking about how I’m going to cook chicken for the third time this week.  Then it occurred to me:  Is this my life?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy, the deep kind of happy that a few bad days or set of circumstances can’t steal.

But my life needed a tune-up, like a musical instrument.  I love my husband; he’s very supportive, loving and fun to be around. And as a bonus, he’s good-looking, too.  I have a small core of really good friends.  I have four kids that are loud, fun and interesting.  My life is full, but I knew with the tools and resources I had, things could be better.  I sat on the bed one day and just explained to my husband how I felt.

Without fear or threat that perhaps he had not provided a good life for us, he did a little research (another great quality of his: thoughtfulness) and by morning handed me a book that has taken me on quite a journey, to fine-tune my happiness from mediocre to deep contentment, where people want to know why you’re smiling.  My quest began with The Happiness Project, written by Gretchen Rubin.

I’ve heard it said:  When a student is ready to learn, the teacher will appear.  Happiness is a state of mind.  Per Webster’s dictionary, happiness is a state of well being, a feeling of contentment, joy, satisfaction or pleasure.

I felt this, but not to its fullest capacity.  My mom is always reminding me that my calling here on this earth (no matter what position I hold in or outside the home) is to invest in the hearts of my children.  It’s not about recognition, fighting for a position on the corporate ladder, the need to feel appreciated by the outside world or add another gold star to my collection, but about devoting time and energy into raising healthy, well adjusted children that will go into the world with confidence, knowledge, and a sense of community; all the while, living the best version of me.

But in order to do this, Mom needs to be happy!  And if she ain’t happy, well…you get the gist.  The first category in The Happiness Project is: Boost Your Energy.  To be honest, I’ve never been so tired in my entire life.  Before kids, I trained for a marathon, raced in triathlons and had endless energy.  Now, it’s a different story.

The Happiness Project lists four things that are needed to “Boost Your Energy”:

1) Go to sleep earlier

2) Exercise better

3) Toss, restore and organize

4) Tackle a nagging task early

I don’t know about you, but my entire life, I’ve gone to bed late, put exercise on my to-do list (and only half the time crossed it off).  I allow that pesky task to haunt me all day (hoping it will just go away – of course it gets bigger and steals my joy).

It’s like a perfect storm – just as the kids are saying “Mom I’m Hungry” (after they just ate), you open the closet – and out springs jackets, scarves and a skate board into the floor, about the time the door bell rings and unexpected company has arrived.  You feel conquered, overwhelmed and under pressure.  Then comes the guilt . . . I’m a terrible mom, how will my kids turn out?

First Month’s Challenge

1) Sleep Earlier:

I began going to bed earlier. Can you say hard.  I stared at the ceiling and noticed all the blinking lights in the room, from the phone to the clock to my lap top, it was like the Las Vegas Strip.  Some people count sheep:  I was counting loads of laundry.  Your body has to be reprogrammed.  But with my next challenge, sleep came earlier and easier.

2) Exercise Better:

I’ve never liked waking up early.  My dad always said “the sunrise is so beautiful.” I figure the sunset looks much like the sunrise, so I’m OK with that.  But, in order to exercise better, I began taking the kids to school, so I could just keep going – head downstairs and begin working out.  The first week, I didn’t like it.  I felt angry, tired.  The workout guy’s voice on the DVD annoyed me.  But then I created my favorite playlist on my iPod for better motivation.  Now that I’ve created this routine, I enjoy the time for me.  Plus, when 6:30am rolls around, my eyes just pop open.  Your body gets use to what it knows, getting up and working out.

3) Toss, Restore and Organize:

My bedroom closet had become Central Station for things that didn’t have a name, a home or description.

I had a hard time letting go of those 80s concert t-shirts or giving away the red shoes I’ve never worn, but am waiting to find a fantastic dress to match.

I found parts to toys I didn’t know we had, books I’d never read, snack wrappers, gifts that had never been given.  It took three days to cleanse my closet, but in the process , it cleansed my mind.  I found 10 incredible outfits to choose from and it felt great!

4) Tackle a Nagging Task Early:

Between emails I needed to write, bills to be paid, calls yet to be returned or a mess still needing cleaning, it haunted my thoughts all day.  It drove me crazy.  Now, I wake up, conquer the the task and feel good about the victory, early on.

Want to boost your energy?  Start with you!  You are the family’s “hub of communication” – the CEO of your household.  Take charge, girls! In cleaning those closets and exercising for you, you’ll feel Accomplished, Organized and Victorious.  Rid your life of exasperation points and make them exclamation points to your happiness!

Here’s to living the best version of you!

Please click here to see more articles by Stephanie Pletka.

Stephanie Pletka is the creator of the blog Spit-up & Heels and is also a columnist for She lives in Alpharetta, GA with her husband John and four children, Jack, Will, Andrew and Ava.

 Posted by at 12:35 pm

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