A reader sent me an email that made a point that I hadn’t quite grasped before. She mentioned the importance of having something to look forward to. (There’s just no graceful way to avoid ending the sentence with a proposition, sorry.)
I hadn’t quite focused on this aspect of happiness, but now I see how important it is.
My First Splendid Truth is to tackle happiness, you must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. Having something to look forward to makes you “feel good” and may also give an “atmosphere of growth” to your life, because the future seems bright.
Also, my Third Splendid Truth is that… happiness is a four-fold path, or a house with four stories, or a four-petalled flower – any ideas for poetic yet appropriate imagery to use?
Well, for now, I’ll just say that the Third Splendid Truth is: there are four stages for enjoying a happy event:
- anticipation (looking forward to it)
- savoring (enjoying it in the moment – remember to turn off your cell phone!)
- expression (sharing your pleasure with others, to heighten your experience)
- reflection (looking back on happy times – so take pictures)
Anticipation is a key stage; by having something to look forward to, no matter what your circumstances, you bring happiness into your life well before the event actually takes place. In fact, sometimes the happiness in anticipation is greater than the happiness actually experienced in the moment – that’s known as “rosy prospection.”
Everyone should be able to pull out a calendar and see at least a few fun things scheduled in the future weeks. If your life is a parade of obligations, dreaded tasks, horrible encounters, and mandatory appearances, take a minute to figure out something that YOU would find fun, and make time for it. And don’t forget — just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t make it fun for you.
Be honest about your likes and dislikes. Don’t pretend that you like going to museums if you don’t. Your “fun” may not look like other people’s fun. For example, I’m really looking forward to the Little Girl’s first days in pre-school. Her school has a long process of getting the children accustomed to separation, which means that I will do a lot of hanging around in the hallway while she’s in the classroom. I can’t wait.
A version of this post originally appeared on Gretchen Rubin’s website, where she writes about her experiments in the pursuit of happiness and good habits.