In Part 2 of this series you learned the three basic steps to building your happiness plan: Discovery, Planning, and Action, and you gained an understanding of Step 1: Discovery.
Today I want to go over Step 2: Planning for Happiness and Step 3: Taking Action for Your Happiness.
Step 2: Planning for Happiness
Coming from Step 1: Discovery, you have too much information to make use of it all. What good are almost 60 Happiness Essentials? You can’t act on so many different things. Nobody can.
What you need is to put them in some kind of order.
Prioritizing Your Happiness Essentials
If you recall, we talked about measuring how close you are to meeting your needs for each Happiness Essential. A second, and equally important measure, is how important that Essential is to you.
For example, Jennifer, as part of her Meaning WE PROMISE Element, wants to fulfill her having Children Happiness Essential.
A 22 year-old college senior, Jennifer isn’t ready for children yet. She has some other things that are more important to her right now.
While, for Jennifer, Children are very important to fulfilling her Meaning needs, and she has a long way to go before fulfilling this need, she has decided that doing so now is of low importance. She’s putting finding a Spouse or Life Partner, one of her Relationship WE PROMISE needs, much higher and also very much unfulfilled.
By sorting out all the Happiness Essentials this way, by both how far you are from meeting your needs and how important that need is right now, you end up with a list of your top Happiness Essentials, what we call your Happiness Plan.
Now, instead of a long list of Happiness Essentials, Jennifer was able to focus her attention on only the most important ones at the top of her Happiness Plan.
In fact, if you do this for yourself, you’ll quickly discover, like Jennifer, that you are really quite satisfied with where you are in many of your Happiness Essentials. That means, so long as you don’t upset whatever you are doing well now, you can safely ignore them, or better still, use those Happiness Essentials to help you work on those most in need of help.
Exploring Your Options: Preparing Your Happiness Action Plan
Once you have your Happiness Plan sorted so you know which of your Happiness Essentials are most in need of work, it’s time to pick one and start to work on it.
Let’s go through the process from here on out with a single Happiness Essential.
Jennifer, tired of eating too much junk food at college, has selected Healthy Diet as the Happiness Essential she most wants to work on.
She begins by doing some research to try and find out more about how to eat a Healthy Diet. With all the different diets and seemingly conflicting information out there, it takes her a month to select a few sources and options which seem promising.
Narrowing Your Options: Finding the Right Activities for You
The number of possible choices you have to fulfill most Happiness Essentials is long. For Jennifer, she had all sorts of diets and plans to choose from. Some were well researched, others just the latest fad.
It might seem that Jennifer could choose any of the plans, possibly using what seems like the healthiest plan as the first choice. The reality is that’s not how she, or you, should choose.
To narrow the options you want to bring three things unique to you into the equation: your Personality Style, your experiences and education, and your opportunities.
Let’s look at how Jennifer applied those three aspects of herself to her decision, and discover what she finally settled on.
At first, Jennifer based her initial thinking on her education and somewhat limited experience. She assumed that she would most likely move towards a vegetarian eating style.
She would cut out the fast food, and cut back on the soft drinks that she knew were already making her a little plumper than she wanted to be (and making it harder for her to attract the fit and healthy Spouse or Life Partner she wants to help fulfill a couple of her other top Happiness Essentials).
Some of the diets she considered required exotic eating styles that would have really interfered with her lifestyle, cost more than her student budget would allow, relied on foods she couldn’t find in her small college town, or had to be ordered and kept in freezer she didn’t have.
Jennifer, as a Rational Personality Style, additionally decided to investigate the latest scientific research on healthy eating. What she discovered surprised her because it conflicted in many ways with what she had been taught.
After even more research and reading Jennifer, being flexible in her planning style, decided to choose a different path and pursue eating a primal diet, also called the paleo, caveman, or ancestral diet.
About two months after she started, Jennifer had a clear plan in place it was time for step 3.
Step 3: Taking Action for Your Happiness
At this point you, and Jennifer, are ready to go. It’s time to start putting your carefully thought out plan into action.
Taking Action with a 30 Day Trial
You might choose to do what Jennifer did by making a commitment to a 30 day trial.
Thirty day trials are a great way to get started on something new. Thirty days is usually enough to see some results, decide if something isn’t right for you, or make the new routine into a bit of a habit. It’s not so long as to seem impossible or so short as to be meaningless. In other words, it’s Goldilocks-length, just right.
Jennifer found a primal eating plan she liked. The one she chose made sense because it focused on best-effort and available resources. Sure, she wouldn’t have ready access to recommended free-range chickens, grass-fed beef, nor be able to afford (or get) the top grades of seafood, but she would be able to cut out all the grains, legumes, and excess carbohydrates that the plan called for and make do with the local grocery store offerings.
She also found that her selected primal diet plan was a lifestyle plan. It also focused on several other of her somewhat lower priority Happiness Essentials: Adequate Sleep, Low Stress, and Fit Body in the Wellbeing category; Joyful Experiences in the Pleasure category; and broadly in the Involvement element.
This sort of Happiness Essential cross-over is not uncommon. Many activities you will choose to do will have positive benefits in other areas of your life, just as the primal diet plan Jennifer chose has for her.
Assessing Your Progress and Making Adjustments
After 30 days it’s time to evaluate where you stand and ask yourself some questions like: Did I see some results? Is this something I can continue with? What changes to what I am doing would make this better?
With these answers in hand you can move forward.
For Jennifer, she discovered that she had lost several pounds, felt better (though the first couple of weeks were a little difficult), and already had discovered some muscles she had forgotten she had.
Most of all, she was able to answer “Yes” to the next question you will want to ask yourself:
Am I Happier Now Than I Was 30 Days Ago?
If you can answer “Yes” then you are on the right track. If not, it’s time to go back, make some other choices, and try again until you get just the right action for your happiness.
As you can see, your Happiness Plan isn’t simply a matter of trial and error. You are making highly educated choices, and often, just like Jennifer, the right one the first time.
If you make the wrong choice, odds are you’ll get it right the next time, or perhaps one more after that.
Unlike most people, you won’t be trying out 50 different ideas just to see which ones are right.
Building Your Happiness Step by Step
We followed Jennifer as she pursued her Wellbeing Happiness Essential of Healthy Diet. Let’s see where she went from there with her other top Happiness Essentials.
After a couple of months concentrating on her new Healthy Diet Happiness Essential, Jennifer decided she had it well underway and wanted to work on another of her top Happiness Essentials.
This time, she started by simply reviewing her list, looked over her Personality Style to refresh her memory, and followed the same process starting at Step 2.
One other thing she noticed was how well some of her well-settled Happiness Essentials were both helping her reach her new goals and also getting those needs met along the way. She found that the act of researching her Happiness Essential was fulfilling her many of her Outlook, Involvement, and Success WE PROMISE needs, something she was accomplished in from her school work.
As they say, nothing succeeds like success. For Jennifer, she was seeing tangible successes in increased happiness and, of course, better health from meeting her Wellbeing needs for a Healthy Diet.
A Life-long Plan for Happiness
As you can see, happiness isn’t something you can instantly fulfill.
It is not simply joy. Joyful Experiences is only one of nearly sixty Happiness Essentials (in Pleasure, along with Tasty Food, Sex, and Music, etc.).
Just as Jennifer needed years to gain her full education, she, and you, will need years to reach your maximum happiness.
Life will happen along the way. There will be setbacks and your priorities will change as you age.
Building a happy life is a lifelong activity but it is an activity that comes with its own built-in rewards.
As you can see from Jennifer’s example, simply acting to make your life better increases your happiness. And even failures can have their rewards when you can see them as part of your overall plan.
And happiness need not be a selfish act. Your happiness, like mine, most likely will include acts of making someone else’s life better. Fortunately, Giving to Others is one of your Happiness Essentials (in the Relationships element).
The secret to happiness is to have a plan and to follow it. More about that…
Next time…Using the Happiness Planner to Build Your Plan
You probably have noticed that, just like people, building a plan for happiness is a bit complicated.
In the next article we’ll briefly go over our online Happiness Planner tool which makes takes you through the Step 1: Discovery and Step 2: Planning in about 30 minutes worth of easy questions.
In the meantime, if you have questions, feel free to drop me a note.
Wishing you complete happiness,
Kenneth Benjamin and the Happiness International Team
P.S. If you’re impatient to get started and actually start changing your life to better meet your needs, you might wish to check out our Happiness Planner which makes the process we’re talking about much simpler.
P.P.S. Know someone who might want to be happier? Why not share this article with them?