the giant happy list (or how to break free from a rut)

as i may have mentioned once or 254 times, it’s been a pretty rough winter. i don’t think any of us chicagoans expected the polar temperatures or perpetual onslaught of snow that has been hitting us over the past few months. in our household, we all developed a nagging case of cabin fever that felt suspiciously like being cemented firmly in a rut. a couple of sundays ago, i decided to take action. i grabbed a sizable piece of sketching paper, and wrote “the giant happy list” at the top. i turned to dan and said, “alright, name something that makes you happy.”


we took turns shouting out activities or items that we love for about 45 minutes. i wrote each down, until we had a list of 50. the specifics ranged from wine to outdoor bike rides to spending time with family to watching documentaries.

next, i grabbed the color pencils and coded each item. green for the things we do pretty frequently, yellow for the things we’d like to do more often, but would have to make a lifestyle change in order to do so (ie: move across the country), and orange for what we don’t do enough of but COULD.

i’ll be honest. at this point, i was sort of at a loss for next steps. luckily, dan grabbed the pad of paper and started scribbling. he wrote down all of our orange items on a separate sheet. what are the things that would make us happy, that we could be incorporating into our lives, but aren’t? for each of the entries on the list, we named at least one action item for how to make more of an effort to do that thing. then, we hung both pieces of paper in our kitchen where we can see them all the time.


some of the goals have been completely ignored. but a couple of them have actually stuck! for example, i wrote down that i love getting a lot of use out of things. for me, that mostly means i love having clothes that i know i wear all the time because it means i’m getting great use out of an investment i made. so as an action item, i vowed to spend some time each sunday going through my closet, picking out the clothes i seldom wear, and pushing them to the front of the rack to make sure they make the rotation that week. it’s really been working!

at first, i just thought it would be fun to spend time thinking about all the things in life that make me happy and writing them down to reinforce the concept in my mind and serve as a constant, physical reminder. but i was really amazed at how great we both felt after constructing our course of action. what i’m dying to do next is go through all our yellow items, figure out what lifestyle changes they would require and prioritize them by date and importance in our lives to figure out if they are plausible and when they might happen. a move to the west coast anyone?

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