The Six-Year Calendar of Happiness

January 25, 2010

I’m still in the process of reviewing 2009 and planning for 2010…and here it is the last full week of January! No, I don’t have a problem with procrastination, why do you ask?

Actually, what I have is a hard time staying focused on something long enough to finish it. Thanks to Barbara Sher’s book, Refuse to Choose!, I’ve learned I’m not the only one. Sher describes me when she describes “Scanners,” people who are “genetically wired to be interested in many things.” Some of the things Scanners say that could come out of my mouth include: “I keep changing my mind about what I want to do and end up doing nothing.” “I keep going off on another tangent.” “I pull away from what I’m doing because I’m afraid I’ll miss something better.”

In the past, I’d become interested in something—gardening, for example. I’d run out and invest in a flat or two of flowers or herbs and plant them in my yard. Then a few days or weeks later, I’d decide I wanted to learn about Florida history or a foreign language. But if I did that, then I’d be taking time away from learning how to draw and paint! (And don’t ask what happened to the flowers and herbs.)

You see my dilemma. Realistically, I don’t have that much time for all the interests I’d like to pursue. I have a part-time job, a family and household to care for, and commitments to a regular exercise program and to my horse.

While I loved Refuse to Choose! from start to finish, one of the exercises I found most helpful was to make a six-year wall calendar with room to write all the things I want to do. (I now call it my “Six-Year Calendar of Happiness.”) Instead of taping typing paper together and using colored markers for each activity, as the book suggests, after a brainstorming session in a notebook, I typed a separate page for each year into a Word document. The plan is, instead of dissipating my energy trying to do 15 things at once, I focus on the four or five items I’ve put on my current year, secure in the knowledge that the other things I want to do or learn are written down, waiting for me in future years. If I think, “Oh, I’d love to know more about birds,” instead of immediately checking a book out of the library or surfing the internet for bird info, I write it down on my six-year calendar.

2009 was my first year using this system, and I did pretty well sticking to what I put on my list. I started simply: learning new things with my horse (jumping, going on more trail rides), studying and writing poetry and essays, continuing with watercolor class, expanding freelance writing, and reading one or two “classic” books. In 2010, I’m going to study drawing and sketching with an emphasis on learning to create an illustrated journal, continue working with my horse (he appears on every calendar year!), learn about Florida (history, ecology, culture) and keep reading classics.

My six-year calendar of happiness isn’t carved in stone. I made some adjustments to it when I reviewed my progress in 2009. It helps me rest easy knowing I won’t forget something I want to do. And I love it because it gives me a place to store my dreams and goals for the future—and keeps me focused enough to achieve them.

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  1. I'm impressed, KJ! I have to admit the idea of a (gulp) six year calendar intimidates me no end. I'm having trouble with three months at the moment!

  2. Hello, fellow Scanner. :) I read that book and thought, yes, yes, that's me she's describing. Part of the reason I chose "Focus" as my word of the year was that I'd decided to try one of her life plans out (only I modified it a little, big surprise), choosing three main areas and a fourth *extra* area to focus on for each 12 weeks of the year. I want to see if I can get farther.

    Only one problem: an area that I didn't even think of, namely my garden, is sort of sabotaging some of the focus. I didn't put it on the first 12 weeks b/c it's January, for goodness sakes, but I should have, it turns out. I'm thinking the garden should be on every segment and every year's calendar, as you've done with your horse. :)

    (What's his name, by the way?)

  3. Laure--remember, the calendar I'm speaking of here is only for "fun" stuff--things I want to do for fun or to learn about. It's a tool to keep my scattered self from bolting off in every direction at once. I use it as a very gentle reminder that though free time is limited, it stretches out before me. I don't have to do everything I'm interested in RIGHT NOW.

    Meredith--Maybe we should have a secret handshake! The problem I've found with the calendar is if I really liked doing something, I tend to keep doing it, even if it's not on the next year's calendar. If I keep that pattern up the whole six years...yikes!

    My horse's name is "Tank." He came with that name, and it seems to suit him.