Keep This in Mind When Setting Goals

February 23, 2024

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

“The way we think about growth often has us laser-focused on the end goal. Yes, we might be aware of the steps that it takes to get what we want, but we think about grinding our way through them in lieu of a process we actually enjoy. When you think about your goals, take into consideration not only the objective itself but the journey of reaching it. Ask yourself: Will I like the ways that I’ll change along this path? Do I like the process of learning, of supporting others, of working with new people? Reflection can help you get clear on why you’re prioritizing certain goals and if they’re really representative of the life you want for yourself.”

—Isabelle Eyman, “We Can’t Be Productive Every Day—So Why Do We Continue to Glorify It?”


The Blessing of Memory

February 16, 2024

Tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death. This week I’ve been mulling over what I might write about her to mark this milestone. I had no time to process her passing and write about it because I was immediately thrust into the trauma and chaos of my own mom’s last illness and death, but Carol was an important person to me. She was always loving and welcoming, and I can count only a few times when we disagreed or were at odds.

I’ve thought a lot about grief this year, trying to feel it without being undone by it. Trying to understand the process and work with it to heal. I like this passage about mourning, from George E. Vaillant’s book Aging Well: “Counselors sometimes forget that the psychodynamic work of mourning is often more to remember lost loves than to say good-bye. The primate brain is constructed to retain, not relinquish, love…. No one whom we have ever loved is totally lost. That is the blessing, as well as the curse, of memory. Grief hurts, but does not—in the absence of conflict—make us ill. What is more, just as rivers expose buried geologic strata, so may the erosion of living uncover life-saving memories of love, formerly obscured by pain, resentment, or immaturity.”   

In my experience, once I’m past the initial searing pain of loss, remembering loved ones does bring comfort and joy.

Our family all has favorite memories and stories about Carol. She loved to share “life lessons,” and every one of us has been on the receiving end of these. I especially enjoyed her quirky humor, her eagerness to help others, as well as her spirit of curiosity and adventure. She loved to travel, and it was at her suggestion that she, my husband, son, and I rented an apartment in Manhattan in 2007 for a quick Christmastime getaway, one of our happiest family memories. My husband traveled to China with her in 2006, and she and I took a two-week trip to Greece, also in 2007.

Carol in Greece

She also taught me to value and respect things of the home, to remain a lifelong learner (one of the last gifts I gave her was a book about physics for the layperson—she was fascinated by the subject), and being around her so much for the last years of her life made me realize how little we understand and respect our elders here in the U.S. She made me kinder.

Last night I came across the following on Instagram. It made me think of her—she absolutely would talk to anyone and she had a spirit that embraced life fully, the good and the bad. I think she would fully agree with these sentiments:

        Darling, go ahead and just love your life.

        Take pictures of everything. Capture the

        moments, big and small, that make you feel

        alive. Tell people you love them. And mean

        it- truly mean it. Talk to random strangers.

        Learn their stories. Do all the things that

        you're afraid of and stop playing small.


        Stop being worried about all that

        can go wrong when the only thing that

        matters is all the magic that could go right.

        There is so much life to be lived. So much

        love to receive. Open yourself up. Bloom.

        ~ Alysha Waghorn

This post is for Larry, Mary Lynn, James, Sarah, Richard, and Sam. I love you all, and I wish you comfort and healing today and every day. We miss you, Carol.

Simple pleasures

Treat Yo'Self, Updated 2024 Edition

February 09, 2024

Photo by Harper Sunday on Unsplash

Seven years ago, I wrote a post called “Treat YoSelf: 25 Simple Pleasures to Brighten Your Day.” It’s time to update that list, and since my “support” words for 2024 are restore and gentle, this post will emphasize gentle, restorative ideas—with a few active ideas thrown in for the days when you’re feeling more energetic!

I still highly recommend taking naps, buying fresh flowers, sipping hot drinks, and lounging in fresh sheets, but here are 10 more simple pleasures to brighten your day. (I have no affiliation with any brands mentioned—I just like them.) 

  1. Soak in hot water—in a bath, shower, or if you’re lucky, a spa or hot spring. Let all the knots in your muscles unwind.
  2. Give your hands and feet some TLC. Rich lotion, self-massage (try rolling a tennis ball under your foot), a manicure, a pedicure. My fingernails almost always look ragged and uneven, so I’m setting aside time on Sunday evenings to take care of them, even if that only means pulling out a nail file.
  3. Burn a seasonal scented candle. Changing up scented candles with the seasons has been surprisingly fun. I’m currently alternating a fir-scented candle and Yankee Candle’s Jack Frost.
  4. Make a seasonal fun list. I got this idea from Laura Vanderkam, and I love how it forces me to think ahead about what fun things I can do each season. I haven’t made my winter fun list yet, and winter is fast slipping away! 
  5. Go to the county or state fair. I’ve always had a soft spot for state fairs, and Florida’s state fair just started. I haven’t attended for a few years, so maybe this weekend… 
  6. Spend some time in a room lit only by candles. Combine with number 1 on this list, or sit in the glow of the flame and just be.
  7. Find some really good pens to write with. These are my current favorites. 
  8. Make yourself a special breakfast. One of my favorites is toasted sourdough bread topped with melted smoked cheese, mashed avocado, and an over-easy egg.
  9. Tell someone you love them. I’ve really been missing my mom this week and wish I could tell her I love her one more time.
  10. Lean in to your favorite hobby. Allow yourself to daydream about it, set aside time to do it, and if appropriate, buy yourself something that will help you do it better/easier/with more enjoyment.

Go forth and treat yo’self!

What would you add to this list?





February Already? 2024 Goals: Check-in Number One

February 02, 2024

My decluttered office bookshelves

After a year in which I had little control over my time and even less over my emotions, I’m planning to make 2024 a year for restoring and building. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’d like to see happen in 2024, personally and professionally. Today’s post is a check-in to see how things are going.

I thought it might be useful to talk about my goals on Catching Happiness throughout the year—it’ll keep me accountable, and maybe it will be helpful to you to see how I (try to) break larger goals down into smaller steps. I’ll share progress, missteps, and sources of inspiration. If there’s something you’d like to me to write more about, please feel free to comment below, or contact me directly at kathyjohn335 [at] gmail [dot] com. 

Goals and happiness

In January’s edition of the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter, I revealed three of my major goals for 2024 and wrote the following paragraph:

What do goals have to do with happiness? Having goals to work toward, something to look forward to, contributes to hope, optimism, and, yes, happiness. According to Action for Happiness, ‘Direction’ is one of the 10 Keys to Happier Living.  Goals which are good for happiness are those we choose for ourselves, rather than things we think we ‘should’ do; they’re things we want to move towards rather than things we want to stop doing; they’re personally meaningful for us and reflect our interests and values; and we have control over how we work towards them.” 

(If you don’t get the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter but would like to, click here. Happy Little Thoughts comes out on the last Wednesday of each month, and I don’t share or sell your email address.) 

While I have additional goals that I may discuss later, the three I shared in the newsletter are:

  • Write a draft of a book I’ve been thinking about for years.
  • Declutter (to some extent) my whole house.
  • Complete an online dog training course and train my dog, Luna (hopefully won’t take the entire year to do this one).

How did I do in January?

Welllll, results were mixed. January was a FULL month: we hosted guests from out of town twice (family last weekend, my friend Kerri for the first week of the month) and I dealt with a few miscellaneous life maintenance things like dental appointments and household repairs. Tank was seriously sick and between worry, hospital visits, and trips to the barn to shoot medicine down his throat (you can guess how happy that made him) I didn’t have much bandwidth for anything except getting through the day. Here’s how things went:

Goal 1: In January, I wanted to go over what I already had written and organize my materials, as well as start regular writing sessions three times each week. I knew it would be a busy month, so I wasn’t ambitious. I did collect my materials, briefly look them over, and I managed one writing session total. Not a great start, but considering my stress and busy-ness levels in January, I’m not too surprised or disappointed.  

Goal 2: For my whole-house declutter, I’m working on two rooms each month, pairing a simple one with a more challenging one. In January, I worked on my home office and our guest bathroom. I’m basically finished with both—though my office (the challenging room) still has a couple of minor things that need to be taken care of. It looks so much better and is now a place where I want to spend time working again.

Goal 3: I’ve purchased an online dog training course (SpiritDog, no affiliation) after trying out some of their free offerings, but all I managed to do in January was read a couple of emails and watch a couple of short videos. 

What’s next in February and beyond?

I don’t think February will be as busy a month, but it is a shorter month so I’m still being conservative with my expectations. I want to build consistency and momentum.

These are my plans for February:

Goal 1: I’m considering investing in a couple of online book writing courses, and I’ll decide whether or not either of them is appropriate. I’ve blocked out time for writing and research sessions. I’m planning to experiment with writing in different locations, both to reduce distractions (Laundry! Dishes! Luna wants attention!) and to make writing more fun.

Goal 2: I’ve got my next two rooms picked out: my kitchen and dining room. In January, my habit was to set a timer and declutter for at least 15 minutes a day. That worked well, so I’m going to repeat that process.

Goal 3: I’ll schedule time for reading/watching the dog training course, and short sessions of training with Luna several days a week.

I’m still kind of feeling my way. Each month, I want to review my progress and make any necessary adjustments, but I probably won’t do an update like this on the blog every month. Maybe quarterly? The idea of having to publicly report my progress or lack thereof is pretty motivating! (And a little scary!)

I want to be a person with a mannerly dog, in a decluttered house, who has written a book. These goals will all take time, consistency, and the building of habits. It’s only February, and I’m still filled with optimism. We shall see what the rest of the year has in store.

If you’d like to share your own goals in comments below, I’d love to hear them!

Link love

New Year, New Link Love (Vol. IV)

January 26, 2024

Tank on left enjoying his first day home

First off, I’m happy to say that Tank is doing well at home, and I’m much relieved that he seems to be continuing to recover (and he’s enjoying the extra feed as we try to put some of the weight he lost back on him).

This is 2024’s addition to my tradition of “New Year, New Link Love,” even though it’s almost the end of the month. January has gotten away from me in a number of ways, but hey, here we are. Grab a cup of something warm to drink and enjoy these links:

In “How to Cheer Yourself Up on a Hard Day,” Ingrid Fetell Lee shows us how we can create and embrace small moments of joy even in the midst of frustration and struggle.  (Check out the “Joy Break Generator” at the bottom of the post.)

I’m not the only one who was happy to leave 2023 behind. But it’s not enough just to leave the year itself behind if we continue to carry things that weigh us down into 2024. In “7 Heavy Things to Leave Behind In 2023,” Courtney Carver gently urges us to leave those heavy things in the past and walk forward feeling lighter, and with room in our lives to allow in more good things. 

In “Can little actions bring big joy? Researchers find ‘micro-acts’can boost well-being,” NPR reported that scientists behind the BIG JOY Project found that those who commit daily “micro acts” of joy—such as making a gratitude list or doing something nice for someone else—“experience about a 25% increase in emotional well-being over the course of a week.” These acts “led to increased feelings of hope, optimism, as well as moments of fun or silliness.” These findings don’t surprise me, but it’s always nice to be reminded that in a world where so much is beyond our control, small positive acts can make a difference.

How good are you at loving yourself? If you could be better, here are “99 Ways to Love Yourself A Little Better.” 

Click here to see a baby wolf learning to howl! 

I found this discussion of “How to Think About Politics Without Going Insane,” interesting. I really do think most issues are more nuanced than we realize. David writes: “If you can achieve a multi-viewpoint understanding of the debates over gun ownership, law enforcement, socialism, capitalism, transgenderism, housing policy — even if you still adamantly favor one position afterward — the conflict no longer needs to be attributed to malice or stupidity on the part of half the population. There’s a better explanation, which is that contentious issues tend to be multi-faceted and morally complex, and people fixate on the first facet of an issue that makes them feel something. To make it worse, our culture incentivizes the denial of moral complexity. Simply put, it’s easy to motivate people with simple moral stories (those guys are bad) and hard to motivate them otherwise.” 

I enjoyed Maira Kalman’s TED talk, “How to find humor in life’s absurdity.”  (I am down for her “murder and mint chip portion of the day”!)

This weekend we will host out-of-town family as well as continue to monitor Tank’s progress and give him his medication and extra calories. How about you? Any fun plans for the weekend and beyond? How is 2024 going for you so far?