Is your calendar full? Do you wake up thinking about the things that have to get done? Does your chore list seem a mile long? In the midst of the laundry, taking the kids to softball practices, doing your time in the 8 to 5, feeding the pets and making meals, have you scheduled joy into your day? Jonathan Robinson, author of Finding Happiness Now: 50 Shortcuts for Bringing More Love, Balance and Joy Into Your Life has some ideas and recommendations for getting happier and one involves actually scheduling joy into your life just as you would a doctors appointment or a meeting at work.
What if you aren’t clear on what brings you joy? Jonathan Robinson recommends writing out a Pain and Pleasure List (PPL). The PPL is a list of at least 10 things that you enjoy doing and and a list of 10 things you don’t particularly care for. He states the point is to clarify what really turns you on in life and what you do only because you have to — or think you should.
As an example he shares a list that a client completed when given this assignment. Here is the clients lists:
Ten Things I Don’t Like To Do
Go to work
Market myself or my products
Clean the house
Be around disagreeable people
Spend time with my parents
Taxes and paying the bills
Give my wife a massage
Go shopping for clothes or gifts
Argue with my wife
Ten Things I Love To Do
Ride my bike
Be by myself, reading a good book
Play with the dog
Eat good food
Get a massage
Spend time in nature
Make love with my wife
Drive & listen to music
Watch a good football game
The author then shared that after his client completed his list he asked him to estimate the number of hours every month he spent doing each activity. Jonathan writes “When he finished this part of the exercise, it was brutally clear why he was depressed, stressed and messed-up with his wife. The total number of hours on the ‘pain’ side of the list was a whopping 215 hours per month. The total number of hours on the pleasure side of the list was a meager thirty-two hours a month. That’s almost a seven-to-one ratio of pain to pleasure. I’ve found that when the degree of pain compared to pleasure rises above a five-to-one ratio people dislike their life. In order to feel good again, such people need to spend less time doing ‘painful’ activities and more time doing what they enjoy.”
The author then adds for his readers “The first key to changing your life and behaviors is to be aware of whats currently not working. If after completing your own PPL, you see a similar pattern to James’ then you’ll now you’ve been denying yourself too much. You need to put pleasurable activities at a greater level of importance in your life.”
Take some time right now to complete your own PPL List. I’ll complete one too.
Ten Things I Love To Do
Read (extra bonus points if it is in a hot bath)
Be in nature and soak in the beauty
Take photos of things that make me happy
Listen to music with positive lyrics
Play/do something fun with the family
Create (paint, draw, make collages)
Share juicy and uplifting conversations
Feel connected to others/nurture relationships
Eat/drink something delicious that also enhance my health & vitality
Ten Things I Don’t Like To Do
Clean the cat box
Be in a cluttered and messy living space
Cook after a long day at work
Have too much work to complete in a day
Deal with technical difficulties
Fall behind on writing deadlines
Listen to complaining
Experience conflict or be around conflict
Take care of sick people
Add some of the things on your Things I Love To Do list to your calendar, be it techy style in Outlook or iCalendar or the old fashioned paper one hanging on your well. How did it feel to add these onto your calendar? Does becoming more conscious of making time for joy shift anything?
How about growing your soul while also making time for more joy? Does the concept of growing your soul sound daunting, challenging or even painful? I have some good news. According to Kurt Vonnegut growing your soul can be both simple and fun.
In 2006 Ms. Lockwood, an English teacher at Xavier High School, asked her students to write a letter to a famous author. She wanted them to discuss the author’s work and ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007) was the only one to write back. He even signed off with a drawing.
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
Right now let’s do Kurt Vonnegut’s assignment and write a six line poem. Keep it simple and easy and just see what flows out.
Did you learn anything new about yourself after completing your poem? Was there a message from your soul?