Happiness is a Warm List

I’ve posted a couple of things about happiness and its pursuit.

This is a subject of lasting interest to me because it is one that seems genuinely universal. I know that you could argue that—at least based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—happiness is not one of our prime motivators, but I would have to, respectfully of course, disagree.

I think meeting each of the needs—physiological, safety, social and esteem—provide different flavors of happiness, and that the ultimate goal of self-actualization is about achieving happiness through satisfying all of your needs.

I’ve written before about adopting the attitude, from something overheard on television, no less, that happiness is about having something to look forward to. And this seems somehow right as well. Anticipation is a great source of happiness. Looking forward to the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda added to my happiness over the last year. I’ve been playing the game for a couple of weeks now, and I like it a lot (and, like its predecessors, it will probably be played for years to come), but my enjoyment of the game itself still seems somehow less than the anticipation. I don’t mean to say that I’m disappointed in the game. Not at all. I think that’s just the nature of things. The “looking forward” part is somehow brighter and more full of promise than the actual thing. Like anticipation of Christmas morning when you’re a kid.

As it turns out, I derive a lot of happiness from planning. I’m a list-maker, and I enjoy checking things off of a list. This is next-level having-something-to-look-forward-to thinking. Set goals, make plans to achieve them, achieve them, and keep going forward with more goals.

I tapped into this wellspring of my own happiness when I decided to tackle J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings again while listening to the Alastair Stephens podcast There and Back Again. Stephens had an 18-month schedule in which he planned to dissect and discuss both books and then examine the Peter Jackson films. This appealed to me. At least, the book part appealed to me; I may bail on the films. Knowing that I had all of this to look forward to moved the needle on my happy-meter. Making a week-to-week schedule that more or less coincided with Stephens’ podcast schedule also satisfied my list-making predilections. I recently finished reading The Hobbit, and I enjoyed checking off those final chapters on my schedule; I’ve now moved on to Frodo’s grand adventure.

Inspired by the Tolkien checklist, I also embarked on a mission to watch all of the existing Star Trek content. I’m still holding off on the original series and the animated one, but I’ve been watching The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, and Enterprise at a rate of about one episode each per week. I also added these to my schedule. More things to check off the list.

The schedule has gotten more crowded now that I’ve included other content and tasks as well. There are current television shows and past series that I’ve incorporated as well. And I find myself planning for future shows, like The Defenders , which drops on Netflix sometime in August, I think, and the return of Preacher and Halt and Catch Fire. A crowded schedule is okay, though. I’ve learned enough about myself—although the maxim “Know Thyself” is often attributed to Socrates, it is in fact much more ancient, though still applicable—to know that having a lot on my plate inspires and motivates me. And, as I said before, checking things off a list makes me happy.

Please forgive my private and introspective ramblings today. I had included, on my schedule of tasks, some prompts to write posts updating There and Back Again and on my personal joy of list-making. This allows me to tick off two in one.

What enhances my own pursuit of happiness may not work as well for you. If nothing else, I would hope that it will inspire you to ask yourself what makes you happy, and then take the steps necessary to achieve it.

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