Thursday, January 8, 2015

How to be Happier, Step 6: Direction

On January 2 I posted a list from the blog of psychologist Jeremy Dean of ten habits that science has shown make people happier. For the next several days I’m posting individually on one of these actions/states of mind in hopes that we can all learn to make them habits.

Today’s topic is direction.

Okay, how many of us have direction in our lives? How many of us know exactly where we’re going and how we’re going to get there?

No, not me, either.

Remember in It’s a Wonderful Life when James Stewart tells Donna Reed, “Mary, I know what I’m going to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that”? It didn’t work out that way for George Bailey, and most likely it doesn’t for the rest of us, either. Life has its own way.

Nevertheless, having some sense of a direction in which we want our lives to go can make us happier.

I think I see direction as an overall bent of our personalities. It’s what we want to build our lives around, the things that are important to us. For some people it might be success in business—a good job, regular promotions, large salaries. Others might tend toward the sciences, or sports, or adventure. For me it’s been spiritual and aesthetic things—literature, arts, humanities. I’ve spent my working life in nonprofits because I prefer the more relaxed atmosphere, the relative absence of competition and pressure.

By this point of view, direction is more something that we choose to align with our deepest selves rather than something we actively plan and work toward. For that, goals may be a better word.

Goals are things you want to accomplish, things that are important to you. These are the things that take planning and thought. For me, because I’m lazy, I need to expend more effort into really thinking about what I want and how I can get it.

Because I’m not good at these things, this year I splurged and bought a fancy new planner (the InkWell Press LiveWell). As you can see, each month has a “Mission Board” in a honeycomb pattern on which you can spontaneously write whatever you want to accomplish that month.


My overarching goal this year is to (finally) finish the second draft of my novel, then take an online class to help me to shape it and get it ready to submit for publication. That’s a pretty big goal. I’m hoping that by breaking it down month by month it might be more manageable. This month I’ve written down on the mission board my participation in the UBC, as well as continuing my 100-day writing challenge (goals that happen to overlap this month). Next month maybe I’ll be more precise and write something like “write at least 100 words of novel each day.”

Small steps, like tea leaves, conglomerate into something wonderful.




  1. Love the planner Elaine - sounds like you have your goals/direction well plotted and I wish you well in your endeavors. I need direction - I've felt like a broken compass of late!

  2. I am a huge fan of small steps. All the best in achieving your goals!

  3. A person with direction is a person living in purpose. Anyone who knows their goals in life really are happier. Couldn't agree more.