Many of my happiness-project resolutions are meant to help me keep my vision wide. To counteract my impulse to work all the time, I push myself, with moderate success, to follow resolutions like Force myself to wander, Take time for projects, Read at whim, and Take notes without a purpose.
And my most important resolution, of course, is to Be Gretchen.
These resolutions have dramatically changed the way I react when I develop — as I sometimes do — unusual interest in a new subject. Nowadays, I allow myself to follow a new passion as far as I want.
Sometimes, it’s true, I’m lucky enough to have been able to turn these passions into my work. When I became obsessed with Winston Churchill, I wrote a book about Churchill. What a joy it was to write that book! My preoccupation with St. Therese ended up playing an important role in The Happiness Project.
In fact, quite often, my inexplicable passions end up having a profound effect on my work. But I no longer worry about whether they’ll be useful in that way, or not. I just let myself go.
That’s because, a few years ago, it finally dawned on that I didn’t have so many passions that I could drop one without losing an important source of happiness. Children’s literature, for example. When I cultivated my passion for children/young adult literature, I added a huge engine of happiness to my life.
I’ve just been hit by a new passion: a passion for scent. It came on me slowly. First came my resolution to Cultivate good smells, which led me to the wonderful Demeter Fragrance Library. Then came my resolution to Take a field trip, which led me to the incomparable CB I Hate Perfume.
Recently, I developed the classic symptoms of a full-blown passion:
- a return from the library, with a huge stack of books on a single subject
- purchase of more books that my library didn’t have
- purchase of other learning tools (in my case, from the amazing Aftelier site)
- the desire to talk about this subject with every single person I encounter
- the taking of notes without a purpose
- a list of places I want to visit
- a dramatic new appreciation of the influence of the subject in my life
In the past, I wouldn’t have indulged this passion. I would have thought, “Gretchen, you’ve already said enough about smell. Move on. Don’t let yourself get distracted from your main work. Don’t make purchases. Don’t waste time.” Now I remind myself, “How lucky I am to have a new passion. Time, money, and energy spent on things I love isn’t wasted.”
I love the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, of “flow” fame. In his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, he wrote, “When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it.” Cultivate your passions.
How about you? Have you allowed yourself to cultivate a passion? What was it? Did you have to push yourself to do so?
I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.
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