As happiness has been, and is, trending globally, there is a danger of it being viewed as just another item on your to-do-list. Something we aim to cross off once, in order to be eternally happy. Which, of course, we all know, is not the way it really works. That’s how we end up building more stress and unhappiness into our lives – the very things we yearn to change.
Well, how do we go about it then?
By dividing our happiness practice into steps.
This is familiar to us all, right? We get a project to run or a task to complete or a new habit to master, and we divide it into steps and then go forward step-by-step. We don’t try to implement all the changes of the new strategy the first day, we do it step-by-step. We certainly do not try to establish a new habit during one day, let along at one go, but we do it step-by-step.
Just like we don’t eat the whole delicious raw cake with one mouthful. No, we divide it into pieces. And even then, we hardly eat the piece at once either, at least not when accompanied by others, but we enjoy it a spoonful by spoonful.
To allow such mercifulness and enjoyment when practicing happiness, is the key. This approach takes the weight off of your shoulders. Also, it both, makes the starting easy, and ensures you don’t need to burn yourself out in the process.
What we often fail to acknowledge, though, when dividing our tasks at hand into steps, is the fluctuation of our internal resources on day-to-day basis. We definitely do not live in an ideal world, which is why it’s silly to expect that we have our ideal capacity and full potential at our disposal every day. This applies to anything and everything we’re doing and working on in our lives.
There needs to be room for life to happen. And as it happens, we need to calibrate the level of our current resources and adjust our actions accordingly. Otherwise we are in danger of falling into the pit of just pushing through at any cost.
The truth is, that sometimes we have access to more of our potential than other times. Therefore, sometimes there’s more to give than other times. Realizing this, is the key in allowing yourself go forward with your plans without burning yourself out.
How to employ this idea in practice?
To not make practicing happiness yet another stressor in your life, let’s divide the task of daily happiness practice into minimum, medium and optimum. This allows us to take into consideration our current resources and to adjust our actions accordingly. Thus, allowing us to go forward with our plans, even when we do not have access to our full potential. And doing so easily and without stress.
What are minimum, medium and optimum, then?
Glad you asked.
Minimum is always something ridiculously small and easy. So easy, in fact, that you’re a bit embarrassed to admit it. Takes usually less than a minute to go through with it. Often, what you think as your minimum, is actually your medium. Minimum is something even smaller.
For example, my minimum for building a daily happiness practice was (and still (eight years later) is in maintaining that habit) five rounds of the breathing exercise I mentioned few weeks ago. Yes, just five rounds breathing in and breathing out! It takes less than a minute. Ridiculous, right? Except when life seems too overwhelming, then it’s just perfect. And already those five rounds help.
Medium, then, is minimum plus something more, so if you feel like jumping right into medium, minimum will automatically get done and you don’t skip any parts. Just keep it easy, still. In few minutes. I’d say 5-10, tops 15 minutes. For instance, my medium is 15 minutes of the above-mentioned breathing exercise. Preferable with a guided meditation I’ve bookmarked on both my laptop and phone for easy access.
Optimum is, of course, minimum plus medium plus something more. So, again, you don’t skip any steps if you’re up to optimum right away. With optimum, you’re free to be as ambitious and take as big bites as you’d desire.
The idea of breaking a task at hand into minimum, medium and optimum is not that you just take one of those steps and that’s it. Your life is magically changed! No, it definitely is not one of those ‘get rich, quick’ or shall I say ’get happy, eternally’ schemes.
It actually is a way of life.
Dividing anything you do into minimum, medium and optimum helps you get started and to get it done in a manner that honors your wellbeing at every step of the way.
This does not only apply to developing a habit of practicing happiness, it can be used for making any dream or goal or project come to fruition. When using these principles to help you divide your goal or project into actionable items, this works a bit differently than when developing a new habit, though.
When developing a new habit, you keep your mins, meds and opts the same all the time and keep repeating them day after day. The power of repetition creates the habit. When a habit, it becomes an automatic part of who you are and what you do on daily basis.
With goals and projects, instead of keeping your mins, meds and opts the same and repeating them over and over again, this time you need to update them along the way. So, when you choose whether to go for min, med or opt, based on your current resources, you then need to update those options after every time you’ve taken that chosen step.
You can’t be doing the same minimum day after day (or week after week). It wouldn’t take you further in the same way as when developing a habit. But you can do the minimum day after day (or week after week), when you update it to match the progress.