My 52nd challenge has been about carefully chosing my New Year’s resolutions, keeping in mind my experience of a year of weekly challenges that have more or less been achieved. Initially I wanted to look back at all the moments where I could have pushed myself more and that I could improve this year, like finding a job that fulfills me, learn to master a very expensive drawing tablet I got for my birthday, writing regularly on this blog instead of posting the 52nd challenge in February.
I certainly could have done more, but I could have also been less happy by pressuring myself even more than I did! Instead, I would like to write about 2 things that I read that have greatly helped me understand where my focus should stand this year.
Most people are unhappy for the same reason
The first article called “Most unhappy people are unhappy for the exact same reason” written by Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, is about one possible factor, which is no surprise and which also makes perfect sense to me, that could have led people to be more unhappy than 15 years ago.
“Every year, teens are asked about their general happiness, in addition to how they spend their time. We found that teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services, reading or even doing homework were happier. However, teens who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting, using video chat or watching TV were less happy. In other words, every activity that didn’t involve a screen was linked to more happiness, and every activity that involved a screen was linked to less happiness. The differences were considerable: Teens who spent more than five hours a day online were twice as likely to be unhappy as those who spent less than an hour a day.”
“A similar trend might be occurring for adults: My co-authors and I previously found that adults over age 30 were less happy than they were 15 years ago, and that adults were having sex less frequently. There may be many reasons for these trends, but adults are also spending more time with screens than they used to. That might mean less face-to-face time with other people, including with their sexual partners. The result: less sex and less happiness.”
“Somewhat surprisingly, we found that teens who didn’t use digital media at all were actually a little less happy than those who used digital media a little bit (less than an hour a day). Happiness was then steadily lower with more hours of use. Thus, the happiest teens were those who used digital media, but for a limited amount of time.”
What are your super-powers?
It had stricken me because at the same time I was reading another book offered to me last year (I still have a pile of unopened books on my shelves) called Power Patate by Florence Servan-Schreiber and which talks about how you can find your super powers and why you need to. To put it in a nutshell, everyone is unique, everyone functions differently and knowing what makes you unique is also what is going to make you succeed. The first step is Strenghtspotting, aka finding your strengths and skills with the help of your best memories. With these 4 questions in this specific order and maybe because I needed to hear them on that specific day, I finally got a clue about my future:
What are your achievements or activities that make you particularly proud?
Since I started working I think that nothing has made me proud professionally. I used to be proud during my studies, learning and being stimulated, but since then I feel I am doing nothing that matters. I feel disenchanted I guess. With the same logic, what made me the proudest this year was mastering new skills like knitting, crocheting very fast.On the contrary I felt discouraged when I couldn’t do something, as using my drawing tablet, or not finding a job I like quickly enough. Feeling proud is clearly related to sharing my achievements because, for some reason, how people see me is important. I like to impress people but mostly because I need to know that what I do and what I am matters. I am also the proudest when I do things quickly.
WHAT MAKES ME PROUD IS TO LEARN AND ACHIEVE THINGS FAST, TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED AS SOMEONE VERY EFFICIENT AND FAST LEARNER.
What do I find exciting in my life right now?
Looking for an apartment, looking for a new job, preparing my holidays and trying to start our company with a friend and the fact that we gave us only 9 moths to do it. I like the challenge and I think I like it even more if one day I could say that we did it in just a few months.
On the contrary, what I do not find exciting is my job. I like the people with whom I am working with, but I am bored to death. I spent too much time on the internet when I have nothing to do, which made me completely agree with the article that I mentioned before. When I was studying I had a phone but not all these Apps like Facebook or Whatsapp so I couldn’t play with them during lectures. My time on a laptop was very limited, only during project periods, for the rest I was studying on books and not browsing the internet. Clearly, the days I feel the most depressed or hopeless are when I spend all day on Facebook or watching useless videos because I am stuck at work with nothing to do (reading books in the middle of the open space is not yet allowed).
I NEED CHALLENGES, I NEED TO BE IN THE MOVE, PLANNING THINGS. I ALSO NEED TO CUT MY TIME ON THE INTERNET AND SOCIAL MEDIA.
What am I expecting eagerly in the near future?
The upcoming travels, most specifically the ones scheduled with my family and my boyfriend. I realized that although I am excited to leave for a Humanitarian trip in Argentina next week I am not a big fan of traveling with strangers, I need control and trust. I felt guilty at first to think that but, as I will show later, LOVE is my second chore strength. Sharing my experiences with loved ones is essential for me to be happy, that is why I wish to enjoy this year more and make long-lasting memories (while being less focused on challenges).
I am also expecting anxiously the good weather to come back as another thing that made me very happy last year was starting running outside! In fact, I realized that I need nature more than I ever thought and the long walks on the beach in Normandy or in natural reserves in India or Brazil were moments of pure happiness.
I WANT TO TRAVEL WITH LOVED ONES AND SHARE LONG LASTING EXPERIENCES WITH THEM. I ALSO NEED TO BE OUTDOORS MORE OFTEN TO FEEL HAPPY MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY.
I am happy now in several aspects of my life but just the fact of answering to these questions made more serene. In my everyday life I know that I am still missing a sense of plenitude and I am starting to think that no perfect job will give it to me, but probably a good balance with open activities and time far from unnecessary stimulations will.
What are your Character Strengths
Another very interesting part of this book was making a test to know in what order we use our strengths. According to the book we all have 24 strengths, however we should identify out core ones, which we should call on to whenever we need to achieve something and which will make everything easier for us.
The VIA Survey of Character Strengths (that can be taken here) is a self-assessment that takes less than 15 minutes and provides a wealth of information to help you understand your core characteristics. Most personality tests focus on negative and neutral traits, but the VIA Survey focuses on your best qualities.
Created under the direction of Dr. Martin Seligman, the “father of Positive Psychology” and author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, and Dr. Christopher Peterson, distinguished scientist at the University of Michigan and author of A Primer in Positive Psychology, and validated by Robert McGrath, Ph.D., the VIA Survey is regarded as a central tool of positive psychology and has been used in hundreds of research studies and taken by over 5 million people in over 190 countries resulting in better workplaces, schools, teams and lives all over the world.
I took it a week ago and although I was not surprised with the results, things are always clearer when written down. I analyzed the report and understood why I do the things I do, what is important to me, why I am unhappy in some situations and how I can change my way of doing things to finally be in line with my needs and skills.
For me making decisions needs to be rational or, to be more precise, needs to be rational to me. I have to analyse all options before deciding. Building relationships with the people around me is essential too, at work I need to build trust, and even friendships: I need this to be happy in my environment but I also think that people will be more helpful when they are connected to you. Curiosity and Love of Learning are my fuel in every decision I make and are also qualities that make me the proudest. Prudence is related to 1, as I never make a decision without being sure of all the risks I am taking (even if people sometimes feel I am irrational). Logic can be subjective (sometimes).
As it turns out I also don’t understand people who do not think like me and maybe that is why working in big companies is hard for me. I look at the world as playground with infinite possibilities, and clearly being stuck in a small-minded environment breaks me. I also tend to overreact sometimes and cannot stop reading, watching a show or working on something I am stuck with until it’s finished (even though it is already 4AM and I need to wake up at 7AM the next Morning). Forgiveness is clearly my last strength as I can trust easily (until proof of the contrary) but in return I want people to respect me for that and not take advantage of a supposed ingenuity. And trust, once broken, is gone forever.
Knowing that, I know what to do next!
For next year I hope to be less stressed-out, to focus less on challenges and more on finding purpose, plenitude and calmness. I hope to build a life with the person I love and create a job that will stimulate me everyday because it means something to me (it can be working on the business we are trying to launch but also working in a company that creates a value that has meaning to me).
To do all this I wrote a few resolutions to avoid losing track of what I should be focusing on:
- Buy an apartment (research is ongoing) to stop paying a rent and finally move in with my boyfriend. This will give more time to work on my relationship and keep it flourishing and give us the opportunity to be less tired by avoiding the daily round trips and constant scheduling.
- Ask for help and support when I lose hope (not only to books, but also to people and to the Universe).
- Do everything I can to create a work environment that fulfills me while knowing now what is important to me: work with people who I respect and care about, while working on challenging and creative projects.
- Find plenitude by embracing nature, running more often at the park and regularly scheduling week-ends by the sea. My long-term vision is clearly to live in a warmer and drier country or to find a way to adapt to this one.
- Stop with the impossibly high standards, keep routines that work or that are making me happy and leave those that are stressing me out. Understand that I cannot do everything and that life is about choices and sticking with them.
I don’t want more objectives than that for this year and I hope to be back soon to write about how great it is going!