Posts Tagged plan

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence has instilled in the American culture a belief that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. But actually pursuing happiness can be a struggle for some. Defining happiness and the process to get there isn’t so clear-cut.

Happiness is a topic of immense interest to humans in our own personal searches. There are blogs and books like The Happiness Project that try to define strategies for happiness. There are TED Talks about happiness. There are quotes about happiness. And there are endless studies about happiness.

Professional Happiness Study


The perception of time

I heard about one such study at the University of Maryland on the radio. The study measured how people perceive their time — how rushed they feel and how often they have time on their hands. It’s pretty common to think that if we had more time, we’d be happier. But the study showed just the opposite. The people who reported being the happiness almost never feel rushed and don’t have time on their hands that they don’t know what to do with.

Most people don’t like feeling rushed; that seems pretty self-evident. It’s nice to be in control of our own schedules. But the more surprising part is that people don’t enjoy having excess time on their hands. The interesting thing about this is that excess time is self-defined. So if you schedule time to watch TV, exercise, and hang out with friends, that’s not considered time that you don’t know what to do with. The key seems to be making time for the things you want to do, even if other people would consider that idle time. So being busy (but not rushed) seems to make people happier.

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Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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The 100 Year Plan

I’m not the type of person who creates annual goals.  I don’t have a 10 year plan, or even a 5 year plan.  How could I possibly have one when I’m still waiting for my vision?

But Mr. HalfFull has a 100 year plan.  He wants to live to age 100, and be featured on a Smucker’s jar.

That seems like a ridiculously long life to me.  I have no desire to live to 100.  I can’t imagine having much quality of life at that age.

Regardless of how many years Mr. HalfFull and I get under our belts, I want to be the first to go.  I constantly remind him of our pact to let me die first.  But this is the most unlikely of all scenarios.  First of all, women generally live longer than men.  Secondly, he’s already 10 years older than me.  Finally, if you add in family health history, the odds are stacked against Mr. HalfFull.

So those three factors of female longevity, age, and family history are immutable.  But there are things we can change, namely how we live our lives today.  Yet, it seems I’m screwing that up too!

Last week, I told you about how I’m getting lots of exercise and sleep.  On the other hand, Mr. HalfFull wakes up early, works long hours, goes to bed late, and doesn’t have a regular exercise routine.  This formula doesn’t seem to be working out right at all.

Fiona & Shrek

Back before we were an old married couple, we used to dress up for Halloween. In 2008, we went as Fiona & Shrek.

Last week was Halloween.  We never get trick-or-treaters, so I stopped buying Halloween candy years ago in an effort to save me from eating it all.  So I had absolutely no candy on Halloween, which felt strange.  Instead, I inadvertently exercised for 3 hours.  (My days were all confused after fitness classes were cancelled for 2 days during Hurricane Sandy.)

What did Mr. HalfFull do on Halloween?  As a high school teacher, he was surrounded by kids and candy.  He consumed sugar all day long!  After the kids went home, he sat in his office writing a grad school paper and then headed directly to class.  He returned home after 10 PM.  Does this sound like the relaxed, healthful life of a man about to live to 100?

I’m eating well and exercising, while Mr. HalfFull is working long hours and barely has time to sleep.  I don’t think my plan is going to work out at all!  Perhaps I need some more risky behaviors to tip the scales back in my favor.

Motorcycle on Skyline Drive

Yes, I agree that riding in the fog is probably not the safest.

My parents would argue that riding a motorcycle is far too dangerous.  But I generally ride with Mr. HalfFull and we are both brightly colored, me in red and him in Buddha orange.  Of course, anything can happen at any time, but I think we try to be especially safety conscious on our motorcycles.

Maybe I need to take up smoking.  Or perhaps I could become a potato chip aficionado.  Plus, I could start daily training for pie and hot dog eating contests!  (Too bad I don’t like hot dogs.)

I guess need to reassess my new healthful life…

  • How many years do you want to live?
  • How much Halloween candy did you consume?
  • What life shortening habits should I take up?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Waiting for My Vision

I left my job in May.  I didn’t have a horrific boss and wasn’t forced to work long hours.  Day-to-day things really weren’t that bad.  So why did I quit?

It may sound idealistic, but I want to wake up and be excited to go to work.  After two acquisitions, I was no longer in a corporate culture of my choosing; I wasn’t motivated to excel.  I don’t want to work just to have a place to pass time and earn money.

Life at Work


Ms. HalfEmpty coding in a server room…at work, of course!

My degree is in computer science, but over the years it has become increasingly clear that it’s not my passion.  I always got A’s in school and certainly have an aptitude for it, but the interest just isn’t there.  I was never the girl who had a server farm in her basement, spending each evening coding my own side projects.  In fact, I don’t think I would ever code for enjoyment.

In 2010, I stopped coding.  I left my project as a software engineer and looked for other projects within the company.  This was incredibly eye-opening.

I didn’t think it would be difficult to find a non-coding job.  I had built a reputation as a solid employee.  Surely, someone would want me on their team.

And they did…to code.

I would apply for job after job.  But all the calls I got were for software engineering positions.  My résumé had marked me as a software engineer, and no one wanted to hire me for anything else.

After a while, the phone interviews got a bit comical.  A manager would call me and ask all sorts of detailed technical questions about frameworks and design patterns.  After a few questions, I asked which job he was filling.  Invariably, it would be the software engineering role, when I had applied for a different position on the same project.

Eventually, I did end up in a project management role, and later, a consulting role.  I was grateful for the opportunities and did well, but still wasn’t inspired.  I held out hope that there could be something more.  But staying in the same environment wasn’t helping me get there.

When I announced my departure, everyone wanted to know what I was leaving to do.  I didn’t have a good answer…or a plan.

Deciding to Leave

Palisades Park

Ms. HalfEmpty had it rough as she napped around the world!

Quitting my job was scary.  It was a lucrative career; I was the breadwinner of my household.  Financially, I worried if things would work out. Without my regular income, I would be living off savings. I wondered how long that would be feasible.

But part of my assurance came from the 30/40 World Tour.  Last year, I was on a Leave of Absence for 3 months with no income while traveling around the world. Plus, I was spending money to travel, while still maintaining mortgages and car payments back home. So that was reassuring and gave me a little more confidence to take the plunge.

Life After Work

I had a surprisingly rough time over the summer.  At first, I was quite industrious. I started taking things apart in the house.

I spent more time on my home desktop computer, which is near the hall bathroom.  This caused me to notice an intermittent drip from the toilet.  It was so infrequent that it was hard to pinpoint. It didn’t occur immediately after flushing, and I could never see the actual drip. Eventually, I got fed up and decided to replace everything in the tank. I’ve replaced flappers, but never actually removed a toilet tank.

As a teacher, Mr. HalfFull was off for the summer, but he was taking grad school classes from 7-10 PM. Of course, I started this repair project while he was in class. At around 9 PM, I realized that I needed a hacksaw to shorten the new pipe. So I was done for the night.  Upon his return, Mr. HalfFull was rather surprised to find his toilet in pieces on the floor!

Ceiling Fan

Oh Ceiling Fan, your incessant ticks kept me up at night!

Then I tackled the ceiling fan in my bedroom. It started making an intermittent ticking noise that made it difficult to sleep because it was so irregular and nonrhythmic. The airflow in my bedroom isn’t that great, making the fan especially critical in the summer.

So I took it apart. Don’t worry, I put it back together too. And the noise stopped!

Then I noticed a dripping sound in the master bathroom toilet and decided to replace that one too. By then I was a pro, armed with a hacksaw and plumbers wrench ahead of time!

During this time, Mr. HalfFull became fearful of what he would find in pieces when he returned home.  He was especially worried that his TV and stereo system would be disassembled with cords and cables all over the place.  But his fear was unfounded!

Eventually, I ran out of projects around the house and wondered what I was supposed to do with myself. Since Mr. HalfFull was taking classes on a compressed summer schedule, he had papers to write every week. He seemed busy and productive. But what should I be doing?

I thought that being spontaneous and unscheduled would be wonderful. I was no longer stuck at a desk during business hours. But it wasn’t wonderful. I had no purpose. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing.

You may be reading this wondering how I could be so unhappy with a decision I made myself. I wasn’t laid off. I wasn’t fired. It was completely my decision to leave.

I was happy that I left, but it was hard to not know what I was going toward. I’m a planner. I’m practical. What the heck was I doing?

Vision of the Future

Time Travel

What is the nature of time?  When will Ms. HalfEmpty’s vision come?

Over the summer, I read a book called Einstein’s Dreams about the nature of time. The short chapters each tell a fable based on a different theoretical flow of time — circular, captured, frozen, etc. One passage in particular spoke to me:

This is a world of changed plans, of sudden opportunities, of unexpected visions. For in this world, time flows not evenly but fitfully and, as consequence, people receive fitful glimpses of the future.

For those who have had their vision, this is a world of guaranteed success. Few projects are started that do not advance a career. Few trips are taken that do not lead to the city of destiny. Few friends are made who will not be friends in the future. Few passions are wasted.

For those who have not had their vision, this is a world of inactive suspense. How can one enroll in university without knowing one’s future occupation? How can one set up an apothecary on Marktgasse when a similar shop might do better on Spitalgasse? How can one make love to a man when he may not remain faithful? Such people sleep most of the day and wait for their vision to come.

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

Without my vision, I spent much of the summer slumbering. Naps are divine, but I was using them as an escape. When you have no plan, it’s much easier to sleep than seize the day. It requires no planning, and you can’t fail.

But I really wanted that vision of my future. In fact, I still do. I want to know the right path for me. I want to know that my efforts are not wasted. I want to know the future.

  • Have you ever left a job without a fully defined plan?  Why?
  • Have you made a career change?  How did you reinvent yourself?
  • Have you been surprised by the emotional aftermath of a decision you willingly made for yourself?
  • What home repair projects have you tackled yourself?  Did you take your household by surprise?
  • Have you had your vision?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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