I read a variation of the quote above (attributed to various people, from Mark Twain to Oprah) a couple of years ago. Those three things–something good to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to—are said to be the essentials of a happy life.
Never mind that the phrase “something to look forward to” ends in a preposition and makes my editorial eye twitch just a tiny bit. At that time, I was in a season of life when I was open to easy answers to increase joy.
Perhaps you’ve been there, too — a stretch of time when daily life feels like kind of a grind. It might be a season of long days home with a rowdy toddler, or a rough patch in a marriage, or caring for an ailing parent, or just managing a ton of responsibility on your shoulders.
The quote above made me think twice. I was fortunate to have good things to do and people to love, but what was I looking forward to? When I couldn’t immediately think of anything, I scoffed at how ridiculous that seemed and decided to write a list.
I pulled out a piece of paper and settled in my favorite chair to write.
The Moment of Truth
Tick tock, tick tock… I stared at the blank paper and racked my brain. My calendar held mostly obligatory meetings and school events. We didn’t have any vacations planned. No splurges ahead. My Cup of Future Fun was empty.
That exercise made me realize that if I wanted to have balance and help others, I needed to creatively manage my own happiness.
I needed some things to look forward to. Or in the more proper English way of saying it, I needed some things to which I could look forward.
Okay, that sounds kind of silly.
What I really needed was a Look Forward list.
Planning Some Fun
The first thing I did was purchase two inexpensive tickets on Southwest Airlines to southern California. The trip wouldn’t happen for four months, but guess what?
According to research presented in the The New York Times, we derive even more pleasure from anticipating a vacation than taking the actual trip. Double bliss!
Next, I made care arrangements for my son and reached out to a couple girlfriends to plan a group dinner.
And because my son’s school had a late start every Wednesday, I decided to use those quiet hours each week creating art.
So my list went from blank, to:
- California getaway
- Dinner with girlfriends
- Create art every Wednesday morning
It was a small but mighty step. My Look Forward list lifted my spirits immediately. Gradually I added other things: A walk with a neighbor. A massage. Pie and coffee with my parents. Movies with a friend.
These days, writing and reviewing my Look Forward list is something I enjoy doing every week. I’m happy to say that focusing on future fun plans has made me feel more happy and balanced.
How About You?
Do you have enough things to look forward to? Could your Look Forward list use a little beefing up?
What could you plan right now for future fun?
I always love hearing your thoughts and ideas.