Feeling Like Life's Just Happening To You? Start A "How To Contribute To The Good" List


My friend and I sat across from each other on a Friday night and volleyed back and forth on topics of love and fear of loss. We're both Latina, in serious relationships and learning to be our own selves in a world that hasn't always encouraged us to do so. 

We don't know how to express our wants out loud, so we stumble (often) when trying to verbalize them. 

We haven't historically been that great at standing our ground with our family, so it's how on a Friday night, with healthy meals between us that spoke to our life choices erring on the side of putting our happiness and well-being first, we ended up with sheets of paper and "How To Contribute To The Good" scrawled across the top of them.

We'd decided we were both tired and ready — tired of continuously putting ourselves second and ready to make the shift of intentionally walking towards happiness. 

Because the truth is that I'm in a really good place. I get to spend Sunday afternoons walking down Midtown streets, holding the hand of a man who without a doubt loves me to the same degree I love him. I know his heart and it speaks to a kind of love that takes my breath away and gives me reason to breathe, all at once.

But there's also a pile of books on my desk collecting dust that I want to prioritize time to read through. There are friends I haven't talked too in way too long. There's enough in my bank account to warrant a two week summer vacation. I'm happy, but also ready to stop checking off to-do lists that are set out for me and write my own instead.

A combination of life and work and passions and coffee dates that go on for too long.

Actively contributing to my happiness is not an option anymore, it's necessary.

So, with ripped out pieces of paper at hand, we wrote "How To Contribute To The Good" along the top of the page, listened to John Mayer's "Who Says," over the restaurant's speakers and started jotting down bullet points of actionables. 

Here's how to make your own bullet journal of "happy times":

Do it with a friend...

Seriously, I don't know if I would have taken the time to do this alone. I know it seems like I should have prioritized that on my own, but with work and life, it's sometimes harder to carve out that time for myself. (Hence the list of ways I need to start contributing to my own happiness. Sigh.) 

Think about what already makes you happy to even just think about...

Start where your mind already drifts too. I don't know how often I think about learning to play the guitar, but it's a lot, so onto the list it went. I want to write songs as a fun way to get my writing out there without the pressure of thinking that it has to be seen by anyone else. It'll be something I do for just me and that's both revolutionary and a novelty. 

The one thing everyone should add on their list...

I think, as women (and particularly if you come from a culture where women are historically not raised to be empowered aka where my Latinas at) wanting something never seems like enough of a reason to do it. So, on my list, I added in 4 different variations of the same concept — my wanting something is enough of a reason to do it. This isn't a new concept I've wanted to internalize, but it was the first time I put pen to paper on it.  I won't say I'm suddenly over feeling the need to explain the "why" behind all of my decisions, but I'm trying. I've been working on it in therapy for the last few months, so even writing it down was a step in the right direction. 

Keep the list with you...

My list is folded up and in the back pocket of my wallet. I can't tell you every single thing I wrote on there, but even just the reminder that it's there forces me to take stock of my day, my level of happiness and what I can do to add to it. Sometimes it's a walk, sometimes it's treating myself to my favorite food. 

Life is built on small moments, try to make sure that those moments are ones you actually want your life to be built on.