Prologue to Happiness

Formula for Happiness: being happier requires you to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

… Gretchen Rubin, “The Happiness Project”


If only I could always be this happy

Making sure that my “Happiness Project” starts off on the right foot requires some road-mapping. To decide what resolutions and kind of changes to make, Gretchen Rubin suggests first answering the following questions:

  • What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?
  • What makes you feel bad? What are sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life?
  • Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change your job, city, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?
  • Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what elements of your life do you find progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?

What makes me feel good …

My family and friends are my most precious commodities. Their happiness is a major contributor to my happiness.

On a more egoistic level, the simple things that make my heart flutter include:

  • waking up to sunshine
  • keeping my home neat and clean
  • drinking giant mugs of asian-style milk tea
  • interactions with animals
  • stretching out the sore spots in my neck and back
  • cuddling with my Kafka
  • *edit 2018 seeing my son smile and watching him grow each day

Activities that I find fun are:

  • reading and writing
  • playing and listening to music
  • podcasts
  • photography
  • being outdoors and in nature
  • swimming, Zumba, Pilates and yoga
  • knitting, sketching, DIY crafts
  • rock-climbing
  • *edit 2018 infographics

In a world of more perfection, I would:

  • continuously learn more things
  • not procrastinate
  • complete all my daily tasks
  • work towards specific monthly and yearly goals
  • be more news savvy
  • volunteer in some organization
  • have a clearer career goal and know my place in this world

What makes me feel bad …


I’m impatient by nature, which means that when I don’t get something accomplished right away, I get antsy until it’s done. Which means that I sometimes rush through things. At the same time, I can be an absolute perfectionist and find it difficult to move on in a task until everything is just right. And I procrastinate. A mighty fine combo – NOT. All of this impacts my overall productivity and not being at peak productivity is a consistent source of anxiety and discontent.


In a poignant moment on a ferry from NY to NJ while on my Great American Road Trip back in 2013, it struck me that trying not to be something/not letting something happen is my predominant modus operandi. Sounds pretty dismal, right? I’m also pretty sure that this fear of encountering the negative has set unnecessary limitations in my actions, both big and small.


Although I never forget in the grand scheme of things just how fortunate I am, on a daily basis I forget to count my lucky stars. My lack of gratitude for the everyday hinders my ability to let go of everyday annoyances, and also makes me less forgiving of the actions of those that I love.


For most of my youth, I knew exactly who I wanted to be and what direction my life would take. Though at times I’ve felt like I had lost myself or fallen off track, in many ways, I am who I thought I would become both personally and professionally. However, while I still measure myself up by my achievements (for better or worse), I’ve found that I’ve become far less ambitious in recent years. This lack of a specific grand mission in life is something that I am still trying to understand. Is it good or bad that I no longer have visions of accomplishing great deeds? Research shows that a sense of purpose is very important to happiness – so what exactly is my future place in this world?


Although I have loved every single second of being a new mama, and am extremely grateful that I have the luxury of staying at home and dedicating my time to raising my son, I also have a growing feeling of not being useful in the grand scheme of things. Being a mama has certainly not made me idle. In fact, throughout my pregnancy and after my son’s birth I have grown so much on a personal level, and continue to learn each day. I am proud of the fact that I was able to read all six volumes of In Search of Lost Time (Proust) in 2017, plus several other books to boot! Proud of the fact that I finished Data Camp Certification in my two months post-partum. And proud that I’ve given a lot of thought into what I can do with my career qualifications in a country where my career options are limited and I may have to do something periferal to my original career plans. But without actually having a job, and sharing what I have learned with others, I feel somehow inadequate.

In which ways I don’t feel right about my life …

Seeing as though I’m newly wed, in a new city, with a new job status (read: UAE homemaker with an honarary research associate position at UCL), I’m still trying to wrap my head around just how I feel about my new life. What I do know is that I certainly am not exactly living up to my expectations for myself. This is not only because my current life status has been shaped by circumstance, but also because I am still trying to figure out what my future expectations for myself are. While I am certainly content with my life, there is also a lot of room for growth, and unless I want to remain stagnant, I need to implement some changes in my life. Growing as an individual, because of a conscious effort on my part, rather than as a result of circumstance is what I would like to achieve more in the coming years.

*edit 2018 While I was pregnant with my son I felt an incredible drive to learn more about myself and become a better person. I feel that while my core values have remained constant over the last two years, my central goals are more clear and I am ready to implement them. However, I have not yet accomplished my central goals and so that is what I need to work on!

My sources of an atmosphere of growth …

A key ingredient to happiness is a continuing feeling of growth – a sense of learning, improvement and contribution – and so a major goal of my “Happiness Project” is to identify satisfying projects in which I can make measurable progress.

Areas of life in which I intend to grow include:

  • Work
  • Language (Russian, Mandarin)
  • Hobbies (photography, music)
  • Knowledge
  • Writing

Equally important I think will be to find peers and mentors in each of these areas to help me along my journey of growth.