Literary Mood Board: The Happiness of Pursuit

Literary Mood Board: The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Gillebeau

Let’s get right down to business here: this is the book I’ve been waiting for. Exaggeration? Maybe a little, but the timing of this book couldn’t have been any better. Along with my search for how to create more meaning, I’ve been hounded by a constant feeling that I’m preparing for some big shift—by ditching my belongings and gathering my resources, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before I make a leap into something very new and very different.

Chris Guillebeau is the definition of his own movement: the art of nonconformity. His writing focuses mainly on how to make things possible in whatever way you choose—especially when that’s against the status quo. The focus of The Happiness of Pursuit is the quest and people who are driven to take on challenges that seem to be out of the blue and may not make sense to others. From ultra-athletes and culinary adventurers to serial knitters and world travelers, the biggest takeaway from this book is that action kicks off a whole process that can lead to a much richer, more satisfying life. When you take action, that engages your self-knowledge (What do you love? What worries you?). That knowledge helps you move confidently toward what you love, which is when you may start setting some goals for yourself. (Just watch—you'll notice it!) And finally: small goals can turn into larger goals and eventually a life-enriching quest. But what's a quest?

Gillebeau defines it with 5 main points:

  • A quest has a clear goal and a specific end point.
  • A quest presents a clear challenge.
  • A quest requires a sacrifice of some kind.
  • A quest is often driven by a calling or sense of mission.
  • A quest requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal.

If you ever studied the hero's journey in school, the quest will be familiar to you and includes all of the "call to adventure," "road of trials," and "the ultimate boon" elements. This lifestyle appeals to me so incredibly because, frankly, I often wish that life had a much more blantant driving force. I remember leaving the theater after watching Harry Potter on my birthday a few years ago, feeling let down from the mundanity of being stuck in traffic in the "real world." After a couple of intense hours with Hermione and the boys, my own life seemed directionless. This isn't a feeling I get every day, but if I'm honest, I have been feeling adrift for about a year or so. What's the point of these things I'm doing? From each quester's life and behavioral patterns that Gillebeau has picked up on, it sounds like I'm ripe for taking some action—and soon. A quest can begin small and bloom quickly and forcefully into something lifechanging. I'm ready for some of that. Are you?

See last month's literary mood board: Literary Mood Board: What to Read

Are you getting visual with literary mood boards, too? Share your latest read with us! Post a link to them in the comments, share them on Instagram with a #literarymood tag, or tweet 'em with the hashtag.

March on April: March Favorites!

San Francisco colorful peace sign mural

Monday so soon, and time for coffee and digging into the week! Last week, I was in Austin for a fullfullfull week, and I spent most of Saturday flying back, leaving me just Sunday to unpack, unwind, and prep to do it all again (minus the flying part, and plus a whole lotta new stuff coming my way). My best remedy for whirlwind weeks that run into each other is sleep. Get enough. Get a shameful amount of sleep, and do it shamelessly. Also drink your water. LOTS of it. Focus on eating gobs of veggies, fruits, and nuts for clean energy, take a walk every now and then, and stretch all the time. If your weeks are jam-packed and all you want to do is lay on the bed and reread your favorite novel but life won't let you be, don't worry! Things calm down, sooner or later, so power through, take mini breaks (aka hide somewhere quiet and close your eyes and just rest), and cobble together a playlist that'll make you pumped to keep going.

This is a week of change—transition!—for me, into a well of unknown. I'm excited and nervous and (let's face it) tired, but I'm glad for newness. If there's anything that charges me up, it's the start of something. Whatever you're up to this week, get after it, and let's take a flying leap toward the weekend, when we can sink into the lovely ether of nothing pressing to do.

Caio, March, let's meet back here this time next year. ❤!

Lovely Marchy things:

★ Apples with Justin's peanut butter

★ Generosity met with sincere gratitude (foreva)

★ My new lunar map

★ Nail pens—just discovering these. Where have I been, under a rock?!

★ Watching Bored to Death on repeat

★ Ryan, busting out his first half marathon—no sweat!

★ Unabashed yoga sessions on the hotel floor to kick out that "I slept on an airplane" feeling

★ Overhearing compliments about others—and sharing them

★ Releasing the burdensome

These photos of space! Even if you don't read all the info, take a look at the photos just to remind yourself of what an amazing universe we live in

★ Thank-you loops ("Thank you." "No, thank you." "No really, thank you!")

Spiritual Gangster's playlists—nonstop. I really love February Heartbeats and Karma Made Me Do It

★ Peach cobbler tea!

★ Dreaming of building my own little cabin

★ Coming home


Making Meaning: How to Get There

Walking alone along the shore black and white photograph photo by: Kevin Dooley

Winds of change, lovelies. Do you feel it? I’ve been noticing a shift in the past months—like something is coming. In addition to constantly jettisoning my possessions, I’ve also been turning away from my beloved fiction and diving headlong into nonfiction. What’s been calling to me lately has been everything about why we do the things we do, what we can do to enjoy everything more, and how our habits, attitudes, and choices affect our lives and those around us. In short: I’m hungry for a more meaningful life. Can we make more meaning somehow?

I'm constantly amazed at how we perpetually make life more complicated than it needs to be, and how roundabout we go about fixing things. I don't understand why we make choices that go directly against what we actually want. I don't understand how we can be so ignorant of what will really make us happy! I'm as guilty as anyone, and this is part of the reason I'm clearing out my belongings. What I need now is space and simply less to make room for something new. To unburden myself and make movement and growth that much easier. What I need is to move from where I am—a space lacking in understanding and meaning—into meaning that I can share.

My search stems from that lack of understanding. Bookworm that I am, I've fallen into my old habit of researching the hell out of the topic that's rattling around my brain. What I've found is that everyone has an opinion on how to make life better/more successful/better organized/more meaningful. Here’s just a peek at what I’ve been reading (and the sorts of ideas others have about how you should run your life).

You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too, by Tammy Strobel

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

Happier at Home, by Gretchen Rubin

The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, by Norman Doidge, M.D.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home, by Laura Vanderkam

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work, by Shawn Achor

Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change, by Shawn Achor

Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg (I’ll be honest. I couldn’t get past the first few chapters.)

Goodbye Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life, by Crystal Paine

How We Decide, by Johan Lehrer

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg

One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized, by Regina Leeds

Antifragile: Things that Gain From Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Lots of these books answer why questions, talk about simplifying, and strategize on success (because outward success = happiness, right? 😁). I won't say they have all the answers, but they do make you consider their approach and make you ask yourself what you really think. After reading each book, I make note of any interesting ideas in my commonplace book so I can mull over all the points as a whole. For the next while (and hopefully for the rest of my life), I'll be working to cultivate more meaning by using a handful of practices gleaned from these books and my reactions to them. Up first:

Reflect on a happy memory with others.

Through her own self-reflective projects, Gretchen Rubin found four stages of happiness that give her the "most bang for the happiness buck." The final stage is originally just "reflect on a happy memory," but I've also learned that relationships are a major key to adding more meaning (and happiness) to life, so I've added "with others." Incorporating others into life is something that comes easy to many people, but I'll confess: I'm awful about it. In school, I rarely had close friends, and I still have very few friends. Even worse? My abysmal track record for calling my family. Overall, I'm just not great at keeping up relationships, and I'd like to change that and embrace the meaning we can all get from really enjoying the relationships in our lives.

family fun

💞😮 Family photo. Who wouldn't want to spend more time with these two? 😮💞

I'm sure we've all had weddings and career changes and family trips and everyday loveliness in the past year, and while they've likely been met with anticipation and in-the-moment enjoyment, the reflection part of this equation often falls out the bottom and gets lost somewhere. I'm ready to take that part back! We can bring others into this practice by reminiscing with siblings on how much fun we all had at last year's family picnic, writing up and sharing a recap of our favorite moments from that trip to the coast, or sending out a throwback Thursday–type photo to a niece or nephew to bring back how amazing it was to hold them for the first time when they were babies. I've got something up my sleeve to really put this principle into practice, and I'll share it here once I've gotten myself organized.

I'll be honest: I don't know if reflecting on a happy memory with others is a surefire way to bring more meaning into life, but I'm ready to try it and see. Join me?

Summer Travel Reads: Greece!

Beautiful blue water and boat outside colorful Parga, Greece photo by: adam rifkin

Summer, summer, summer, summer. I know you're right there with me! March has only just begun, but that hasn't stopped me from being entirely sidetracked by the idea of morning-fresh, sun-skin, golden-hour summer. As publications ramp up for their summer reads and warm-weather travel recommendations, who can help but be sucked in to the idea?

It's a rare thing for me to fall into the 'summer travel plans' category, but this summer I'm aiming for ancient ruins, shock-blue seas, and neverending feta, feta, fetaaaa! Good travel plans should always involve a bit of pre-reading, so I've been stacking my Wunderlist 'to-read' list with books on Greek culture, history, food, and must-see sites. On my list? Stealing a bit from Rick Steve's recommendations, here we go!

The Iliad book cover

The Iliad I was introduced to Homer and his works in 5th grade, around the time I totally fell for mythology as a whole. I loved the heroic journey and the endless count of characters who streamed thorugh the stories. In 5th grade, we studied the heck out of The Odyssey—but we never touched The Iliad! For shame. It's high time I fix this deplorable situation.

The Odyssey book cover

The Odyssey My 5th grade crush. What can I say? We read an abbreviated version, made our own illustrated books based on our favorite scenes, and I took so hard to the mythology that for quite a while, I wouldn't pick flowers because what if they were actually nymphs?!

The Food and Cooking of Greece: A Classic Mediterranean Cuisine book cover

The Food and Cooking of Greece, A Classic Mediterranean Cuisine: History, Traditions, Ingredients and over 160 Recipes This weekend I made some pretty amazing Greek food, and I'm ready to try some more! I love the simplicity of the flavors and the light, freshness. If you're not keen on feta, tzatziki, and olives... we'd better get you to a doctor because something is wrong here.

It's All Greek to Me: From Homer to the Hippocratic Oath, How Ancient Greece has Shaped Our World book cover

It's All Greek to Me: From Homer to the Hippocratic Oath, How Ancient Greece Has Shaped Our World For the nerd in us all! There honestly is little more that can please me as much as knowing where a certain phrase or idea comes from. As one of the greatest cultures in history, Greece has influenced us mightily, and I can't waaaait to read this and find out more.

Santorini off the coast of Greece

photo by: Antonio Castagna

In addition to those above and all the rest from my reading list that I've not submit you to, I also plan to reread my Edith Hamilton book on Greek mythology, which I received as a gift in 5th grade—solidifying my love for Greek lore.

If you have must-reads for all the Greeky things, let me know in the comments! Fiction, essay, travel guide, experiential descriptions—bring it on. Summer, get here already!

Finding your polaris: February favorites

Happy golden buddha

Coming at you one week late with my list of February favorites and good ones, but no matter! We're on to the third of twelve glorious months of 2015. How do you feel about it? I'll save us my usual "can't believe it!" and say that I'm actually feeling pretty good about heading into March. There's been a bit of life-movement lately, projects coming up, decisions to be made. This was the first year that I set an intention to focus on feeling more expansive, and that focus point has been my Polaris. This "set an intention, not a resolution" mindset is trending right now, sure, but I'm all about it. If you think that's kooky, I call BS on you! Everyone has a way they'd like to feel in their everyday lives—whether it's getting more of that exhilerated rush you get from riding a bike down a steep hill or the calm contentment of a Sunday afternoon with coffee on your couch. Whatever you love feeling or want to feel more of, choose that and set it as your guiding star. From here on out, run any decision by that intention to see if it's a good idea. As long as what you're choosing makes you feel more the way you'd like to, say yes! But enough about that (you can tell that this type of decision-making is going to top February's list!). Let's get on to all the goodness February had to offer :)

★ Making decisions consistent with my new years intention

★ Planning a birthday trip to Greece (if you've visited, you must give me suggestions! What did you love?)

★ Letting go of the "I must have goals" mindset and setting about working on living a good life

★ Scrambled eggs and bagels with tomato slices (my main motivator for getting out of bed. Hah!)

★ Taking the time

★ Books with maps about remote islands

★ Surprise flowers

★ Meandering through all my travel photos from last year (is this real life?)

★ My new(ish) bamboo clothes drying rack. No electricity required, so none used. ❤!

Sleep Cycle! There's something so satisfying in knowing how good your sleep was

★ Patxi's pizza mmmmmmm

★ Parks & Rec. I will never get enough of Lesley Knope.

★ Making secret surprises

★ The baby hummingbird being nursed next door

★ Leaning hard into what makes me happy—so I can spread that happiness to others

★ Meditation all month!

★ Not having a coffee table (more room to stretch out!)

★ Great coffee (Always. Forever.)

What's good with you? Share share share alike down in the comments. Now off with you, into that March glow!

Dear Books: Cease and Desist, Please

epic crescent moon with planet

Dear books,

You know I love you, but it's too much. We've been spending too much time together, and I really want to see other parts of my life. I really don't want to hurt you—you've always been there for me, and we've had some great times. Remember this past Saturday, when I kept thinking "It's so nice outside, I should really go for a run in the park, or get a coffee and take a walk on the beach, or I should make one of the million recipes I've saved to Instapaper," but instead, you and I spent nearly 6 uninterrupted hours on the couch? That was fun. But I'm still kicking myself for wasting half my weekend with you. It's really not your fault, though. It's mine. You're a great pastime, but I think it's time we start seeing other people. This obsession I have with you is just... well, it's unhealthy. When I should be working or writing or spending some time outdoors, I'm seeking you out and spending waaaaay more time with you than is good for me. I just need some space. I'm not saying it's over, I'm just saying that we need to pace ourselves. I need some more variety in my life. It's not you, it's me.

I hope we can still be friends.

Happy weekend!

Bud vase with pink flower sprigs

I'm out, enjoying another long weekend. See you next week! ❤!

Make It For Yourself

Adveture jeep black and white rocky mountain pass

photo by: Frontierofficial

After last week’s indecisiveness over what to read, I settled in with something I’ve read before and that isn’t even on my shelf. I first read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project about a year ago, and while what the book discusses isn’t extraordinarily revelatory, the main takeaway of mindfulness towards happiness has stuck with me. Rubin makes resolutions each month, and along the way she also adds to a list of her own personal 12 commandments. Among them are “Act the way I want to feel,” “Spend out,” “Enjoy the process,” and the like. After reading her list and the way her commandments pop into her mind at opportune times, I’ve realized that we all probably have our own unspoken rules—things we know to be true for ourselves (but not necessarily for other people) and our own best approaches to life.

One of my own commandments that has been rattling around in my brain for a while is “Make it for yourself.” Everyone on the internet—myself included—has gotten to the point of discussing the need for more simplicity, less technology, etcetera etcetera. There’s a nostalgia (present in every generation, if we’re honest) for something that feels more… significant. More real. Closer to home. And for me, that’s starting to mean taking more time for projects solely for my own enjoyment.

Make it for yourself.

It’s taken me a while to realize that sometimes, we need to do things solely for our own satisfaction. The idea of documenting life in all its forms has slowly crept up on me, and I love the thought of having notebooks full of observations and accounts of my life, photos recounting both the exciting and the mundane—overall, the way that shining a light on something immediately renders it more special. But why do this? Am I planning to publish these accounts? Share them with the world? Foist them on my nieces and nephews? No. This is something I want to do solely for the pleasure it brings me—whether anyone else is interested is beside the point, which makes it all the more lovely to me.

Make it for yourself is more than that, though. It’s a realization that everything I see that I want in my life, I can get, if I make it for myself. It’s not just about making the art for my apartment, or hand-crocheting every throw blanket on my couch. It’s about realizing the individual power accessible to each of us that makes everything possible. Do I want more adventure, wish I could figure out how to make a latte, need more feelings of freedom, find myself looking at pictures of climbers on the Dawn Wall and wanting so badly to be out in the wilderness? Great—take stock, gather your materials, get a rough plan, and get after it. Make it for yourself. If you want it, you can have it.

I’m so intrigued by these personal commandments and am ever on the lookout for my own to reveal themselves. Do you have unspoken commandments that keep your life on the rails?

Literary Mood Board: What to read?!

Great books

You've caught me in between books! Evaluating my bookshelves has given me a lot to choose from, and since I'm still deciding what to keep and what to swap, I'm having a hard time choosing! There's a small pile that's been growing over the past few weeks, and those books will be headed to Dog Eared Books once I'm ready to give them the heave-ho.

(In case you're worried that I'm ditching books left and right without a second thought, you may want to read Doing the Unthinkable: Decluttering Our Bookshelves.)

Top of my list are a whole bunch of books I've not read in ages. In order of likelihood to be read first:

Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros

Under the Black Flag, by David Cordingly

Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins

The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

I, Elizabeth, by Rosalind Miles

Sophie's World, By Jostein Gaarder

Going Bovine, by Libba Bray

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory

Even as I look at this list, it's likely that I'll keep a few! What're you reading now? I'm ready to rack up some credit at the bookstore and jump into something new and awesome!