Check out my happiness-project movie! A one-minute story about — what else? — how I learned to be happier.

I’m very excited.

Today, my internet movie, The Years Are Short, launched!

I hesitated to do this movie. Then I remembered all my resolutions: “Push myself,” “Try something new,” and “Enjoy the fun of failure” (well, actually, I hope that one won’t come into play).

I remembered my Secret of Adulthood: “It’s okay to ask for help.”

As always, novelty and challenge can be intimidating — but, just as the happiness researchers tell us, they give big boosts of happiness. Now that the movie is finished and out in the world, I’m very happy, even though I felt frustrated and anxious at various times along the way.

The fact is, whenever I stick to my happiness resolutions, I do make myself happier. I remind myself of that every day.

The story is a true story about something that happened to me as a parent. The title, The Years Are Short, comes from the phrase that I constantly invoke: The days are long, but the years are short.

I hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think. If you like the movie, please pass the link along to anyone else who might like it, too.

And if you’re visiting this blog for the first time, after having seen the movie, welcome!

New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Gretchen, I love your movie. It is so touching. I definitely had tears in my eyes as it finished. The words, images, and larger thoughts are so lovely. You did a terrific job.

  • Just beautiful!
    Thank you so much!!!

  • Hunter Johnson

    I sent the link around to my wife and some other parents and work-with-kids types. Thanks for launching it.

  • The movie was very nice, but the overexposed picture of you at the landing page made me think: “Oh shit! A vampire!” 🙂

  • Rob

    As the father of two young girls – I can relate. I often find myself squandering the time – waiting impatiently when I should be enjoying the time with my girls. This nearly brought tears to my eyes.
    Thanks for the reminder!!!

  • The movie is beautiful; it brought tears to my eyes. As a mom of two teens, I know all too well how quickly the years go by. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Sharyn

    For me, you captured the feel of the meaning of the title very well. I can’t help but wonder how someone who has never had children relates to it.
    It also makes me wonder, how much of life do we only see in the rear view mirror?

  • That was lovely.

  • That was lovely.

  • Dori

    Gretchen, I just learned about you and your site this morning. I watched the bus trip video and have to tell you – I remember taking bus trips with my own mom and younger brother. I loved those trips so much. It is so wonderful how children appreciate the litte things in life. I truly remember those little things and quite frankly, I still appreciate the little things. This being in large part due to my mom who taught me to do so.
    She passed away years ago but I thank you for bringing back these great memories.

  • Sherry

    This is my first time commenting, but I’ve been following your blog for a bit now. I adored the movie! It made my eyes well up. Great job!

  • Nancy

    Lovely movie!
    I’ll chime in here with a variation: My only child is now 20 and studying in Ireland for a semester. When she invited me to visit her and travel with her during her spring break, I balked — too expensive, not a good time to take a week off from work, all the grown-up reasons to be practical. I gave in to the fun of it all, and now I am so excited to be looking forward to our visit in seven weeks! It made my heart glad to hear her happiness at my plans to visit.
    Moral of this story: The “bus” may change in scale and scope, but the “time” is still the “time.”

  • Ella

    That made me cry.

  • This is so lovely, charming and moving. The music is a big part of the weepiness effect. Music is such a powerful thing. But the scenes of New York seem moving too – it’s all about love, isn’t it, for one’s home and experiences and everything in life, not just one’s family.
    Thanks- thought-provoking indeed.

  • J

    really well done. congrats!
    I will keep that little saying as a mantra now.
    it’ll help me stay present in my life.
    thank you.

  • Daria

    Nice touch about appreciating the now. They years
    they do pass quickly.
    Only thought – why did you use stock footage? I mean
    it’s your story – universal that it could be. Why not
    take some photos yourself? Otherwise it has that
    kind of muzacki – hallmarki card feeling of
    detached otherness.

  • Amy

    Loved the movie, but the sentiments more. Yes, it’s so valuable to push yourself and try something new. My daughter is graduating from college in June. And as she prepares to go I remember all the “bus rides.”

  • Hello, Gretchen
    I recieved a copy of your video from Scott Stratten.
    It’s beautiful.
    Have you heard of “The Happiness Club.”
    They have a new chapter in Manhattan.
    I have yet to make a meeting, but I’m
    hoping next month I will be able to.
    Mike in Fort Lee, NJ
    Writer of inspirational and motivational stories.
    Editor of Hearts and Humor newsletter

  • An old mother

    As a mother whose youngest is a very surly 16, your movie broke my heart for my lack of realization of your very point when my kids were smaller; when they wanted my company.
    I’ve not been happy. Nor a very good parent, although I’ve had some stellar moments. My children know they’re loved, but realize their dad has enjoyed them more.
    This breaks me in two, but shows me I need a happiness regime to begin, or all will be regret.

  • Thanks so much for these wonderful comments — I’m glad the movie resonated with so many people.
    It’s a very interesting aspect of happiness, that it’s often understood best in hindsight — when it’s too late.
    Schopenhauer has a beautiful passage about this: “But we live through the fine days without noticing them; only when we fall on evil ones do we wish to have back the former. With sour faces we let a thousand bright and pleasant hours slip by unenjoyed and afterwards vainly sigh for their return when times are trying and depressing. Instead of this, we should cherish every present moment that is bearable, even the most ordinary, which with such indifference we now let slip by, and even with impatience push on.”

  • I loved everything about your movie – it is stunning!!! I too, am from New York. You have brought tears to my eyes.

  • Julie

    That was beautiful. I’m going to try to remember this when I have kids, some day in the not-too-distant future (hopefully).

  • Gretchen,
    I’m a product of 40’s/50’s two parental suburbia, so have no first hand experience as to the wonderment of your daughters life.
    Thanks to your video, I got to share it.
    Never too late to be happy, again!

  • Gretchen, I loved this. It is brilliant. I’m really proud of you. I’m kvelling.
    Erik (above), sometimes it’s okay just to keep it inside. You know?

  • LauraBeth

    Gretchen, I was very touched by your internet movie. It is wonderful that you realize the importance of being “with” your children before they don’t want to be with you any more.
    Beautiful words, thoughts, music, photos, and inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

  • Gretchen, great video. It’s so important that you pointed out that not only is this your daughter’s childhood, but also your chance to enjoy her as a child. As a mother of grown children I can tell you I never regret the time I spent with my children but I do regret the time I was distracted or impatient. My daughter is now 26, but I can still see the 6 year old in her face.

  • I, too, cried. And I’m happy about that. Thank you.

  • That was really beautiful, Gretchen. The story, and the photos…all of it. 🙂

  • Beautiful movie, I loved it. Thank you.

  • “If its ‘in’ the way, it ‘is’ the way.”

  • Thanks, Gretchen – I’m glad you took that risk. I bet every parent can relate. My kids are young now and I do find myself looking forward to “breaks” from them. Until I remember that this time is really just a tiny portion of my life and it will be past only too soon.

  • “If it’s in the way, it is the way.”
    Let me share some of my happiness notes here.

  • • Ask myself- are my intentions fear/shame based or love based?
    • How would it feel to `just be’ instead of `do’?
    • No mistakes, only lessons/experience. Observe vs. judge.
    • What do you want? – We do not know what we want when we get hung up on perfectionism.
    • Separate being from doing. Detach & Observe. The Holy Ghost is
    a `witness’ vs. `judge’
    • Deep belly breathing, and a book called `The power of Now’ by
    Eckhart Tolle, help improve the quality of prayer, by grounding us in
    the present moment where there is stillness and peace. So that prayer
    does not become so obsessive/compulsive. We only need to ask once. The
    future is about fear, the past is about shame, there is power in the
    present. Step outside of the brain/ego to ‘observe’ what we are feeling/experiencing in the heart. Do not judge, only witness. (father/judge, son/mediator, holy ghost/witness- the tree of life- heart, might, mind, soul)

  • If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules
    by Cherie Carter-Scott
    Life Lessons- When Cherie was 12 they lost everything in a house fire. Her mother held her and told Cherie “we cannot lose what matters.” 1.What matters stays. 2. What are your life lessons/themes? 3. No mistakes, only lessons. 4. Observation vs. judgment. 5. What do you want? – We do not know what we want when we get hung up on perfectionism.
    • What is your favorite life lesson?
    • What seed or lesson from the past have you forgotten?
    • Have you embraced and learned from adversity?
    • What areas of your life can you be less than perfect?
    • Can you simply observe a mistake without judging it?

  • The 12 Gateways to Human Potential & Self-sabotage
    by Dan Millman- the Peaceful Warrior
    Deserve- Look in the mirror and say “How good can I stand it today” and that is what you’ll get. Behave as if you are `worth it’ and say `thank you’. Self-worth is not self-esteem, not self confidence that goes up
    and down. Breath- Relax- Elegance
    • How does your self-worth feel?
    • How many times a day do you sabotage yourself?
    • Where does taming your mind occur the most?
    • Do you understand how to tame your thoughts anywhere, anytime?
    • Ask yourself- Am I breathing, relaxing with elegance and refinement?

  • Understanding Stillness- The Power of Now
    by Echart Tolle
    Open your hand, close your eyes, and ask this question. How do I know that my hand is there? In the answer you have now gone from `thinking’to `sensing’. Consciousness without thought/ego. Now very alert and
    aware, quickened reflexes, you can perceive nature, the sacred. Breath
    • What is stillness or presence?
    • How do we bring stillness into our perception?
    • What does it take to put our busy minds on hold?
    • Where in nature have you enjoyed stillness?
    • How does it feel to `just be’ instead of doing?
    • How do you manage your thoughts?

  • Insights on A Course in Miracles- Who are we?
    by David Hoffmeister
    What are the attributes of God/child of God? Kingdom of heaven is at hand, here Now. Journey an illusion. Separate being from doing. Detach from judgment, surrender, absolution is joy. Ask myself- are my intentions fear based or love based?
    • Are we more than egos?
    • Can we choose to be pure love?
    • Have you had a wakeup call?
    • Why is it so hard to give up old ideas?
    • Can we really decide to stop judging everything?

  • Laughing at Ourselves
    by Loretta LaRoche
    Humor- why do we have to advocate something that is inherent? Laughter. See the absurdity and laugh. Stop manipulation and control with `Dialogue’ and laugh at yourself and each other. (not sarcasm)
    • In what ways do we use humor as a coping mechanism?
    • What can we learn from children as to why they laugh so easily &
    • How many times a day do you burst out laughing at something you did?
    • How much laughing or humor occurs in your relationship with others?
    • What is stopping us from seeing life with humor in mind?

  • The Art of Advanced Forgiveness
    by Gary Renard
    The `miracle’ is forgiveness. Forgiveness is for `me’. Letting `myself’off the hook. Don’t deal with the effect. Make a decision. Either judge or forgive. Forgiveness is Silent (no boast) The Holy Ghost is a `witness’ vs. `judge’
    • How does it make you really feel inside to forgive yourself?
    • How do you benefit by forgiving others in your life?
    • Why do you think it is hard to forgive someone when you have been
    hurt? What lessons learned?
    • How does it feel to consistently be at peace with yourself all day?
    • Does it make sense to you if we are not forgiving we are judging?

  • I took those notes from a DVD called ‘The Spirit of Adventure’.

  • The Myth of Perfectionism
    by Dr. John Lund
    Unrealistic Expectations: The Platonic Ideal- Plato did a number on us [the western civilization]. He introduced the notion of ‘Dualism’- separating physical and spiritual. Polarizing and demonizing “corrupt” material from “perfect” spiritual ideals.
    President Gordon B. Hinckley has said that is inherently a pessimistic doctrine and incorrect. Yet a lot of people have bought
    into this “platonic ideal” that if something is not absolutely “perfect” then we are not good enough. Catholics and Jews
    wrestled with `Hellenism’, a philosophical foundation of the Greeks. Greeks worked hard to convert the Jews. They set up 10 cities east of Galilee called the Copulas and two universities. The reactionary
    group, the orthodox Jews in opposition to this came up with 613 commandments. Catholics have the 7 sacraments to transcend ‘corrupt’ mortality into the ‘ideal’ world of God. Protestants said this is a gap no man can cross. We will have to rely on grace vs. works. The
    Prophet Joseph Smith revealed there is no dualism. It is a single. “As man is God once was. As God is man may become.” “Even
    spirit is ‘material’, just more refined matter in nature.” “We are not traditional platonic Christians.”
    There are those in the church who still want to adhere to a platonic ideal. They set up an impossible standard that neither they nor anyone else can live up to. It makes us vulnerable. Perfectionism
    afflicts the church. Frustration comes from disappointment. Unrealistic ideals rob us of ability to focus..on this season of life.
    “Let her alone. Her sins, which are many, are forgiven becouse she loved much, and did what she could.”

  • For your collection:
    “Don’t worship ideals.” lol

  • That was fantastic. As a new father (she’s 15 weeks old) you’ve given me something to refer back to over the years to remind myself to be present. Don’t take it down once the book is out 😉

  • Tung

    Long time reader, first time comment. Gretchen, your movie really hit home. Thanks for taking the time to “push yourself.” I hope it’s the first of many. 🙂

  • Beautiful. Hope you don’t mind if I link to it from my blog today. I love what you are doing and keep up to date via your feeds. Thankyou.

  • Joy

    Beautiful. Thank you. Like so many others, it brought memories to me about trips when the kids were little, and makes me so happy about how we getting along now, with dinner at the table nearly every night, and everyone reluctant to get up after the meal is over because we’re enjoying each other so much.
    What was the music? I think I’d like to get some of that for those days when I’m really in the moment.

  • This was completely beautiful.
    It stopped me short for a while.

  • kt4d1414

    thank you! beautiful!

  • vanessa

    Just writing from Paris
    I think it was a pretty good movie.
    thanks for it and making us conscious about the value of life and time spent altogether

  • Suze

    That was sweet! I am passing it along to everyone

  • Holly

    Gretchen, this made my day! Lovely little movie + a mini trip to NYC.

  • Thank you for this, Gretchen. xx

  • delia

    well done, gretch. loved it! dels

  • Karen

    Thnx Gretchen, it’s lovely. I cried. Every day I struggle with slowing down, I am raising two kids of my own and also work in a very demanding full time job. I ALWAYS feel, no matter what I’m doing, like I should be doing something else. Especially when it comes to my kids, I am trying to live in the moment and savour it, because it passes too frighteningly fast. Thnx for sharing this.

  • Rhonda

    Beautiful and so true. A message all new parents should hear. Thanks for sharing.

  • Karen

    I forwarded it to everyone! Thanks for sharing such a personal, yet universal, story. Definitely a two-hanky movie!

  • Gretchen, I’m not sure if I can blame the music or the simple fact that I’m emotional (tears flow more easily since I gave birth to my son three years ago). I was crying before the end … and yes, it’s the sentiment, the TRUTH, that should make all of us realize that the undercurrent of time is swift. It’s easy to wish away the “dull” moments or rush through one “task” to get to another, “better” one … but it is precisely those moments and daily tasks that make up part of the true chorus of our lives. And also, none of us has a guarantee of a “long life.” We must embrace each moment, each task — and may we remember (and remind ourselves; be proactive and deliberate about it!) most of all to embrace those individuals most dear to us.

  • LK

    Gretchen, Your movie reminded me of the Buddhist parable that ends with the idea, “The glass is already broken.” It’s about taking advantage of the present moment, which your movie beautifully embodies. Thanks! Love your blog.

  • sriyani

    This made me rather concious to go back to my past ,Which I mean a few years back.It(Movie) gave me some pleasent emotional feeling.It is easy to understand Every tiny action has it’s own beauty.It depends on the way we look at it.Thanks Gren!Go Ahead! Here are ,My heart felt blessings..

  • Your movie is wonderful, Gretchen, it touched me deeply. The pictures and the music are just as beautiful as the words. This is really a gift.

  • Ester

    A very emotional and universal story!

  • JimB

    This is very touching. You did an incredible job and make me grateful for everything my mum did to try and “ride the bus” with me, even when times were tough as a child.
    Congratulations on putting this out there.

  • Mary

    I loved your movie and daily blog, to which I subscribe. Thank you!!! You have very wonderful, creative ideas.

  • Gretchen
    Would it be OK if I shared a story of mine in here. It’s probably the shortest life story in history.
    I was a widower at 44 and found love again.
    There is hope for those who lose a spouse.

  • M.

    I live a very different life from you, I don’t have a child and we are (very) far from having the same aesthetic sense….but it hit me…
    and I don’t cry much these days…
    thank you

  • I got a link to this from my co-worker over IM. I started to watch. I almost cried at work!
    As a new Dad, this really hit a chord.
    Thank you.

  • Very poignant, it is hard to live in the moment. Wonderful photos.

  • Thanks for the movie! They do grow up so fast. But it’s worth it.
    My little girl is in college now, and made this for me last Father’s Day.

  • Cecily T

    Wow. I loved it! I’m proud of you for getting in there with the video tech and doing it. I have a six-month-old and your saying is sooo true. I try not to wish away all the naptime/night-time rituals, but sometimes I do (like when I wanted to watch the premier of Lost!). I shared it with all my girlfriends on my online mommy thread.

  • Ben

    Beautiful, thank you. I cried, my wife cried more, and my little girl demanded to know a hundred times, WHAT IS THAT?
    Another sometime-lawyer trying to be happy,

  • I love the video. It would be nice to know what the music is though, and I don’t see this information listed anywhere. Not in the video, and not on the web page. Thanks for sharing.

  • Wow. I was amazed that having read your blog for several months now and having seen multiple posts about the phrase that the movie still made me cry. Thank you and keep up the great work, because your message is so important.

  • John Bullock

    As a father who gets to ride the bus to school with my son everyday (because I am a teacher at his school) I am constantly aware when the bus leaves and the other parents are waving goodbye exactly how lucky I am. I am very happy for you for waking up to this reality of parenthood, and more importantly that your movie might wake up others. I mean, this blog is about Happiness right? So I wonder how much happiness you just spread to parents who read this blog and of course their children. Beautiful work. Thanks.
    PS (not a failure at all)

  • Gretchen, do you know the exact source of the Schopenhauer quotation? I Googled it but didn’t come up with anything. I’d like to read the rest of text. Thanks!

  • My father in law forwarded “The Years are Short” to me, and I wanted to tell you how touched I was by your movie. You brought me to tears. It’s especially poignant and bittersweet, as I read it while nursing my baby, my fourth child, knowing that this is the last baby I will ever bring to my breast.
    Thank you for a beautiful reminder to savor each moment.

  • Tears in my eyes, too.

  • Javier Cassio

    Your movie touched something inside me and trying to identify it I came to the conclusion that happiness could be in some unexpected places. Namely, the small things we have to do on a given day without paying enough attention to them.
    Being an Spanish speaker Am I allowed to post a translation of my comment?
    Su película tocó algo dentro de mi y al intentar identificarlo llegué a la conclusión de que la felicidad puede estar en algunos lugares inesperados. Es decir, las pequeñas cosas que usualmente tenemos que hacer a diario sin poner demasiada atención en ellas.
    Greetings – I love the title of your web-page, I am eager to buy your book. Thanks.