Get weekly newsletter updates from Gretchen.

On why undertaking a major project is a good source of happiness.

On why undertaking a major project is a good source of happiness.

I've written before about the massive project I've undertaken with a friend—a book of photographs of our children, modeled after the brilliant J. M. Barrie's one-of-a-kind book, The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island.

It turns out that a multi-step, multi-hassle, multi-errand, time-sucking project like this one brings SO MUCH HAPPINESS!

It's fun to do something fun with a friend—and even better, our children are involved, too. It's always fun to take cool photos of your children, especially when you can dress them in costumes. We have a reason to do things we wouldn't ordinarily bother to do; this morning, we met in the park at 9:30 a.m. It was gorgeous in the park, but in the normal course of life, we would never have been there that early today.

This morning, the Boy Castaways project (as we call it now, because we haven't thought of a title for our book yet) was also an opportunity for me to enjoy the novelty and challenge that are so important to happiness.

Today was a big day, because we were taking the much-anticipated boat shots. We rented two rowboats in Central Park, rowed out to the middle, and took pictures of the children. One of the photos will take its title from my favorite line from Barrie's Boy Castaways: We set out to be wrecked.

The novelty and challenge, for me, arose from the fact that I had to row one of the boats. This is not the kind of thing I would ordinarily be inclined to do at all. I'm very uncoordinated and unadventurous. My friend, on the other hand, was raring to go. She's the type to eat pie for breakfast and encourage her kids to catch turtles—so rowing a boat was no big deal for her.

I'm sure she knew I was dreading the challenge (fact is, novelty and challenge are usually accompanied by fear or frustration), and also knew that I'd be fine if I had to do the rowing, and indeed, once we got out on the water, I LOVED it. "Why haven't we done this before?" I kept thinking. "We could eat a picnic on the water! We could row all around the lake! We have a great view of Bethesday fountain!"

Now, for many people, rowing a boat isn't novel or challenging—but it was for me. I got a burst of happiness from the satisfaction of having tackled my uneasiness and having mastered something new. The fact that it's extremely easy to row a boat on a perfectly calm little lake didn't at all detract from my feelings of triumph.

And the photos! They were unbelievable. A happy morning.

I discovered the Wisdom Journal—a blog about "life, money, business, and the pursuit of balance." Subjects useful to the study of happiness!

New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed.

icon emailNewsletterLight

One Last Thing

Interested in happiness, habits, and human nature?

Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. I share ideas for being happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

icon schooled

Find out if you’re an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or a Rebel.

The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t actOur Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding your Tendency lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.

Take the quiz

Get My Weekly Newsletter

Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. It highlights the best material from here, my Facebook Page, and new original work.