Don’t Be Happy, Be Fulfilled

A while back I was talking to Dan Blank, a marketing expert who supports a lot of writers. I must have been complaining that some of the tasks I had to do to build an audience —such as having a more constant presence in social media— didn’t make me happy. His response was an eye-opener:

“Happiness is not always the ideal end goal. Last weekend I spent hours cleaning up my garage. It was hard, difficult labor. Was I happy when I finished that I had spent my whole Saturday working? No, but I was fulfilled. Seeing my garage organized felt like a big accomplishment. Sometimes it’s more important to be fulfilled than to be happy.”

The last few days I’ve remembered this statement often, because I am working really hard, and it’s definitely not making me happy.

We are putting our house up for sale mid-June and there are tons of tasks to manage. From last minute repairs and improvements (endless shopping trips and managing contractors), to getting the house ready for showing (moving things to the garage, and therefore emptying the garage of the mountains of flotsam that has accumulated), to packing, to researching the rental market. All of this while trying to do some work for my clients, a little writing, and keeping the daily house chores going.

It’s exhausting and nerve-racking. It’s also sad. We love our house and our neighborhood, but it’s a good time to sell and this move will help us secure our future. It’s a good decision, just not an easy one.

In this arduous process, I’ve come up with a list of seven “truths:”

  1. It’s very easy to acquire things, but it’s very hard to get rid of them. It takes a lot of time and effort to sort them, to donate them (“A Christmas tree stand? We don’t take those now”), to sell them, or to recycle them (different places for electronics, hazardous waste, bulky items, books…).
  2. People rush to get free things, but they will never pay you even a third of what an item cost you. Most of the time, you’re better off just giving stuff away or it will take you forever to get rid of it. And who has forever?
  3. Garages are magnets to dust, spiders, and relics of the past that we should have let go of years ago.
  4. Women do triple the work than men. I don’t mean manual labor. I mean the planning and organizing of hundreds of small errands and chores that wake me up at 5 a.m. every morning while my husband snores happily.
  5. I cannot do everything. Repeat. I cannot do everything. Translation: I’m giving myself permission to not write new essays for the next two months, unless I have a flash of inspiration so strong that I can’t avoid it, or I find myself miraculously with a day off, truly off. And take-out twice a week is acceptable.
  6. Change is difficult and tempers flare up. Perhaps we should come up with a safe word that means, “I know you’re yelling because you’re stressed out and not because you’re terribly mad with me.” Or otherwise agree that we won’t be angry for too long.
  7. We don’t know where we will go next (hence the renting instead of buying). The ideal mindset is not “How scary!” but “What an adventure!”

The list above prompted four conclusions:



(I am not Superwoman. Repeat. I am not Superwoman).



Do you agree with the seven truths above? What has gotten you through the stress of moving or some other big change in your life?

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