Looking Forward — Taking Control of Your Happiness

by Katy on November 30, 2011 · 52 comments

Although my life is fine and dandy at the moment, such is not the case for a surprisingly large number of my loved ones. Cars are crashing, jobs are causing undue stress and relationships are coming to an end.

I recently had a conversation with a friend, who was a victim of a hit and run accident about how she needs to plan things in her life to look forward to. I’m not sure if my message got through to her, as my words were more of an aside than a thesis statement. But I truly believe in this happiness method, as not only is it recommended by Happiness Guru Gretchen Rubin, but has definitely rung true in my own life.

On her blog, The Happiness Project, Rubin explains how having something to look forward to is a key component to a happy life:

“Anticipation is a key stage; by having something to look forward to, no matter what your circumstances, you bring happiness into your life well before the event actually takes place. In fact, sometimes the happiness in anticipation is greater than the happiness actually experienced in the moment – that’s known as “rosy prospection.”

Everyone should be able to pull out a calendar and see at least a few fun things scheduled in the future weeks.

If your life is a parade of obligations, dreaded tasks, horrible encounters, and mandatory appearances, take a minute to figure out something that YOU would find fun, and make time for it. And don’t forget — just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t make it fun for you.”

In a world where our days are filled with obligatory tasks, and making sure everyone else is okay, it can difficult to prioritize our own happiness. And I am certainly just as guilty of having nothing fun on my calendar as anyone else.

Finding something to look forwards to does not have to be an expensive endeavor. Sure, a trip to Fiji in the dead of winter definitely goes under the category of I-can-look-forward-to-that, but it can be something as simple as a planned walk with a friend or a trip across town to a special library. (Can you tell that I’m using myself as an example?)

So in this time of holiday (and regular daily) stress, I give to you this chore:

Today, plan something to look forward to.

And when you do, please share it in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn November 30, 2011 at 7:59 am

This is very nice, Katy! I found your blog through Gretchen Rubin.


Katy November 30, 2011 at 8:09 am

I got a record number of hits the day she ran her interview with me.



Alison November 30, 2011 at 8:07 am

I look forward to your blog posts!


Alyssa November 30, 2011 at 8:20 am

I look forward to my hula class tonight! Aloha!


Laura November 30, 2011 at 8:21 am

I just completed a job application process and needed to contact some former colleagues to ask if they would be references. I now have four upcoming dates for coffee with friends to look forward to so we can catch up (and as an added bonus I got the job!).


Maggie November 30, 2011 at 8:23 am

I’m planning a dinner out with female friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances. I started the monthly dinners last month. It was so fun to get out of the house without my husband and baby in tow! 🙂


Dogs or Dollars November 30, 2011 at 8:25 am

A great reminder. Now I need to go review my calendar and question what scheduled events am I truly looking forward to and which ones are just an obligation…??


Jenny November 30, 2011 at 8:27 am

Thanks! I totally just told my husband I would go on a work trip with him that coincides with our anniversary. Yesterday I had told him no because of all the work I need to do, money, etc. Now I have something to look forward to!


Samantha November 30, 2011 at 8:28 am

This was something that really rang true with me when I read “The Happiness Project.” I have 3 small children so sometimes my thing to look forward to is a cup of tea when the kids go down for naps. Looking forward to the little things makes life much happier 🙂


Juhli November 30, 2011 at 8:34 am

I agree so much with this! We are looking forward to seeing the Rose Parade in person with my son and his sweetie.


Becky November 30, 2011 at 8:37 am

The thing I look forward to the most is a weekend day with nothing scheduled and a fun book in the reading queue. Sheer bliss.

With the holidays coming up, I totally need to schedule one or maybe two of these. Thanks for the reminder!


gabrielle November 30, 2011 at 8:53 am

My sister and I started a monthly “soup night” where we get together and make a bunch of soup, just the two of us. It’s fun time together, plus we both get a freezer full of soup.

That’s tomorrow, and I’ve been looking forward to it since the last one. 🙂


Julie November 30, 2011 at 9:18 am

Each month a nearby college observatory hosts a free night to come look through their telescope. There’s a short educational program, and local enthusiasts set up their own telescopes outside, focused on different things. We’ll bundle up, take hot chocolate and enjoy!


That Other Jean November 30, 2011 at 9:31 am

That would be the evenings every month or so at our regional theater, thanks to the season tickets my husband and I give to each other every Christmas.


Linda in Indiana November 30, 2011 at 9:39 am

You are so right –as Usual:)! On my calendar now is a special meal out with my husband to celebrate our anniversary! Making Christmas gifts for people I love–really enjoy that! Next week my best friend and I will go have our haircut at the same time and then go to the consignment shop—-we schedule this at the same time, as she lives 25 miles away and this works for us to get together every six weeks!
I have found in life, you have to be the Master of your time or you are the Master of your Disaster:) and not too nice to be with! Love you, Katy—you always make my day!


jen November 30, 2011 at 9:44 am

Perfect timing for this post! Today I am taking my first “me day” since my 11-month-old was born. The time spent looking forward to today since it was planned a few days ago was almost as good as the day has been so far. This morning I got a hair cut, I’m soon headed out for some much-needed new shoes and used clothes, and while driving back and forth I’ve been signing Christmas carols at the top of my lungs in my car…not to mention I got to sleep a little extra this morning and dreamt of Johnny Depp making breakfast for me in my kitchen. Hell yeah!!


Katy November 30, 2011 at 10:03 am

The only problem with Johnny Depp making your breakfast are the cigarette butts in the food.



jen November 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Ah, but in my dream he didn’t smoke. Guess that’s the perks of being the dreamer! 🙂


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary December 1, 2011 at 7:35 am

Johnny Depp in my kitchen would make my day for sure, even without the breakfast part!


Jo@simplybeingmum February 29, 2012 at 1:52 am

I’ll take Johnny with or without butts – no problem…


Jenni November 30, 2011 at 10:21 am

A great reminder. I had the joyous experience of getting together with many sets of friends and family over the past month. The process of arranging the outing, anticipating the event and then getting to the actual day was so enjoyable. I’m dedicated to organizing a monthly tete a tete with friends in town (I live pretty far out of PDX).


Jo November 30, 2011 at 11:01 am

Gretchen Rubin is so right about anticipation of events, in my opinion. I’m glad you referenced her here. Your advice is wise.

My thing to look forward to is chat dates with my friends/family: coffee and chat, lunch and chat, walk and chat, phone and chat. I set up as many of these as I feel I need to keep my life on the “happy” side of life’s teeter-totter. I also make sure to have time to read every day. It was hard to do this when our kids were young, and I found that time quite stressful. It’s something I’m grateful I have time for, now, in spite of missing my adult children after they moved out.


Claudia November 30, 2011 at 11:18 am

So true! I’m looking forward to a burger date with the hubby, AND stretching my diet a little and getting a shake!


Jana November 30, 2011 at 11:34 am

I look forward to putting my cupcake decorating skills to use and making cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday party. I love being able to give her those memories and not wasting the skills I learned in my cake decorating class!


Kayla K November 30, 2011 at 11:41 am

I am getting a haircut this weekend and will pick up a latte on my way there!


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi November 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I’m looking forward to getting rid of the sofa we’ve always hated!

As for doing things, there are about 0 things I could do that we could afford, especially on a regular basis. Thus, the need for Netflix. One of these days, I’ll actually have things to look forward to.

Kids going to college? That about tops my list right now!


Robin November 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm

I’m looking forward to getting our Christmas tree on Sunday. We are going to let my 20 month old pick it out 🙂 then decorations, carols, hot chocolate and fingers crossed he doesn’t try and climb the tree or knock it over 🙂


kj wuest November 30, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Glad to have found you–by way of @BecomingOKeeffe–I’m a big letter writer and one thing led to another and I found you. I smiled at today’s post because I have been talking with friends about doing Gretchen’s book together starting in January. I’ll check out the interview she did with you. Great to find your website. I”ll be sharing it!


Jeana November 30, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I’ve been planning our Christmas dinner since Thanksgiving dinner was over. I think I was still digesting the ham and potatoes when I started thinking about what I want to serve at Christmas. We will have a full house this year and I am very excited about that!


Karen November 30, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I look forward to 10:30 on Saturday when the School Fundraising auction event is officially over and I don’t have to think about all the things I need to do!


marianne November 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm

i believe more that we should find happiness in everything that we are doing now. on the outside, my life may look sad. i own my own business which means i work constantly. add on that it is based out of my home taking care of other peoples pets means we literally work 356 days a year straight. every day we are up at 5 to let dogs out, playing and caring for them all day long up till 9pm at night till we put them to bed Mon-Sun. but i dont see it like that. I see the sunrise every morning. I get to enjoy the seasons to their fullest. i have time to read, play with my dogs as well as other peoples, and work side by side with my husband. yes, many of you are cringing at the thought of working all day long with your spouse, but i have chosen to think of it as a blessing. when we are old and grey we can say we have never missed out on spending time together because we were at seperate jobs. so at every dinner take time to think about what you are thankful for and what the best part of your day was, in case there is nothing to look forward to on the horizon, but tomorrows sunrise. =)


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary December 1, 2011 at 7:33 am

During a particularly low point in my life several years ago, I hit upon the genius of James Taylor, “the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” Using these words as a mantra, I slowly changed my focus from tired, stressed, rushed to engaged, joyful, smiling. I stopped rushing to the next responsiblity (as much) and enjoyed the walk home, the feel of my daughter’s hand in mine, and the like. Rather than waiting for the moment I could sit quietly, I made an effort to enjoy the day. Maybe that little mantra seems silly, but it made a huge difference to me and helped me completely change my focus.

That said, I don’t think the two ideas are incompatible. Anticipating something fun coming up is wonderful! I’m looking forward to having friends over for dinner tomorrow and seeing a play on Saturday. 🙂


Madeline November 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I LOVE library dates with my husband. Have one tomorrow!!! A simple but very FUN THING for me in the midst of busy weeks. I also planned a girlfriend getaway for April so that’s a good “look ahead and rejoice” event too.

I agree.. we need to take time to just BLISS OUT ..

Lately, I have gotten bad news about sick friends, I have a sick pet, I have some work stress..just like everyone else, much to contend with, but I do believe happiness is a choice and is available in any small moment.We have to invite it in..


Happy holidays…


Madeline November 30, 2011 at 4:52 pm

P.S. that thing about “Johnny Depp making breakfast for me in my kitchen”– that would work too!!!!!!!!!!!!


AnnW November 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm

You are 100% right about this. I had forgotten about this recently. I just started reading the Betty MacDonald books, the Egg and I and have a few more to look forward to. I also got a kick out of Black Friday, by finding out that Saks was going to discontinue a line of handbags. Now I have two and won’t need any for the next 6 to 8 years. I look forward to reading your post at the end of every day to see what you are going to say. I have signed up for Starbucks on my iPhone. After 5 visits, I can get free milk and syrups, so an iced coffee will be closer to $1 than $3.75. I need them when I go to visit my mother in Florida in the nursing home.


Practical Parsimony November 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Katy, I have never heard of The Happiness Project, but I wholeheartedly agree with your post today. I think it may be the best post of yours that I have read.

I was taught to always be hopeful. I don’t know how my mother did it, but she filled me with the ability to hope and enjoy. In my life I have had a horrid event with long-lasting repercussions that plague me to this day. You may know of what I speak.

Anyway, I had known someone for two years and had not told her of the then-recent event. When I told her, she was dumbfounded and asked me, “How can you be so happy all the time?” I responded without thinking, “I am often not happy, just cheerful.” That attitude has served me well for the last 30 years. Daily, I find something to look forward to, even if it is mundane to everyone else. I think it keeps me sane, or at least off anti-depressants. No, I am not manic happy. I look forward to the surprises my hens cause in my heart everyday.

What do I have to look forward to?
1)I acquired a new camera for free on Black Friday. I am looking forward to picking it up at the PO tomorrow and being able to take pictures. My camera broke last week and I had enough Swagbucks to get another.
2) My printer tore up the first of November. I acquired a free one from Office Max on Black Friday, finally had someone here who could bring it in from the car and replace the old one with the new one. I am looking forward to someone coming tonight or tomorrow and getting it up and running. I can do this, but my shoulder, knee and back sort of won’t cooperate. This new one is Kodak, wireless, and 4-in-one.
3)I am looking forward next week to having the first of three surgeries to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. (a bit fearful)
4) I am looking forward to weight loss as my new weight-loss partner and I weighed last night.
5) I am looking forward to seeing my new friend several times a week, a very nice man who is very lonely.
6) I always look forward to sunshine!!!!

How could I be sad for long?


Kate Winckler November 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Katy, great post and a great reminder! I was not taught how to be in charge of my own happiness in childhood, so I’ve learned it when I became an adult. I’m a planner at heart, so I look forward to the simple things like coffee dates, or going to a movie, as well as planning those BIG things like family road trips or fancy nights out. It’s ALWAYS worth the effort to get friends together so I especially look forward to those times! I’m lucky to live in a beautiful lake country, so I know there’s a gorgeous sunset over the lake awaiting me at the end of every day…


Indigo November 30, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I’m guilty of this, especially when work seems to take over everything.

This weekend I’m looking forward to taking the dogs out on the trails with a friend for a few hours of hiking, chatting, and some hot tea afterwards.


Maureen November 30, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I looking forward to seeing my sister on Friday. Since she lives 3,000 miles away, her once a year visits are an added bonus for the family to get together.

For a long range happiness project, is when work at my 2 jobs slow down and I can enjoy sleeping in 1 day a week.


hippierunner November 30, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Great post! The next few weeks I’ll be swamped with work but after that I’m free and my boyfriend will be back in town. That’s nice to think about but planning something specific will make the light at the end of the tunnel even brighter (but not in the oh no, i’m dying sense) ! 😉


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land November 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Well, if I didn’t know what to do before, I can’t complain there aren’t plenty of ideas now. What a great list these comments are!

Today, something I was anticipating (an annual white elephant gift exchange), I found out is not happening this year. Boo hiss! So, maybe I need to hold my own, so I have something fun to anticipate!


Donna Besst November 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm

This year after Thanksgivng day…my hubby and I sat down and blissfully thought out all the fun things that are important to us during the holidays. We then wrote them all down on a calendar so we would be sure to have fun first this year…We made a pact to not go shopping in ANY malls during the weekends if at all. Its so easy to get grumpy so we declared December…Stress free! We will do something “active” everyday except Christmas, but perhaps maybe even a nice early morning walk then. We have our first date with friends this Saturday afternoon. We are both very excited and looking forward to a fun, stress free holiday season.


Christina November 30, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Had a wonderful day but right now I am looking forward to having Mad Men on in the background while I do some work.
In general, there are so many things I look forward to and get excited about that I have trouble staying in the moment. Once I reach a goal or do what I planned I often fail to truly enjoy it before I’m on to the next thing. That’s a whole other challenge.


Miss Britt November 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Love that this such practical advice!


Jessica | mnmize November 30, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Great post! I went and toured a loft apartment today and it would be perfect for me but my current lease doesn’t end until April so I’m looking forward to moving there and praying that they have another available at that time! Being patient is definitely challenging for me!


Sara December 1, 2011 at 8:36 am

I have a weekly lunch date on my calendar with my friend Liz. We don’t have lunch every week; in fact, some months we only manage to make it once. But I know that every week I’ll at least have to take a few minutes to talk to Liz about whether or not we’re having lunch and seeing it on my calendar makes the dreariest week seem bearable.


karen December 1, 2011 at 9:14 am

I’m looking forward to holiday break ( 4 day wkend) to work in my studio. Each wkend I check off a section that needs to be cleaned/reorganized/downsized so that by spring I will have a streamlined work area. I envision this ‘new’ workspace & it keeps me motivated to tackle one more drawer/shelf/box until my dream space appears. I’m also sharing joy by giving away unused art supplies to people I know will put them to better use than taking up space on my shelves — all of those some day projects that just never happened.


Lynn December 3, 2011 at 5:28 am

Ran across this in LinkedIn. It really hit home. For Years I haven’t done this. Kids, soccer, family, always came first. I never took time for Me and have been very unhappy. I have made huge changes lately and one was to make Me time! I have joined a great craft group and we meet twice a month and I look so forward to it! Didn’t realize it so much until I read this. People say I seem happier and I think this one little thing is the biggest behind it. Look forward to reading more of your blog!


Loretta October 4, 2013 at 9:40 pm

What happens if you don’t have anything to look forward to anymore? Are you depressed then?


Katy October 5, 2013 at 6:58 am

Then I schedule a get together with a friend or arrange something enjoyable.



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