The Pursuit of Happiness

Sarp Yavuz, Staff Writer

Inspired by my mother’s recently published article on making a list of things you want, I tried to make my own, and I am challenging you to do the same. Make a list, right now. Make a list of at least 25 things you want from life. It will be difficult, but I’m making it a little easier for you guys than she did for her readers, because she asked for a 100-item list.

This list can consist of anything from going to a concert this weekend or having a specific car, to becoming famous. Think before you write, give yourself time and write without inhibition. You’re the only person who’s going to see this list, so be completely honest with yourself. Do not worry about differentiating between what you think you want and what you need, because all of the Hollywood screenwriters making up philosophies from behind their keyboards have filled your (and my) head with a million different ways of sifting through the things we want. Do not place any value judgment on the items on this list, I beg you. Number 14 can be competing in the world Olympics, and number 15 can be kissing a stranger at a party. Just write. Now, read it over, and ask yourself: Where are you in achieving these goals? If you’re close, fantastic! If you’re miles away, why? Is there a legitimate reason actively keeping you from working towards these things?

One of the things you will realize is that you, like most people, have strayed away from the things you want and the goals you’ve set for yourself. It happened to me when I wrote it. This list not only serves as a reminder but it also puts things into perspective. The second part of what I’m asking you to do this week is a little scarier, but it is also more rewarding: Make a promise to yourself — not to me, because this needs to be something you do for the wonderful you — to accomplish one thing on that list before September 2011. Any of the 25 things you wrote. This gives you about half a semester and the entire summer, which in my experience is a good season to chase your dreams.

This list should not overshadow your actions. You are not making it to feel guilty if you spend time and energy on things that you did not write down. You are making it because it is very easy to feel lost every now again, and a list of things you want can be the best roadmap you’ve ever had.

Knowing what you want brings with it a degree of self-awareness. It helps you locate yourself with respect to your goals. You become aware of where you are, what you are doing and, to a degree, what you should do in order to get what you want. Here’s the secret: I am not proposing that when you achieve the things you wrote, you will be happy. I hope you will be, but that is not the point: It is the awareness that this list that will contribute to your happiness (or put you on the road to happiness, if you’re not with us yet).

I find that I get progressively unhappier when I stray from the things that I want to do. It is so very easy to get caught up in your daily tasks and responsibilities and forget the larger picture you have drawn for yourself. Maybe this list will make you smack your head and say, “What am I doing?!” Maybe it will make you realize you grew up, or that you have already accomplished some of the things you wanted. It can make you readjust your course, it can accelerate you, and yes, it can upset you if you discover you’ve been heading in the opposite direction. No matter what it does, it will also make you aware. Through that awareness, I promise you will be happier.