Sunday is my day to take stock of life. It’s the day where I create the most lists because I sit down and journal about the Sunday sermon at my church, what happened last week that I want to change, and what tasks and things there are to do next week. In addition I try to spend a little time ruminating on how to improve my life in the upcoming weeks and months. What projects, hobbies, and activities do I want to add or drop…etc.
I came to the conclusion that this was an important thing to do last year after reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I have been keeping a journal since first grade, so it wasn’t without precedent. Since I am an avid journaller I frequently come across different methods of journaling which interest me, but not enough to commit to them. For example, writing 5 things I am thankful for every day.
Blogging is one form of journaling, but I merely change my tone here. I also attempt to have the content reflect a more integrated, happier, life than what fills my journal. (Unfortunately, often nothing but complaints and wishes for the future.)
This year I have been rereading some of my life changing books, of which The Happiness Project is one. I wish it were a more dignified tome to list as a “life changing” book, more along the ranks of Augustine’s Confessions. Yet, over the weekend, The Happiness Project snuggled up with me in bed. Rubin’s project was to make herself more happy by attempting concrete actions, many of which echo with me when I read the book. (Such as her list of “Secrets of Adulthood.” I’ve got my own which I add to constantly, which I’ve decided to start blogging about in tribute to Rubin.)
It was in her book that I learned that I’m a satisficer with regards to clothing and that started me on the pathway to correcting that flaw, and has improved my wardrobe, albeit very slowly and with a major setback due to pregnancy. Her phrase “easy to be heavy, hard to be light” also fits in tidily with another phrase of my coworker’s “focus on the positive” that I try (and often fail) to embody. But, I’m trying. Still, the conclusion of the book is that for all her resolutions, the one that helped her the most was her Resolutions Chart. This chart was her way of measuring her progress with a gold star; yes or no, did I complete my goal for the day.
This compilation of data for her however, is nothing like what I read about on Sunday. It seems doable. The latest quarterly copy of GOOD magazine is devoted to data, and I opened it up to one man’s beautifully quantified life. Nicholas Felton is his name, and he’s been keeping records on himself since 2005 and publishing annual reports. It’s like journalling and blogging on steroids. Or perhaps like being in the hospital and being monitored by an EKG machine.
Which evoked a few questions I hadn’t contemplated before: is measuring yourself a sign of health, or sickness? And secondly, is more of it better? Finally, for whom are you measuring?
My private journals are certainly a form of very inefficient measuring. I don’t do it every day. I don’t write about the same things. I don’t follow the same format. Looking back in the journals doesn’t always reveal that I annotated events. For example, my wedding day, a day I recall as the best of 2010, is merely alluded to on August 28th with the opening sentence, “Married Lady.”
Could I improve my journals by writing every day? Possibly. If what I was trying to achieve was an accurate measure of one day to another I could draft up a simple inquisition form and fill it out each day in the journal with some additional comments. Certainly this would make it more scientific.
Felton’s records are extremely scientific in this regard, but are they are form of health or sickness? Certainly, they are funny and well presented; something a great deal of blogger’s aim for with their beautiful photos that I envy. And he notes many of attempts toward better health (exercise, eating), but often just the “best” moments.
Are his records “better” than other people’s blogs? I don’t know. I don’t think that that can be measured. His records are certainly better at measuring his own life than another person’s blog about her own.
Why all this measuring? Rubin decided it helped her become happier. Lots of bloggers seem happy. Writing in Journals has a glorious history stretching back to… I don’t know, forever. But Rousseau (1755 First Edition of Confessions) and Pepys (1660, journal) come to mind quickly. Perhaps data collection is just a product of the scientific revolution, and journaling is an extension of that. If so, I suppose self-discovery is the latent end to it all, or theorems.
And the manifest end? Reams of internet publication.