How to Plan Happiness

Bill Benson’s May Tip: Living In & For Possibility

Bill Benson

Bill Benson

The other day I pulled a book off the shelf given to me by my dear friend Sophie Butler. As I leafed through the pages, I was instantly inspired.

Where Will You Be Five Years from Today? is a workbook, which uses logic and organization to help people plan more fulfilling futures. The text’s aim is to interactively explore and attain desired achievements without excuses.

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

While this is rather lofty company, please realize each of the above individuals also set out with unrealized dreams. The workbook informs us that dreams become goals when they are written down and revisited on a regular basis – marking the first steps in our journeys toward attainment.

Will Accomplishment make me Happy?

A key to increasing life-quality lies in choosing to pursue something that is emotionally meaningful. Our goals may involve journeys that last a lifetime, so it’s wise to find a purpose that propels us forward despite occasional choppy waters.

For satisfaction to occur, it’s best to make our goals larger than ourselves – true success is not about winning or proving one’s worth: The Cattle-herding Masai tribe of Kenya collectively ranked the same on a life-satisfaction scale as those making the Forbes List of 400 richest Americans. Perhaps for the Kenyans, satisfaction lies in having well-fed and healthy families, whereas the mission for former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is making the world’s information accessible to everyone.

How do I get there?

Art Markman, author of Smart Change, recommends envisioning the end of your life and reviewing it for any regretful omissions, then planning accordingly to avoid these occurrences.

The current cover article on personal reinvention in Psychology Today recommends viewing our upgraded selves not as strangers, but as the people we already are – just in different circumstances: The point is not to change, but to increase our awareness’ so that we can free ourselves to explore fuller existences.

And affirmations help: The reality of my successful psychotherapy practice is due to a diligence sparked by a slogan I picked up from Nike several years ago: “Just Do It” leaves little room for the negative self-talk or procrastination that would set me back from my goal of helping others to get emotionally fit.

Sophie has also been a personal inspiration: I failed to mention in the opening a couple of facts about my friend: 1.) She also bought herself a copy of Where Will You Be Five Years from Today? so that we could look to the future together, and 2.) Sophie was 91 years old at the time.

We never got a chance to fill out the pages: Sophie died a short time after giving me the book. However, she kept journeying until her very last days; enjoying T’ai Chi classes and exploring the Internet

Five years…260 weeks…825 days…2,333,000 minutes.
What will you do with it? What could you do with it?

Sophie gifted me with more than a workbook – Through her curiosity and desire to push forward, she illustrated a life that yielded benefits not only for her but for all of those who knew her.


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