A Year in Review (looking back and looking forward)

Rear View Mirror

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” ~ Bill Vaughn

Surprises, Disappointments, Plans and Purposes

As a year is laid to rest and the fanny of a brand new one is spanked into existence, it’s time to look back at the road I’ve traveled thus far as a blogger at Meant to be Happy … and to look down the road a bit to see what’s in store for 2013.

I hope you come along for the ride.

There have been surprises and disappointments, highlights and low points and lots of lessons learned along the way. I also have a handful of new projects and goals you can expect to see over the course of 2013 (hopefully crowded at the front end of the year!).

A Few Surprises

There were some stand-out moments in 2012, for which I’m truly grateful–and a bit dumbfounded. Here’s a few of those that surprised me most:

1. Winning Steve Aitchison’s Best Personal Development Blog of 2011 award. While it was technically at the end of 2011, it wasn’t announced until the start of 2012—so it still counts! :)

2. Getting a spot on Tim Brownson’s 20 of the Greatest Self Development Posts Ever Written. I used the concept of a blog’s dashboard as a metaphor for life. It was fun coming up with the various details of the metaphor. Check it out here.

3. Being asked by Jonathan Wells at Advanced Life Skills to be a contributor to his awesome Newsletter. I recommend registering to start getting your own pdf copy emailed to you, just 4 times a year. Lots of valuable personal development stuff inside! Sign up here.

4. Being selected by Srinivas Rao at Skool of Life as one of 21 people who will change the world in 2012.

Disappointments

Unfortunately, the year also had a few disappointments.

1. Quite shockingly, I did not change the world in 2012 very noticeably!

2. I failed to launch my new blog, The Daily Thought Blog, featuring shorter daily inspirational posts. It’s almost ready, just haven’t been satisfied with the design.

3. I didn’t make any money to jump up and down and write home about here either. And I expected to be a millionaire by now! (okay, maybe not)

4. Most disappointingly, I failed to complete my eBook, Perspectives on Happiness (especially since my primary job has simply been editing the work of contributing authors). You’d think I’d be done by now, but I’ve had the hardest time tying up the loose ends and getting the thing out the door.

While these are “disappointments” in the sense that I wish things would have been completed, launched and made, I’m not consumed by them by any stretch of the imagination. They are stepping stones and lessons I’m learning in a long process that won’t end anytime soon.

Deeper Rewards

While the surprises were pretty darn cool, there have been some deeper rewards in sharing my thoughts on happiness with you. The following are a few of the particulars:

1. I’ve met some pretty amazing people I now consider wonderful additions to my circle of friends: Vidya Sury and Galen Pearl are a couple standouts who have been supporters of my writing, impressive examples to me personally and dear friends I have come to cherish. They inspire me with their kindness, their examples and human decency. There are, of course, many more who have touched my heart and been a source of inspiration and who I consider friends as well. I wish I could name them all!

2. I’ve learned tons about blogging and writing and balancing everything on my plate.

3. I regularly get word from many of you in the comments and by email asking for help or simply thanking me for the inspiration and insight M2bH has provided. That, by far, is the most gratifying part of what I’ve been doing here.

When I hear that a life has changed, that a trial has been made lighter, that meaning has been discovered or created, a lesson learned, a trait developed or that happiness has finally been found because of something I’ve written, I have to pinch myself. It’s really such an amazing thing to me. I’m moved, touched and humbled by it.

My prayer is that I will be able to continue providing value to you as we slip and slide through 2013. Hopefully most of the slipping and sliding will find us, at least at the end, standing on our feet, smiling a little brighter, a little better, a little happier.

A brief reminder: Why do I do what I do?

Drop in a Bucket

My purpose here at M2bH is to inspire happiness. It’s that simple. Why? Because people are better for being happier. They make better parents and employers and team members and neighbors. Life is better. We smile more. Interact more. Create more. Hurt less. Feel better. And I like that.

M2bH is my little drop in the ocean of life in hopes of raising the sea level of happiness one drop at a time, one article at a time, one reader at a time.

That is enough for me.

Besides, I truly do believe we were meant to be happy. I believe in a God who created a universe and dropped us somewhere in the midst of it all and created the plan that put us here doing what we do. I believe that He actually wants us to be happy. That He cares about our happiness. And that He made available the means of achieving more of it here and now.

My role here, then, is simple: to shine a spotlight on those principles that lead to greater happiness and more joy and better lives so others can see the path more clearly and, perchance, venture onto it sooner than later.

That, anyway, is my goal. Along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two.

4 Lessons Learned in my Second Year with Meant to be Happy

As I’ve said, I’ve learned a lot while writing about happiness (and related personal development themes) and worked to get my thoughts out to as many people as possible. Here are just a few of those lessons:

1. People are more important than projects. I found a two-posts-per-week schedule was too much for me, given how long my posts often are (usually around 2,000 words or more).

Because I believe that no other success can compensate for failure in my most important of obligations as a husband and father, I needed to slow the post schedule down so I could still have time for other projects, passions and responsibilities and still be able to prioritize my faith and family as the most important parts of my life.

2. Being active in the lives of others is an important part of the blogging experience. As I started to take my blogging business more seriously, and began making plans to put an eBook together, I started squeezing out social media and interaction with fellow bloggers. I just didn’t have time for everything, so I focused all my blogging time on writing to the exclusion of interaction.

I stopped commenting on other blogs altogether and sometimes took a whole week to reply to comments left by others at Meant to be Happy. And I won’t even tell you about my tardy email replies. Sheesh!

As a result (it seems), comments on my posts fell from 40-60 per post to something like 15-30 or so. My posts have been getting longer too, which may have contributed to the decreased comments (too long to read to the end?). There may, of course, be other reasons I haven’t discovered yet.

Still, my readership has increased. I’m nearly at capacity for Mailchimp’s free services and am not making much money off my blog yet to justify paying for larger capacity services. I’ve stopped writing guest posts for now for that reason (any more will very likely put me over the limit). I’ve also neglected my “monthly” newsletter. Nothing since September, I think. I’ll put one out this month though (sign up here to get it!).

3. I’ve discovered you can’t make money if there’s no vehicle by which money can be made. Profound, right? I had removed AdSense quite some time ago (to remove the clutter and because I only had limited control over what showed up in an ad spot and didn’t always feel I could endorse what did). My eBook is still in its final stages. And until just a few weeks ago, I had no affiliate products to offer on my site either.

December saw my 1st book review (called How to be Happy in 10 Steps) here at M2bH as well. Living in California has made Amazon.com a poor affiliate option since our governor has promoted legislation that taxes online purchases. Amazon.com retaliated by ending their affiliate program in my state. Sigh.

So if I had a goal of creating a blog that was not only self-sustaining, but produced income sufficient to pursue it full-time, I showed it in a strange way in 2012!

4. Let others see the Wizard of Oz hiding behind the curtain. I also had a recent epiphany of sorts. A blogger I respect and admire asked me to contribute a post to his eBook, sharing a personal story about change. Well, I couldn’t find many posts with much of a personal story in it.

I realized I had not shared much of my own life with my readers. I kept me out of the story, nearly altogether. I talked about personal development and happiness, but didn’t open up about my own experiences with it or reveal much about who I was as a person in the process. When I read my work, I can sense my personality very clearly, but there was still not much of my life there on the pages.

While I think that what I say about happiness is more important than any anecdotal life experience I can share with you, I also know people want to know who it is that’s talking to them. (wait till you see my next post; It proverbially lifts the sheets off my life to reveal quite a bit of me you haven’t seen before. But don’t worry, I stay fully clothed!).

Where M2bH (and its creator) is Headed in 2013

Beautiful Path

1. I’ll interact more and sooner with readers and followers.

2. I’ll leave comments on blogs that I like more often, perhaps setting a day or two aside for that purpose (I’ve slowly begun doing more of this already in the closing weeks of 2012).

3. I’ll finally finish my eBook and get it out there for sale. We’ll see what happens from there.

4. I’ll work at creating additional products of value for you all (I have lots of exciting ideas and am working at wriggling them into my schedule).

5. I’ll put more of me in my posts more often.

6. I’ll try to write shorter posts from time to time (click here for proof that I can!), at least to add variety to my mega-posts of 2,000 or more words and to free up some time for everything else I’m planning.

7. I’ll link more often to great work others have produced on their blogs. There’s so much great content out there I want my readers to be aware of.

8. I’ll finally launch The Daily Thought Blog. I’m actually really excited about this new project. It’s almost ready, and I promise you’ll be the first to know when it’s launched.

9. I’m kicking around another project that’s still taking shape and form in my mind even as you read this. It will be called The Happiness Movement and will include others with the goal of spreading happiness far and wide. What and how and when and to what extent and so on is still in the lab.

Currently, although subject to change, I’m thinking something along the lines of a hub or perhaps a network of happiness promoters. If what I’m writing here sparks any ideas, I’d love to hear about them in the comments (or email). More of this to come (hopefully!) over the course of 2013.

10. I’ll also launch The Happiness Challenge. Nope. Not going to tell you about it yet. It’s a top secret thing we Happiness Agents do. Stick around for a few more months to see.

Memorable Moments at M2bH in 2012

Just for the fun of it, I thought I’d share some of the articles posted this last year (mostly) that in one way or another stood out (at least to me). So click around and see what I’ve done or skip it altogether, I suppose. ;) Either way, you might discover some insight into the workings of my heart and mind (I know. A scary proposition, for sure!):

My Very First Post here at M2bH

Pursuing Happiness, One “P” at a Time

While this post was obviously written well before 2012, since I’ve never written a review post like this one before and, well, it was my first-born, I wanted to share it with you anyway!

My Favorite Post

5 Deadly Cancers to the Human Soul

I just liked the way it was structured, worded and the ideas are critical to happiness and human decency.

Most Controversial

5 Signs Personal Development Blogs Are Hurting Your Personal Development

Okay, while it didn’t set off any alarms around the blogosphere, it challenged some basic tenants of the Personal Development industry.

My Favorite Guest Post Written for Another Blog

12 Ways to Forgive Your Parents for Doing Such a Crummy Job of Raising You

This one is over at Steve Aitchison’s site and was one of my earliest guest posts. It still gets a bit of traffic. For a clickable list of all my guest posts or for posts featuring me or Meant to be Happy, click here.

Most-Read Guest Post Featured on Meant to be Happy

Why Changing Your Language Can Change Your Life

This one was written by Tim Brownson from A Daring Adventure. It still shows up at the end of my “most popular posts” list in the sidebar.

Most Personal

Sometimes Broken is the Best Fix

Read it to see what I mean.

Most Fun to Write

Inner Peace like a Piece of Pizza

I had a kick coming up with the idea and putting it together. I hesitated because I wasn’t sure it would be received very well. It is, let’s say, unique! It’s my silliest (even if having an important point to make) to date.

Most Eloquent

31 Lessons to Teach my Son before I Die

What can I say! Just read it and judge for yourself!

Funniest

Embrace Your Inner Mosquito

I got a lot of feedback on this one about people laughing out loud at work and elsewhere while reading about this very strange experience I had one morning with a mosquito on crack!

Most Googled

Mottos that Inspire Greatness: The Power of Personal Mottos

Just recently pushed 10 Ways You can Stop being so Easily Offended from that spot after having dominated the top position for most of my blog’s life.

Most Helpful to Married Couples

7 Steps to Spiritual Intimacy (how to repair your marriage by repairing its soul)

Husband and wives and all couples can connect at a variety of levels. And every connection has the potential of deepening the relationship. But there is no level deeper than the spiritual. This post suggests some ways to connect at that level.

Most Helpful to Parents

10 Priceless Gifts Your Children Need from You Today

Children don’t need perfect parents. They just need ones who are truly committed to that most sacred of roles. I think 10 Priceless Gifts is my most helpful at inspiring us to rise to the occasion and be the parents our children need us to be.

Most Helpful for Unhappy People

10 Ways to Change How You Feel: Beating Depression into Submission

This post is one in a series of posts that was my reply to an email request to help a reader beat off her suicidal depression. This one, I think, would be the most helpful to those who struggle with prolonged bouts of sadness, who want to know how they can overcome their misery and start taking steps toward happiness again (if you are going through similar difficulties, try reading the other posts in the series. Taken together, I truly believe they can help you).

Four Perspectives on Happiness

The following are some of my favorite happiness posts here at M2bH.

1. What Happiness Looks Like Naked
2. The Sexiness of Happiness
3. Four Reasons Happiness Ain’t for No Sissies
4. Moral Happiness: what happiness looks like all grown up
5. The Happiness Pledge

A Word of Thanks to the M2bH Community

Thank You Street

As a new year dawns and I reflect warmly on 2012, a word of gratitude seems most appropriate.

Thank you so much for stopping by however often that typically is to read what I have to say about happiness and related topics. You are why I do this. You make it possible … and relevant … and meaningful. I’m moved by the support and interest and actions taken on what I’ve poured myself into here at M2bH.

Here’s to a new year of new adventures and new discoveries and many new articles about happiness, character, growth and life.

May 2013 be a year of your own discoveries and growth. And in those discoveries, may you find ways of living life with a little more happiness than last year. And may I be equal to the trust you lend me as I learn and think and write and share my thoughts on how to live a meaningful life of happiness in a world that doesn’t always easily accommodate that aim.

Acknowledgements

I would be remiss in a year-ends summary post if I didn’t publicly thank a few people for the pivotal role they’ve played in what I do here.

I’m deeply and uniquely indebted to the following people:

Barrie Davenport at Live Bold and Bloom for seeing something in my writing after just a couple months of starting M2bH that inspired her to reach out to me and provide some invaluable insight into how to improve my site. It worked, Barrie. And I thank you for your proactive kindness. It’s meant the world to me.

Steve Aitcheson from Change Your Thoughts whose 2011 award helped an unseasoned blogger believe he had something to contribute to the personal development field, perhaps keeping me in the game when I may have otherwise wondered into less time-consuming projects when it felt like I was the only one reading what I wrote.

Tess Marshall of The Bold Life who provided me with my first few dollars when I promoted one of her books. That was an exciting moment. You mean people will pay me for this?

Gwen Wert for designing my header and being my chief-cheerleader (Thanks Mom!)

Brian Jenkins for all the code work on my blog and his insight and advice since its inception. It was his online music lessons business that inspired me to consider what ended up being M2bH.

Becki Jenkins (Brian’s wife, my daughter) for helping me choose the name, Meant to be Happy, and her continued support and encouragement.

My wife, Jane, and 6-year-old boy, Jacob, who have put up with lots of me bent over the laptop.

Almost done!

Thanks so much for sticking around long enough to read this far. If you’re reading these words right now, pat yourself on the back and go do something nice for yourself. You deserve it!

But I didn’t want to leave you without something to think about. So enough about me and M2bH.

What I’ve done here in this post today was to spend a lot of time talking about the past year and what I’m aiming at in 2013. There is great value in reviewing a year and looking forward to a new one with hope and anticipation … and a blueprint.

A life is out there waiting for you to discover what it can be and waiting for you to get up and build it. Usually, most of the work that needs to be done to create a wonderful life of deeply rewarding joy is in the backyard, or under the “house,” on its foundation.

But wherever it is for you, it awaits. Your job this first month of 2013, starting today, is to spend some time reviewing 2012 (What went well? Why? What didn’t? Why?), decide what direction will most serve you in 2013 that is consistent with your values, and start marching in that direction. The putty of your life is in your hands. Start shaping it.

YOUR TURN!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
And don’t forget to sign up for my free eBook, A Walk through Happiness.

PS: It’s been an amazing year. Thank you for coming along for the ride.

Just One More Thing …

Knowledge is power. Check out the programs below to add to yours!

I personally own 14 of the Great Courses programs and often listen to them in the car while I drive to and from work. I wouldn’t promote them if I didn’t think they were awesome.

Besides, they have a 100% satisfaction life-time guarantee. Anytime you ever decide you don’t like what you bought, return it. Period.

Now go and start building momentum toward an amazing year and keep it going with life-giving, happiness-creating daily actions. As you do so, I’m confident 2013 will prove to be a remarkable year.

Photos by Ken Lund, AJ_Hobbs and psd