on finding happiness… an exercise


I’m teaching a non-majors health class (one I’ve taught several times), and interspersed with our heavy discussions on drug addiction, alcoholism, the workings of the menstrual cycle… I toss in interesting discussions and various exercises to get them to think.

One that I recently came across and used a few days ago (you all can play along, too):

1. Take a piece of paper, and write down the first ten things that come to mind on your “to do” list… those pesky, nagging things that you really need to get done.
2. Now, turn that piece of paper over (I dragged out these instructions out across several PowerPoint slides for added drama, ha ha!)…
3. And think about, then write down, what your number one “to do” would be if you knew you only had one day to live. Does this one item match with any of the ten from the other side of the page? If not, maybe you should prioritize it a bit more… because you’d probably feel happier and more fulfilled.

Most of my students really appreciated this. One of the guys–a high school student taking college credit–smugly smiled and said that he wouldn’t change any of his previous ten. I’ll ask him what he thinks in another 20 years. (But, again, goes to show that you can’t please everyone…)


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