How to Architect your own Happiness

I’ve been doing a lot of contemplation this week.

I blame most of it on being sick and virtually confined to my house for 2 days.

Also, because of a question a friend asked me this past weekend – “What is your 5 year plan?”

After hours of deliberation I realize any potential answer I had all went back to the same end goal – to be Happy.


It’s an admirable goal to be sure, but it’s so abstract it can be difficult to create a plan on how to achieve it. So, I went back to an old technique I picked up in graduate school and have my students do when they are trying to brainstorm ideas – I created a concept map.

Here is mine – there are no strict rules to this exercise, it’s merely a way to get your imagination flowing and try to develop concrete attainable goals for whatever your primary focus is.


As I stated in the video, if you truly have no idea what your goals are for the next year (or 5) ask yourself; What do I most regret not doing last year? Whatever pops into your head first should be a good starting point! Also, don’t be afraid to dream big. I overestimated how much I need to make annually to live comfortably and travel often by about 20% because I’d rather aim high than low.

While your working on your map you should tap into the idea of free association. Don’t over-think things and censor your thoughts for being ‘silly’ or ‘unattainable’. If your goal is to eat a romantic dinner in Paris with Johnny Depp (or John Stamos in my case) – put it on the list! Then start working on ‘branches’ of that goal that may help get you there.

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Remember – it’s all fine and dandy to have goals, but they require WORK. Good old-fashioned time, energy and commitment.

But, isn’t achieving a goal you’ve been working on for a while the best damn feeling?


So, what are your goals for the next year? Do you know what you need to do to achieve them? 

For more happiness inspiration check out my ‘100 Days of Data’ Video Project!


    • Erica House says

      Thank you! I see by your blog that you both are actively pursuing Happiness as well – good luck on staying far away from the rat race!

    • Erica House says

      I’m always all over the place with goals/interests so if I don’t refocus every once in a while I can easily get lost!

    • Erica House says

      What’s on your do/see list? I’m having a blast coming up with new things I want to do for adventures next year!

  1. says

    Such a good idea. I’ve been doing something similar on and off over the last few years. But this is a bit more advanced. So I’ll have to give this a go. I have a lot I want to do in 2013. So it’ll be good to get it all mapped out.

      • says

        Well of course. That’s always an issue. Can’t shove it in the closet, can’t just leave it out. I’ve hung a few on the back of my door. That way I’d see it every day, but it’s also off of the floor.

    • Erica House says

      I felt a little self centered that my main goal is 100% about me – but so much of my happiness is derived from helping and teaching others, so I figured it balances out! I should get people to send me their Happy Maps anonymously to share on here!

  2. says

    Man, this is AWESOME. It’s the perfect way to really feel like you’re on your way to your goals. I always have my end goals in mind, but never what it takes to actually make it. This is such a great way to map it all out.

    • Erica House says

      Another thing that makes me really happy in life is celebrating – so I like having all these mini goals to reach since they just serve as more reasons to celebrate!

    • Erica House says

      You have been hella busy – definitely no need to apologize! You should definitely sit down for a few minutes and just start drawing one out – it really helped give me some desperately needed focus and direction.

    • Erica House says

      If you do one let me know how it turns out! I’m hoping to have a few people send in photos of theirs to share and hopefully inspire more people to make one.

  3. says

    Seriously just what I need today! I have been struggling with figuring out what I want to do and who I am and Its true.. doing the same thing over and over again isn’t going to produce any results! Thanks for sharing, I am going to map my happiness out and get to work! 2013 WATCH OUT!

    • Erica House says

      Ahhhh I love it!! I think my favorite part of the end of the year is the enthusiasm everyone has for the coming one. Please let me know how your map turn out!

    • Erica House says

      I LOVED both of those articles – thank you for sharing them! I’m saving them to send to my students next term.

    • Erica House says

      Isn’t it just the time of year to be engaged in such self-reflection? It’s always bittersweet for me. I’m happy about so much that I’ve accomplished in the last year but I always feel like there is so much more I could do!

  4. says

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m in the process of creating my 2013 goals and I really like the concept map idea. I can’t wait to make one! Expect a post on mine soon. :)

  5. says

    What a timely post with the New Year coming up. I, too, am a complete lister and I love to see your concept map. Looking forward to reading more! Merry Christmas!

    • Erica House says

      Thank you! You should see the epic lists I make for everything. I was actually just reading something the other day that mentioned the ‘pro/con’ list Charles Darwin wrote up before he married his wife. I keep meaning to find it to share!

    • Erica House says

      I’ve actually one wore it out in public once – when meeting my family for lunch at Panera. Even then I only did it because I knew it would piss my little brother off :)

  6. MegG says

    Perfect timing for me to see this post! I’m in the middle of a big transition in my life and I’m worried about the organization of it all and what goals to set. If I have some time I’m thinking I’ll make a response video with my concept map! Fantastic post and good luck in 2013!

  7. Vicki says

    My three goals for 2013 are to
    1. Vacation somewhere tropical with my guy
    2. Pay off half of my one (and only) credit card
    3. Complete a 28 mile superhike in September


  8. says

    It’s held by the Keystone Trails Association, and takes place on the Mason Dixon and Conestoga Trails (in the lower Susquehanna Gorge, in PA). I’ve wanted to do it the last 2 years but was unable to do so becuase of a wedding and then a vacation. 2013 though I’m there!

    • Erica House says

      It is positively crazy how quickly 5 years will go by! You’ll be taking care of little ones before you know it :)

    • Erica House says

      I think every thing I do or think now has some sort of psych background to it! That’s actually why I got the degree – it’s applicable to everything!

  9. says

    Love this post (and your hair). Have you read The Happiness Project? Curious as to what your thoughts are on that book. I love it and always love setting new goals/resolutions.
    Going to try the concept map this week!

    • Erica House says

      I haven’t read it but I always pick it up when I’m at the bookstore and look at it! Not sure why I haven’t just purchased it already lol – seems like it is right up my alley!

  10. says

    Great Info everyone should do this. How are you single funny,beautiful and very smart your a catch. Wish you all the best in your planes for the future gorgous =)

    • Erica House says

      Thank you!
      I’d like to think I’m single by choice (for now) – it helps me sleep better at night thinking of it that way :)

  11. Mil says

    Just discovered your blog and YouTube channel. Love it all!! Keep up the good work. We are kind of the same, have a cat (also a boy, like Salem),living in a studio apartment. Love working out. And searching for the next step of my life. So this will come in handy :)


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