Sticking to your happiness goals

Early this year, I set out some goals for myself. I wanted to walk more. I wanted to learn French. I wanted to take care of my hair. I wanted to go out and do interesting cultural things in Nairobi. While these were all things that I knew would make me *happy*, sticking to them was the challenge. On a scale of 1 to 10, my attention span is … by the way have you ever noticed when you say a word over and over it loses meaning .. cultural. cuuulturall…

Surprisingly though, I’ve had good progress on my goals, far better than I would have expected of myself. The most important factor that has helped me is accountability. If your friends, family and even total strangers know about the goals you’ve set, you’re more likely to follow them through, especially if there is something at stake, such as your reputation or even a friendly bet. Social “commitment contracts” are all the rage with behavioral economists, prompting websites like, where you sign a contract staking some money with your friends/family against a goal.

So the first quarter of the year is almost over, and to keep me honest, here’s where my books stand.

I hate walking. So in a flourish of self-defeating rationale, I picked it as my first goal of the year. On my way home from work, I walk (almost) every day from the OilLibya on Mombasa Rd (Galito’s) to Wilson Airport, through South C and Nairobi West. While I still am not a fan, making it a part of my commute means that I can’t give up halfway through. And although I constantly swallow a delightful blend of car exhaust and dust, I’ve got my earphones in, and a mix of Classic 105’s Busted and BBC World Service keeps it interesting.

As for French, it makes me happy for no reason. It’s kind of a lame language to learn these days, Mandarin will probably be much more useful when the Chinese become our masters and overlords. But there gurgling, strangled-cat sound of the language has a certain… je ne sais quoi. (See what I did there?). I’m doing an audio language course, which fits in nicely with my daily walk.

I’ve had my hair natural for about two years now. While it’s been *amazing* learning about a part of myself that was oppressed and repressed by Dark and Lovely for so many years, I tend to get a bit lazy about it, and just braid it, take it out, braid it again. This is the third week I’ve worn my hair out, and people at work are taking it fairly well, although there’s plenty of side-eye being dished out in my direction. This is hair naturally growing out of my head, people, quit acting like I’m a lab specimen.

Here is where I’m slacking a bit. I rocked it out in February, attending a bunch of things including a film retrospective at Goethe, Indian dinner in Westlands, two tech talks at the iHub and finally the Sauti Sol album launch which had a funny watchman reselling tickets at the sold-out show. 500 bob a pop, do the math. I’m sure that guy was a hero at his local that night. March has been quieter, although I had a great Italian meal at Osteria for my lovely friend L’s birthday. I need more suggestions of good upcoming events!

All in all, I’m pretty happy with my progress on my happiness projects. Let’s hope it lasts!

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