Happiness Project: Master A Device

10/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I'm working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone's project will look different, but it's the rare person who can't benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now.

I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by technology. I need to learn how to use new gizmos for my blog, but it's not just that. Even devices that used to be easy to use - like TVs, irons, dishwashers - can now be challenging.

Adding to that complexity in our house is the fact that the Big Man is what I call an "incomplete upgrader." Last year, he bought a new video camera, but still hasn't quite figured out how to use it. Or other times, if he does figure out how to use a new thing, he won't have the patience to show me, and I don't have the patience to sit down with the manual.

We don't go out and buy much stuff; we don't accumulate much tech apparatus. But even so, somehow I've allowed myself to become surrounded by several common household appliances that I don't quite know how to use. I'm pretty slow with TiVo. I don't know how to use the "mute" function on our phone. I'm still figuring out my Flip camera (though that really is pretty easy). A friend burned a bunch of photos onto a disk, but I can't get them to display.

Recently, to celebrate starting a new job, the Big Man bought a coffeemaker that, weeks later, I still hadn't figured out how to use. I just made tea for myself instead; I couldn't face learning a new machine.

I realized, though, that feeling ignorant and incompetent was weighing me down. Last weekend, I mastered the coffeemaker (and it wasn't that hard). Slowly but surely, I've vowed, I'm going to master every useful device in my apartment.

The First Splendid Truth holds that to be happy, we need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

The "atmosphere of growth" element is far more important that I realized when I came up with the First Splendid Truth. The feeling that you're growing is a KEY to happiness. Even a very little step toward growth - like learning to use a new coffeemaker - gives a boost.

Now, some folks might say, "I don't buy or use those devices." You might think such things are wasteful, or time-wasters, or replace other activities that are more valuable. But in my own case, for the devices that I want to use, I DO think it would be useful and valuable to learn how to use them better. So I'm making my list.

If you'd like to read more about happiness, check out Gretchen's daily blog, The Happiness Project, or sign up for her monthly newsletter.