The Happiness Project

Technology Updates Don’t Have to Be Painful

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could 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. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

I dread updates—when some computer program cheerfully but forcefully insists on doing an update; when some long-beloved appliance dies and is replaced with the newer, mysterious version of itself (why is it so hard to turn on the TV in someone else’s house?); or when my husband joyfully presents the new tech doodad that I’ll have to figure out how to use.

Novelty and challenge bring happiness, true, but they also bring frustration, anxiety, and sometimes a bit of cursing. It can be hard to get accustomed to a new look or a new approach. To keep myself patient as I work through an update, I often apply my resolution to Put myself in jail .

The thing is, though, updates are often helpful. Programs, appliances, and services get better. Once I forced myself to figure out our new digital camera—not anything fancy, just the basics—I realized it was easier to use than my old camera. Updates boost happiness by making things work better and by giving a satisfying feel of mastery.

I’m reminding myself of this now because I’m trying to embrace the update of my blog. I started it on March 27, 2006 , when I knew nothing about blogging, and zoikes, there wasn’t much to it in the early days. I remember my feelings of triumph when I first added an image! As I’ve learned more, I’ve added more bells and whistles, with what might be called “organic” effect—or less nicely, “messy” effect.

As much as I love my blog the way it is, and as proud as I am of figuring out how to put in an RSS button, live sidebar links, etc., it’s time to fix it up a bit.

In an example of my favorite Zen saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” I’d just started fussing about the ramshackle quality of my blog when help arrived.

The brilliant Fred Wilson put it very diplomatically when he said something like, “Your blog reminds me of mine, before I spruced it up. I have the name of a great person to help you, if you want it.” Um, yes.

So thanks to the work of superhero Nathan Bowers , about whom I can’t say enough good things, an updated version of my blog will appear Monday. Many of you don’t read me at , so for you, nothing will change. But if you read this blog on my own home site, you’ll see quite a difference. I hope you like it. Embrace the update .

Added bonus: In the redesign, something very exciting (well, exciting to me) is revealed for the first time! Can you figure out what it is? The Super-Fans know, but no one else.

What do you think? Have you found that embracing updates makes you happier—at least in some circumstances? Or do you steer clear of any avoidable updates, as mindless churn?

* OK, you have to be in a very sentimental, sappy mood to enjoy this video on Gimundo of a puppy who can’t get up off his back, but it really hit the spot for me.

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just e-mail me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com . (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.