How We Created “How to Create a Happier Life with the Enneagram”
Since 1998, my husband, Gary and I have been developing and publishing Internet information products for small businesses. I research, write and develop the content, and Gary publishes and markets our products. We also do publishing and marketing projects for small business clients.
How to Create a Happier Life with the Enneagram is the first information product we’ve published for personal self-development, although we have worked with clients on other similar projects. The concept for this project came from Gary.
It started one evening in the Fall of 2007, when Gary joined me in our living room with one of the Enneagram books I keep in my library. He sat down and asked me what a particular phrase meant and I gave a brief explanation. Two minutes later he asked me what another term meant. This continued throughout the evening, and for the next several months, we spent our evenings reading together. My husband is a very pragmatic, goal-oriented person and has never had any interest in self-development before, and never had any interest in spiritual practices, so I was surprised by his questioning. There was something about the practicality of the Enneagram that captured his attention.
After about six months of this evening ritual of reading Enneagram books together, he pitched the idea to me that our next development project be a different kind of book about the Enneagram. This one would be about how to use the Enneagram to create more happiness in your life. It would be written in clear language, and based on the most current information about what makes a person happier. As Gary put it, “Write this for regular guys like me who want to be happy, but don’t understand spirit-speak.”
We discussed the idea for several weeks until we both agreed that an information product about developing happiness skills through spiritual practices without using “spirit-speak” was an irresistible challenge. Another important objective for the project was to make it as affordable as possible.
Self-development workshops are expensive and many people are struggling in recent years to make ends meet. The people who most need life coaching or therapy are the least able to pay for it. We wanted this to be a self-guided manual for learning proven techniques to become a more effective and happier person. It would include the topics of emotional mastery, managing and directing stress for growth, developing relationship skills, and learning to change self-talk to fully exploit the power in your personality.
How It Came Together
We began development in early 2008. I interviewed 105 people of all ages to find out what they most wanted to know about happiness and used those questions as the basis for the book. I read the published materials of leading experts in the field of positive psychology, spiritual psychology, the Enneagram, the neuroscience of spiritual practices and of course, happiness. I sought the advice of professional counselors, theologians and an ethicist. I bounced thoughts and ideas off of other thoughtful seekers of happiness whose opinions I respect.
About two years into the project, I wanted to cancel it because I was overwhelmed by the amount of information. I couldn’t get a handle on how to organize the research and present the information. My husband, a wise and wily soul, responded with a trip to the beach.
Every morning, I get up right before dawn and do a movement meditation to start my day. While on vacation, I got up while it was still dark and went to the beach to do my meditation. On the third day as I watched the sunrise while trying to keep my balance in the waves and shifting sand, I had a very clear inspiration for how to write this project. I came home and immediately got to work.
It took about a year to draft and another year to test, re-draft, and polish. We had early drafts read by editors who were familiar with the subject matter, and some who were not to make sure our explanations were clear and accurate. We then tested it on a dozen readers, half who had no exposure to self-development practices and half who had extensive knowledge. Gary spent about two years developing the graphics and the Website, changing them often to fit the demands of the project. Our final step was a “soft launch” asking for feedback in exchange for materials to make sure the program worked as intended.
Why the Passion and Commitment to a Topic Like Happiness?
There’s a two-part answer to that question. What makes people happy and more effective has been a life-long interest of mine. Earlier in my life, I struggled with the unhappiness habits of chronic depression and PTSD, which came to an end when I learned to meditate and use spiritual practices. Up until that point, I’d had moments of calm and times when I enjoyed my life, but I wasn’t a happy person. I thought this was unusual until I completed my interviews and learned just how much people of all ages suffer from the habits of unhappiness.
We started discussions on this project just as our daughter entered college. We developed it during one of the worst recessions in the history of the United States, and were deeply disturbed about the growing discouragement of friends, family members and especially people under the age of thirty. Our daughter’s contemporaries were graduating college and just starting their lives. Many were already convinced their futures were bleak. As they graduated, they became increasingly panicked over the prospect of starting a life in this economy and political environment. Some of them didn’t even believe they had a future. This concern fueled our passion for the project.
Thirty-plus years ago when we started our careers there was also a deep recession, but we didn’t experience any of the hopelessness and disillusionment our daughter’s friends felt. Gary and I have been through many ups and downs in our life together. What we’ve learned is that you have much more power over your life and your happiness than most people believe they have. This project was a way to offer practical support to the pervasive atmosphere of hopelessness we observed.
The End Result
Unhappiness is a habit that is programmed into us very early in life. The good news is that all habits can be broken and replaced with thoughts and behaviors that support happiness. In fact, happiness is our natural state and once we break all of our unhappiness habits, we return to the joy of living that is within each of us.
How to Create A Happier Life with The Enneagram is a practical guide to the process of ending unhappiness habits. The spiritual practices and techniques described in this product have been around for centuries helping people to find the extraordinary happiness in ordinary living. All of the practices included in the program have been studied extensively by neuroscientist and confirmed to have a profound effect on changing unhappiness habits. I sincerely hope it helps you find the answers you need to live your happiest and most effective life.
– Jackie Wells Smith