Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Happiness Project, Part I: January-March

One of my bffs turned me on to Gretchen Rubin's blog The Happiness Project, a blog she started while she was working on her book The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. Rubin's blog is interesting; she posts six days a week relevant interviews, thoughts, quotes, etc. that have to do with happiness. I've learned some good lessons from her blog, while other posts aren't quite as helpful. I've gotten off reading it daily recently because I've found she's started to repeat herself a bit, and now that I've read her book, it feels even more redundant. But, for a new reader, it's quite inspirational.

One day as she was sitting on the bus, Rubin asked herself about her happiness. Now, many people could think (including another of my favorites, and probably an opposite of Rubin, Penelope Trunk), "Hey lady, you work from home, have two beautiful girls, a successful husband...what don't you have to be happy about?" And it's kind of true, but then plenty of us have it pretty darn good, but the daily grind and stress of it all can weigh on our true happiness. So, if you can get past that and just hope to learn from her year-long pursuit of happiness, you'll find the book is very good.

As she worked on her happiness, she came up with Twelve Commandments (i.e. "Let it go" or "Identify the problem") and Secrets of Adulthood ("People don't notice your mistakes as much as you think," and "By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished"). She came back to these throughout her year, and I found these were some of the points I loved most and latched onto the most. I also loved that she wasn't a memoirist who had to travel great distances to find happiness. She writes, "I didn't want to reject my life. I wanted to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen."

The book is very honest. She doesn't fly over the times she gets frustrated. She doesn't hide that she gets crabby or feels resented. A huge beef for her is doing things for her family and not getting a "gold star." She wants that gold star, but that's not how life is. Reading about her practicing this (to do things and not keep score with her husband) was very interesting and relevant to anyone who is married. We all feel resentful or taken advantage of sometimes, but is it really worth the fight? No. I appreciate the fact that Rubin lets it all hang out.

Each month Rubin worked on a specific goal for her happiness, adding to each month and by the end of the year hopefully doing it all at once. January - Boost energy. This involved sleeping more, exercising more, getting organized. Very obvious New Year's resolution stuff, but as we all know, very practical and stuff that works at making us feel better if we just stick to it. Her tactics for organization and her idea to just act energetic were very inspiring.

February - Remember Love, which hit on nagging, expecting praise, fighting right and showing your love for others. If you're in a serious relationship, this chapter is great, especially if you live together. Rubin was very honest about her relationship with her husband - and it's always interesting to read about other people's relationship. She writes, "It wasn't perversity that kept Jamie from being a sympathetic listener; not only was he constitutionally less oriented to having long heart-to-heart conversations, he also tried to avoid any topic that got me upset, because he found it so painful to see me feeling blue." This I can understand.

March - Aim Higher. This month focuses on her work. She started her blog in March; I find it humorous that this woman who loves reading, writing and taking notes wasn't sure about blogging - she was made to blog! She also tried to learn from failure and ask for help. More important lessons. One goal: Enjoy Now. A paragraph I loved, "It's rare to achieve something that brings unadulterated pleasure without added concerns. Having a baby. Getting a promotion. Buying a house. You look forward to reaching these destinations, but once you've reached them, they bring emotions other than sheer happiness. And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals another, yet more challenging goal... The challenge, therefore, is to take pleasure in the atmosphere of growth, in the gradual progress made toward a goal, in the present."

This post is already pretty long, so I'll write more about the book in another post.

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