Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Happiness Project

From Gretchen Rubin's site:
A “happiness project” is an approach to changing your life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse. Second is the making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. Then comes the interesting part: keeping your resolutions.

I find it difficult to explain Rubin's book: "The Happiness Project." I just finished it yesterday. I loved it.

Reading it felt like listening to a friend chat about her life. She is warm, engaging, personable, humble, self-aware, honest and straight-forward. It became one of those books I didn't want to finish, because to put it down would feel like losing a friend. Fortunately, she has a blog.

The book is about a year of her life when she decided to become "happier." As she says herself in the book, it's a sub-genre of non-fiction called "stunt" non-fiction. And rather than get upset about it, (as was her first reaction) Rubin writes, she decides to "re-frame" the situation as look at it in a positive light. And that's exactly how the book stops simply becoming a lively and engaging chat, or a memoir and becomes something else. It's not really a self-help book, in the way we understand those things. But it also sort of is; by showing us her own (quite approachable) journey of transformation it lays down the path for the rest of us (though we will all travel it our own way, as we must).

Rubin decided to work on one area of her life per month, and each month is a chapter in the book. (She follows the same scheme on her blog.) To give you an idea of what she explores, here's the table of contents.

  • January: Boost Energy (Vitality)
  • February: Remember Love (Marriage)
  • March: Aim Higher (Work)
  • April: Lighten Up (Parenthood)
  • May: Be Serious about Play (Leisure)
  • June: Make Time for Friends (Friendship)
  • July: Buy Some Happiness (Money)
  • August: Contemplate the Heavens (Eternity)
  • September: Pursue a Passion (Books)
  • October: Pay Attention (Mindfulness)
  • November: Keep a Contented Heart (Attitude)
  • December: Boot Camp Perfect (Happiness)

A introductory chapter and epilogue frame, explain, and follow-up the project nicely. There's also a small blurb about setting up your own project and a fantastic book list.

Within each area Rubin sets herself resolutions to follow, things to do to make herself happier. Along the way, she discovers her own personal truths, (Secrets of Adulthood), some principals to guide her life (Gretchen's 12 Commandments) and some deeper, meta-truths about happiness and its relationship to life in general: The First to Fourth Splendid Truths. (All of which are on her blog).

I am quite tempted to make "Happiness" my one little word for 2011 and using Gretchen's template, transform my life with an eye to becoming happier next year. I think that would be marvelous. But I also have the feeling that that's not exactly my path. We'll see. It could simply be that I am not defining "happiness" broadly enough. As Gretchen's book demonstrates it is a pretty big umbrella.

Nonetheless, reading the book and creating your own happiness project would be a worthy means of self-transformation. I highly (and happily) recommend The Happiness Project to everyone.

1 comment :

Mella DP said...

Excellent! I *love* Gretchen and I've read her blog almost from the beginning. So glad you enjoyed the book.

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