Thoughts 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 by Gretchen Rubin, Harper 2009, 315 pages
FIRST Sentence: “I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations.”
WHY I Read This/NOW: I actually started this in December or January. You know; that time of year when resolutions are top of mind and the slate is clean and the mood is optimistic. And then I had reading challenge nuttiness take over and this got shelved. And then, it somehow jumped into my hands. I was in a bit of a slump after reading (and listening to) many many books in June and I needed a self-indulgent nonfiction break from STORY.
“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
WHAT It’s About: Ms. Rubin decided to tackle in a systematic fashion the idea of how to be happier. She was not unhappy, but wondered if a scientific studious approach to understanding happiness would make her happier and also provide a buffer to any possible misfortune that might happen to befall her at a future time. Kind of as insurance against reacting badly to calamity.
What’s GOOD: I loved all the happiness quotes and the monthly organizational approach to her studies. I liked that she understood that on many levels she ‘SHOULD’ be happy – her circumstances are pretty good (compared to most women around the globe may we assume?) but she also knew that SHOULD is a dirty word. She wondered what exactly made her happy and not just what made her assume she should be happy.
What’s Maybe NOT: I wish I could find the bit about how and when she realized her project was a subset of nonfiction referred to as “stunt genre”; it certainly is. (Another clue to that is her acknowledgement of one of her writer buddies being A.J. Jacobs.) She has a few faults which she readily shares, as well as what approach worked well or not at all. But she comes off so privileged that it is almost uncomfortable to cheer her ambitions. If you didn’t like Eat, Pray, Love, you might not like this book. I LOVED Eat, Pray, Love, so what do I know? I am a navel-gaving white woman.
FINAL Thoughts: I was happy when I read this book. A lot of it makes sense. I am GOOD at many of the items recommended for living a happy life. Remember love, lighten up, keep a contented heart. Can I still improve? Yes. Be gentle, be kind, think before reacting – is it worth the bad feelings that result when I react impatiently and harshly? NO. The new-to-me and best idea I gained from this book RIGHT NOW was for when I can’t decide what to do –> choose work. (interject husband’s derisive laughter here). I really have stopped and thought, “Ok, what should I do NOW?” and it is usually the task I least “want” to do. And I feel better to get it crossed off the list. I have heard that voice in my head saying, “choose work.”
I do suffer from the SHOULDs and especially wonder if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Career? Every day getting by? Etc. Deciding what my purpose is on this earth worries me greatly. But I also don’t quite know if I should be doing something about that or just enjoying life. Because I am very good at enjoying life. (Like that song (but not the video), I’m Pretty Good at Drinking Beer.) I wish I was more ambitious but I’m not. I prefer to be cheerful.
“People who have fun are 20 times likely to FEEL happy.”
I am now inspired to read Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux. How have I not ever heard of this amazing woman?!?! Maybe I have but it wasn’t the time for us to be introduced. Reminds me that I need to move this up in the tbr queue…
However, by the end of the book, I was ready to move back to fiction. (and then I quickly devoured Harry Potter Book #2 and Book #3!) I do want to keep The Happiness Project as reference – maybe someday I will start my own trackable progress chart.
RATING: Three slices of pie. Lemon Meringue.
Are you a happy person? Abe Lincoln says, “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Do you agree?