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Posts Tagged ‘Gretchen Rubin’

A few weeks ago, I came across Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” in Anthropologie. One of my favorite get-away-from-the-computer afternoons involves a wander through Anthro, fingering the nubby jackets, caressing the soft sweaters, and sighing over the silk blouses. And as I wander, I inevitably become endlessly enchanted by the grown-up picture books piled next to the scented candles, the adorable JellyCat stuffed animals, and the rainbow dishes in all shapes and sizes. Like most Anthro merch, I refuse to pay full price for it. Instead I text myself the name of the latest enchanting tome and rush home to buy it on Amazon for half-price.

So a few days after I encountered “The Happiness Project” my copy arrived in the regulation Amazon.com box. I suppose part of my curiosity stemmed from the title. Some posts back, I explained my Smile Project; so, I wanted to see what a Happiness Project was all about.

Enter chapter one where Ms. Rubin is sitting on a cross-town Manhattan bus, realizing she is in her thirties, is a Yale-trained lawyer turned New York Times bestselling author, happily married with two children, and SHE’S NOT HAPPY. So she decides to (1) find out what happiness is and (2) become happy. There are many things I liked about this book, but one of its chief charms is Ms. Rubin’s determination to make small changes in her daily life to capture the elusive bird of happiness. She doesn’t want to throw everything over, run away, and join a monastery or a circus. (Kind of tough for a mother of a seven year old and a one year old.)

So she undertakes a mountain of research to see what “experts” and “researchers” have to say about happiness and then sets herself certain areas to focus on each month. For example, her overall theme for January was “Boost Energy.” Her specific actions were “Go to sleep earlier,” “Exercise better,” “Toss, restore, organize,” “Tackle a nagging task,” and “Act more energetic.”

Another thing I like about this book, is Gretchen Rubin’s honesty. She realizes the only person she can change is herself, and she is scrupulously honest about the behaviors she would like to give up and the ones she would like to cultivate. Her book has inspired a wave of Happiness Projects, which she is quick to point out are personal to everyone who undertakes one.

Gretchen Rubin’s definition of happiness turned out to be “To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth.” I agree with her about the “atmosphere of growth,” but my own definition of happiness includes “knowing from moment to moment” what I want. That is harder than it sounds, because so much of my life has been about accomplishing tasks that have to be done whether I wanted to do them or not. Self-employment and single motherhood tend to wipe out individual preferences.

But “The Happiness Project” inspired me to set yet another goal: figure out what I want on a daily basis. So now when I get up in the morning with the laundry list of “To do’s” tap dancing across my brain like the Rockettes on stage at Radio City Music Hall, I ask myself which one or ones will make me happy if I accomplish them today. If none of them rings my happiness bell, I ask, “Are there any orphan ‘I wants’ pining for my time?” My project is not as complicated as Ms. Rubin’s. I don’t like charts and gold stars and quantifying results. I just like the good feeling that comes with accomplishing at least one or more things in a day that my real self (not my lawyer self) wants to come true.

I am glad I passed “The Happiness Project” at Anthro that day. I agree with Gretchen Rubin that small, daily changes can bring real happiness.

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

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