The Happiness Project
By Gretchen Rubin
Published by Harper
Copyright © 2009
“The Happiness Project” is Gretchen Rubin’s ode to happiness. Have you considered your happiness today?
I don’t usually read self-help books. Actually, I loathe them. I hate it when people who have never been where you are, try to tell you how to get where you should be, even when they can’t get there themselves. I know that there are many people who feel the same way I do. That being said, I want everyone to know that Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project” is not a self-help book.
Gretchen, a former Supreme Court Clerk turned writer, has taken the time to study the subject of human happiness. This book isn’t a recitation of facts, statistics, and hard and fast rules for happiness. Gretchen has presented us with a view into her life which includes how and why she implemented certain findings from her happiness research.
As I began to read this book I was instantly struck with the thought “what can a woman with a stable Midwestern upbringing, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice O’Connor, who followed her dream and became a writer, who along with her husband probably pulls down a six figure income, and who professes to have had a pretty good life teach me about being happy?” While my life isn’t terrible, from the sounds of it, I would bet that I have probably experience more suffering and want than she. In addition, I’m not currently impoverished, but I am what might be considered sub-lower middle-class. My wife and I together have never pulled down anything resembling six figures unless you count the numbers after the decimals.
Gretchen confronts this. She recognizes that she has had a good life. She isn’t really trying to tell people how to live or how to be happy. She also informs her readers several times that this book is not for the depressed. Depression is a serious issue that should be handled by qualified professionals. Gretchen’s goal was, basically, to find out if a generally happy person could maximize her happiness, and to determine if it is useful to give consideration to one’s own happiness. While she encourages others to start their own happiness project she flatly admits that each person’s happiness project will not be the same. We all lead different lives and have different family situations, and we all have different joys, pains, likes, and dislikes.
Did this book make me want to start a happiness project of my own? No. I am a relatively happy person already with little time or energy left to try to plan a way to spend a year making myself happier. I know it sounds snarky, but it is what it is. That being said there were quite a few thoughts in “The Happiness Project” that were useful and could be incorporated into my daily life without much fuss.
I have actually reflected and applied some of her useful already. They were commandment #9 “Lighten Up” and splendid truth #3 “The days are long, but the years are short.”
The day after finishing the book I had a great opportunity to apply these thoughts. I was making breakfast for my 2 year old son who was out in the living room watching “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot about That.” When I went out to get him for breakfast I found a little surprise. He had snuck out and grabbed a box of tissues and proceeded to pull out every tissue from the box leaving them in a large pile that spilled from a chair to the surrounding floor. My normal inclination would be to speak and act in an exasperated manner, but I didn’t. I stopped and realized how funny it was and just laughed. Then I ran to get the camera so that I could take pictures. I had lightened up because I took the time to realize that the situation was funny, and sooner than I would like my son will be all grown up and I would reminisce on that very scene.
So needless to say, I resolved simply to make a list of the main points I appreciated from her book and to post them in a spot where I would look at them frequently. I guess some might call this a happiness project; if so it is the low-effort happiness reminder project.
So, while I might be slightly envious of the life Gretchen Rubin leads, I can’t take away the fact that “The Happiness Project” is thought provoking and fun read. I believe that anyone who reads this book can find at least one useful thought to take away that will actually make them just a little happier for at least one moment.