This blog post will serve as a short reflection. Don’t expect a review or any deep analysis. :)
I picked up this book because I was in search of Happiness. I wanted to get some perspective in my life. Could you create happiness in your life? Ultimately, the answer is yes, I believed, and I wanted to know how. I actually stumbled upon this book unintentionally. It was a Fast Company interview with Gretchen Rubin for her latest book which initially caught my interest. However, I saw she wrote this book, ‘The Happiness Project’ and I went out of my way to buy the book immediately. The idea of taking a year of your life to dedicate towards trying to increase your happiness seemed like an ambitious goal.
Gretchen, over 12 months, attempts to follow a few resolutions each month, carefully layering them into her life as the year progresses. She actually learns a lot about herself in the process and the journey ultimately does make her happier. She 'Sings in the Morning' or 'Be a Treasure House of Happy Memories' or 'Go Off the Path' and other various resolutions. Each month, she comes up with a set to focus on, generally united by a theme (January, her focus was vitality and energy, can you guess what kind of resolutions she made?). As she went about the month, she reflected on these resolutions and how they made her feel when she did or did not follow through with them.
So, Gretchen is a smart and often times pointed individual. She is known as a serious person, who during her journey, attempts to lighten up. I felt myself not identifying with this side of her, as I am much less serious about myself then she was about her. She describes how her tendency was to get upset and scold her family when things didn't go the way that was planned. She worked on the nagging she would do on husband. It was cool to read about how she reflected on this side of her personality. Sure, it wasn't something completely bad, but she felt that once she lightened up, her happiness increased. She could still be serious, but understanding the power of lightening up and still “Being Gretchen,” her First Commandment she set for herself during the project.
Something I did identify a lot with her was how much she reflected on herself. She was not afraid to call herself out on behaviors she did not enjoy about herself. She felt bad for not following resolutions she set for herself. She was critical about her entire journey. Sometimes, I wonder about all the introspection I do in my life and sometimes I questioned ‘Am I stuck in my own world? Is it a waste of time to think so much about my own actions and thoughts?” Luckily, Gretchen confirms that this is something she does quite well and it reassured me that this reflection is beneficial.
It is very apparent that Gretchen reads and picks up quotes from books she’s read. Every other page, she refers to a passage from some author or person. Those references were almost like a rap song, layering them in to emphasize a point or even a counterpoint. From John Stuart Mills to Saint Therese to Winston Churchill to Andrew Carnegie. It was quite impressive to see her pull out these quotes.
Recently, Gretchen Rubin did an AMA on Reddit, and she answered a question I asked about if she had a method of measuring happiness utilizing a system of agreeable metrics. The answer was ultimately no (which she explained later in the book, but I hadn't got to that point yet!) and that she sort of just asks herself “Am I happier?” I don’t remember who said this, but she referred to the saying/idea of “You know it when you feel it” to describe if she was happier or not.
Ultimately, this book was a good read. There were some chapters that resonated with me and some that it took me a lot of energy to finish, as the month’s focus just didn't interest me. What Gretchen applies is a thoughtful reflection during her year long journey and ultimately comes to the following conclusion:
“After all my research, I found out what I knew all along: I could change my life without changing my life. When I made the effort to reach out for them, I found that the ruby slippers had been on my feet all along; the bluebird was singing outside my kitchen window.”
This will definitely be a book I will be handing off to a friend to borrow and I’ll be continuing my new tradition of buying a second copy of this book to give to a friend who I think will benefit this. If you're interested in the author or her works (and even her own blog!), you can navigate to her own website gretchenrubin.com.
My next read, The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore.