Monday, April 5, 2010

Book 20: The Happiness Project

Book 20! Already! I like nice round numbers and feel a sense of accomplishment at getting to say I'm blogging book 20! Of course, I'm not even half way to my goal yet, and let's face it, I've got a lot of reading left to do this year, but I'll consider this my first little milestone.
I was flying back from Ohio last week, and my seat mate and I made a few minutes of conversation during take off and landing. While we were discussing the merits of the Kindle for iPhone app, the subject of this blog came up. My seat mate happened to be reading The Happiness Project and recommended it to me. I took a look at the book. With my recent interest in Finding Your Own North Star and some things going on in my personal life, I made a note of the book's title and author.
Saturday, I stopped by Barnes and Noble and got my own copy. Sunday, I sat outside on the patio, enjoying a gorgeous sunny spring day and cracked open the book. I read a few pages. Then I got up, went inside, and grabbed a pen. Yes, this is another book where I underlined key passages and made notes in the margins. I was so inspired by author Gretchen Rubin's Secrets of Adulthood passage, that I made a list of my own. By eleven Sunday night, I had finished the book. And, as I said via my Twitter feed, I came away thinking this book was phenomenal, life changing.
Sitting on a bus in New York City one rainy afternoon, Gretchen Rubin realized that she might just be wasting her life. Like most of us, what she wanted most out of life was to be happy. But then, it struck her that she didn't know exactly how to define happy. So, in a method very similar to one I could see myself employing, Rubin studied a lot about what it means to be happy. Who knew there were so many schools of thought on happiness? It's true, though. Everyone's definition will be a little different. I couldn't read fast enough. I felt like shouting, "she's talking about ME! How does she know?"
Once she had studied on the subject, Rubin began her year long happiness project. She set twelve commandments for herself. While I like them all, it is her first that resonates the most with me: Be Gretchen. She then wrote down her Secrets of Adulthood, where she documented what she has found to be fundamental truths in her own life. As I mentioned, I was inspired enough to write my own. They are very different from Rubin's, and that is OK. It was the exercise itself that was so interesting to do.
Gretchen also determined twelve resolutions, one per month, touching all facets of her life, where she could make small and not-so-small changes that could impact her happiness. She tracked her progress, adjusted as necessary, wasn't afraid to fail, and evaluated her own happiness periodically. The outcome? Her successful blog ( and the book.
Rubin recounts a Buddhist saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." It was another YES! moment I had reading the book. I've been on my own happiness project of sorts the last few months, without even realizing it. Picking up this book, exactly when I did, perfectly melded with other things going on in my life right now. Folded in perfectly. You see, one of the key points of Rubin's experience, and what I'm learning in my other activities, is that I can control only myself and my reactions. Be deciding to do things to figure out what makes me happy, by BEING ME, I'll be a better person for the people around me.
Like I said, this can be one of those books to transform your life. Some of it may sound like just common sense, but so many of us need a good dose of common sense handed to us. We get so busy, we forget to notice that this life? It is the one we get. And we can spend it just drifting through, or we can create our best life. We can take chances, we can learn new things, we can make sure that the people we love know that we do.
For anyone who is looking to enhance their life, to embark on a journey to discover their own happiness, I highly recommend The Happiness Project.
I plan on putting what I read here into practice.

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