Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Happiness Project

Today I finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It's actually a pretty quick read; the reason it took me so long to finish is that I started it on this sort of strange ebook system the library has, but which isn't compatible with my Kindle, so I was reading on a computer, which I don't really enjoy doing, and so I didn't finish, and the waiting list for the actual book at the library was really, really long.

A couple of reasons I really liked this book are that Rubin doesn't assume her way is the right way; she simply talks about what worked and didn't work for her, and makes suggestions that are easy to transfer to other people. For example, she has a one-sentence gratitude journal. One sentence a day isn't a whole lot to write. And the journal doesn't have to be gratitude. The level of flexibility she presents is refreshing, as opposed to other self-help books that make specific instructions as to what you should do.

Another reason I liked this book is because it's more realistic than, say, Eat, Pray, Love. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I could solve/come to terms with most of my problems if I could take a year off to travel. Rubin isn't perfect, which she constantly points out. This is good, because it allows the reader to forgive herself as well.

I made extensive notes as I read this book because there are a number of ideas I'd like to try incorporating into my own life, but I find myself completing this sentence with, when I have time. Then I think, I should make time. Of course, this should-thinking is one thing that doesn't fit into a happiness project: it is at exact odds with being yourself, which is paramount for figuring out how to be happier.

One thing Rubin points out about herself is that she's an excessive note-taker when she reads, even if there seems to be no point. I'm an excessive list maker. Once, a girlfriend of mine who is also an excessive list maker and I were discussing this tendency. Her husband is a doer. While we were talking, we watched him just decide to polish their silver. We commented that we would have thought, I need to polish the silver, then we would have put it on a list with a date to get it done. Which is not to say that we're not productive; we just go about it a different way.

I think the biggest takeaway from The Happiness Project, is to figure out who you are, what works for you, and how to make that your happiness. I don't really like science. It's not that I find it boring, per se, but I just can't get excited about it. I have another friend who has devoted her life to science. I love when she teaches me something new: she makes it at my level, she only tells me what I need to know, she provides good examples, and she's really really enthusiastic. She's my Hermione Granger. She gets that her passion isn't my passion, but that I can appreciate that passion within her. I no longer feel like I should love science when I'm with her, or that I'm less intelligent than her because I don't, but that this passion is one of the many things I LOVE about her. I think this works out better for everyone involved.

I'm not actively trying to start my own happiness project, but with the new year looming, I am thinking about what I want to accomplish, what I want to make a priority for the year. I guess this is, in a way, a sort of happiness project: isn't happiness sort of the point of any attempts at becoming a better person?

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