“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” – Colette
I just finished re-reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin for the 3rd time. It is by far one of my favorite books. It is also probably one of the only books I own that isn’t a novel. I must begin by saying that it isn’t really a “self-help” book. It is more like Gretchen Rubin’s self help book, but it can still be life altering. I’ll explain what I mean:
Gretchen Rubin lives on the Upper East Side in NYC. She is married with two young children. She was a lawyer, but quit that job to write biographies of people like JFK and Winston Churchill. Her husband is a lawyer as well. They are close with both of their families, and in fact, his parents live one block away. Sounds perfect, right?
According to Gretchen’s blog, she was walking her daughter to school one day- the same routine as always, the same route as always. Suddenly, her daughter stops and begins shouting in excitement about seeing a dog. A dog! This snaps Gretchen out of her life funk. This tiny dog brings her daughter so much excitement and joy?! Oh, life through a child’s eyes. From that moment on, Gretchen vowed to not just go through the motions of life. She wanted to enjoy life more- you only get one. It wasn’t that she was unhappy at all. She just figured that she could be happier and enjoy life, family and her surroundings more than she was already. She didn’t want to take anything for granted.
The new year was approaching, so she decided to create and begin a happiness project. Gretchen is married and has kids, so she couldn’t just run off to India like in Eat, Pray, Love. She had to do this in her own house. Each month she would focus on a different aspect of her life. She kept a Resolutions Chart and each month added her new resolutions to her old ones from the previous month. Her topics are as follows (each one features more specific goals):
January: Boost Energy (Vitality)
February: Remember Love (Marriage)
March: Aim Higher (Work)
April: Lighten Up (Parenthood)
May: Be Serious About Play (Leisure)
June: Make Time for Friends (Friendship)
July: Buy Some Happiness (Money)
August: Contemplate the Heavens (Eternity)
September: Pursue a Passion (Books)
October: Pay Attention (Mindfulness)
November: Keep a Contented Heart (Attitude)
December: Boot Camp Perfect (Happiness)
Like I mentioned before, the book is about Gretchen’s journey. This is her Happiness Project, and every one’s will be different. She read over 80 books to prepare for this year- authors range from Aristotle to the Dali Lama (she discusses these works throughout the book and gives a list of her references in the back of the book as well). She mixes together her journey with personal stories, fan comments from her blog, famous quotes, great ideas, etc. For example, one of my favorite ideas of hers is to send Valentine’s Day cards instead of Christmas cards. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have the madness that Christmas does, and it is still a time of love. She also admits that when she makes a goal to send Christmas cards, she never can get them out on time which leaves her feeling guilty and frustrated. This is another reason I like her- she admits her struggles as well as her successes.
Another thing she discusses is getting rid of stuff. This seems so obvious, but as a packrat I struggle with this. I save things to use later or because they are pretty. She stresses that if you don’t use things now then when will you use them? One of her fans commented on a blog post about this topic- she wrote about how her mother saved these beautiful linen napkins, but could never find the right time to use them. Her mother died without using them once, and the writer said she has the napkins now and puts them to good use. She isn’t going to waste them. The time is now! As someone who held off wearing her new sneakers because they were too pretty, I can definitely learn from this book. :o)
Although I am not an author or married with kids, I can still relate to this book. I let my mom borrow it and she loved it as well. She has even given it as gifts to other people. I think even men can relate! You might not have a husband or wife, but you still need to learn how to “fight right” (as Gretchen says) or give “proofs of love” to friends/family which she discusses in her Marriage chapter. You also might not have kids, but you still need to “acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings” whether young or old, which she discusses in her Parenthood chapter.
I definitely recommend giving this book a read no matter if you are male, female, young, old, etc. It does make you realize small things in life that you can easily change. Gretchen has a few main points, but two of my favorites are as follows:
One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.
After her first year of doing her Happiness Project resolutions (resolutions are life long, goals are short-term), she realized that she had a more positive effect on not only herself but her family too.
The days are long, but the years are short.
Don’t take life for granted. Your days might seem long, boring, routine, etc, but time flies. Soon you will be married, have kids, lose kids to college, have grandkids, be retired etc. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:
And that’s whats up!