Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #19 LibraryLove March 28, 2010

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Book description~ What if you could change your life without really changing your life? On the outside, Gretchen Rubin had it all—a good marriage, healthy children and a successful career— but she knew something was missing. Determined to end that nagging feeling, she set out on a year-long quest to learn how to better enjoy the life she already had.  Each month, Gretchen pursued a different set of resolutions—go to sleep earlier, tackle a nagging task, bring people together, take time to be silly—along with dozens of other goals. She read everything from classical philosophy to cutting-edge scientific studies, from Winston Churchill to Oprah, developing her own definition of happiness and a plan for how to achieve it. She kept track of which resolutions worked and which didn’t, sharing her stories and collecting those of others through her blog (created to fulfill one of March’s resolutions). Bit by bit, she began to appreciate and amplify the happiness in her life.

In a piece of “stunt journalism” (think Julie/Julia Project), we follow Gretchen’s year-long journey toward enjoying her life more. She blogs along the way and we see her progress as she tackles mini goals each month.  Gretchen wants to show more gratitude and generally improve her mood and productivity. I know a handful of folks that I’d LOVE to send this book to who would truly benefit from Gretchen’s perspective. The book was thought provoking because it made me realize how many folks out there live their lives in a constant state of damage control and procrastination. But why is it that hard, really, to follow through with commitments? Or to say no when we know we absolutely cannot follow through?

This book made me realize just how much I love my life and how much I show gratitude to those important in my life. I realized how it’s common place for me and my friends to regularly seek out new experiences, making our lives a richer place. The main factor to happiness for me is surrounding myself with positive, caring, considerate people and to “weed out” those who are a toxic force and energy drain.

I had a very hard time relating to Gretchen in this book. We couldn’t be more opposite. Anyone that knows me, knows I cannot procrastinate. I just missed that gene somewhere along the way and sometimes it’s REALLY annoying. I’m proud to be a highly effective and self motivated person. Most of the topics Gretchen covers in her book felt unrelatable for me- I love getting things done; I’m efficient in doing them. I’m organized and love giving back to others.  I have an amazing social circle of close friends that requires effort from both parties. I’m on time or early; I’m reliable. I consider people’s feelings and remember their birthdays. I’ve had to be self sufficient at a young age, and one of the things I’m most thankful to my parents for- teaching me to be independent and learn how to make good decisions based on the foundation I was given. I’m a work in progress just like everyone else. But I am aware and so thankful for my life. I show it regularly to those in my network.

It’s hard for me to criticize one woman’s quest for happiness- happiness is subjective to each of us, as are the things we deem important. I appreciated her insights and if nothing else, how people are drawn to a smiling face and to positivity and friendliness.

I will share a few criticisms: this book was too verbose. Gretchen went into too much detail over minutiae. Gretchen also cut and pasted blog comments strangers left on her blog. Sure it’s nice to hear what they are saying and how they can relate. But in a published book? C’mon.  I felt it was filler. She could have just said “visit my blog to see what others had to say about each of these topics” and be done with it.

Happiness isn’t just how we feel or how we act. We also have to be reactive to those around us. We can’t change other people but we can also change how we let them effect us and muddy our moods. We can also lead by example, which I try to do whenever possible. I thrive on learning from others and love that I’m surrounded by amazing people who I can learn so much from every time we interact.

This book, for the most part, boiled down to a summary of psychological research on happiness which I was familiar with through much of the reading I had to do for college, mixed with her personal anecdotes.  There were two significant takeaways for me:

#1: Keep a contented heart

#2: Whatever love you might feel in your heart, others will see only your actions

Why not try a little harder to put on a smile? Try a little harder to show your loved ones how much they mean to you? Why not try a little harder to appreciate what you have? Only good can come of it.

3/5 stars
19 down, 33 to go!
In progress- The Elegance of the Hedgehog (audiobook) and Sarah’s Key
Library Love


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