I am constantly trying to be a better person, as in I try to set goals for myself, expand my horizons, try new things, play with ideas… So when I heard about Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project, I was excited to read it. I love reading about people and the things that they have done to improve, succeed, or challenge themselves.
You may have noticed the pattern on my blog so far-there is a lot of mention of happiness and being happy. Although I have always been a generally happy person, I tend to get caught up in the small details of life. I worry too much and make decisions based on other people and what the ‘right’ choice is. That means that I don’t always follow my own intuition and can end up being miserable because I’m not doing what I truly want to do. This becomes an issue when you lose yourself in the midst of trying to make everyone around you happy. However, in the past 6 months I have really started to focus on making choices based on myself. I participate in different events and activities because it is something that I want to do, rather than avoiding them for fear of missing out on something else. I moved into an apartment where I make my own routine and decisions, also known as: eat as many vegetables as possible! I took a job as a nanny partly so that I could focus on creating more happiness and less stress in my life. This also gave more time for fun with friends on the weekends. Good bye crazy waitress hours! Most importantly, I’ve tried to avoid making decisions based on a ‘plan.’ There were times in the past when I would avoid invites if they weren’t something that I’d already had time to think about and schedule into my ‘life.’ Now, if a friend calls to invite me to the lake, I go! I haven’t fully dismissed all of my Type A plans and lists…thank you iphone calendar, but I am continuing to keep some spontaneity in my life!
Okay, back to the book. As Gretchen eventually discovered, happiness projects are not necessarily unique. There have been distinct figures throughout time who have taken on projects of self-improvement. And more recently, happiness projects have become the in-thing. Nevertheless, Gretchen spent an entire year taking the time and energy to do the things that we all know that we should do, but don’t. Like taking the time to reorganize accumulated clutter, send a friend a letter, smiling when you’d rather scream. Her discovery? The energy that she put into being happy was worth it for her own benefit, as well as the people around her. She hit speed bumps along the way, but readjusted until she figured out what worked for her.
One of my favorite parts of Gretchen’s happiness project is the set of Twelve Commandments that she creates for herself. Number one? Be Gretchen. I think that most people need a reminder to stay true to themselves and their values. To make decisions that are not always based on the people around you, and to know what you want to do, eat…what makes you happy!
I would definitely recommend this book, even if you are perfectly happy-everyone could use a little inspiration. Gretchen’s advice to act the way you want to feel is something that I have tried to instill into my daily life-a bit of a challenge!
I probably won’t be cleaning my closet anytime soon-saving that for a
rainy snow day! However, Gretchen did inspire me to smile in the face of rudeness while at the grocery store recently. Feelings of success and happiness versus anger and resentment? I’ll take it!
Do you have any personal commandments that you live by?