Wednesday, December 29, 2010

'Cause, Really, Who Can't Use More Happiness?

(Image from Indiebound)

As 2010 drifts into 2011, I've been thinking a lot about what I did/did not accomplish this year and what I hope to get out of the next 365 days. I've asked myself the big, deep questions: "What did I learn this year?"; "What am I doing right?"; "What areas of my life need improving?"; and "What goals do I need to set now in order to ensure that I'm a kinder/skinnier/smarter/more organized person this time next year?" I didn't, however, ponder how to be a happier person because, really, I'm already pretty happy. Sure, there are things about myself I'd like to improve, but overall, I'm satisfied with who I am, what I'm doing and where I'm going. Happy. That's me. And yet, I suppose I could stand to be happier. Who couldn't, right?

Gretchen Rubin, a New Yorker with a successful writing career, a strong marriage and two adoring daughters, felt much the same way. She was already happy, but wondered if she could be happier simply by revamping certain areas of her life. In other words, as she relates, "I didn't want to reject my life. I wanted to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen" (12). To achieve this, she launched a year-long self-improvement program which she discusses in her book The Happiness Project. Using each month to focus on enhancing different aspects of her existence brought Rubin a variety of experiences, everything from ridicule to triumph to aggravation to euphoria. Did it make her a happier person? Yes, she insists, and it can do the same for you.

The Happiness Project is more of a memoir than a step-by-step manual for achieving joy. Still, Rubin's musings offer great insight into what it means and what it takes to truly be happy. The idea which impacted me most was Rubin's discovery that she had to embrace activities she knew would appeal to her instead of those she thought should appeal to her. Above all else, she vowed to be true to the person she already was.

Unlike most volumes of this type, Rubin's guide doesn't read like a self-help book. It's more personal, more readable, more honest, and more forgiving. The author doesn't profess herself to be some all-knowing guru - she's just an average Jane trying to make herself into a better person. Her account is humble, humorous and, most of all, heartening. It's not the most exciting thing I've read this year, but The Happiness Project definitely made me think. And resolve to try my own version of a happiness project. After all, more happiness never hurt anyone, right?

If you're interested in trying your own happiness project, check out Gretchen Rubin's helpful Happiness Project Blog.

(Readalikes: Um, I can't think of any. Can you?)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 only because the sh-word is used one time. There are also some vague references to sex.

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of The Happiness Project from the generous folks at Harper Collins. Thank you!

3 comments:

  1. This sounds really good, and I like that it's not your typical self-help book. I also like that idea you said impacted you most about doing the things you really like to do instead of the things you should like to do. I'll admit that the line is so blurred for me there sometimes that I'm not sure I even have a firm grip on what actually appeals to me vs. what I think should. Sounds like I need to give this book a try! Thanks for the great review. :)

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  2. I've been meaning to take a look at this book for some time. I'm glad you shared about it, Susan. I'm all for the "like to do" items instead of the "should do" items. :-)

    Hope you and your family have a very Happy New Year!!!

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  3. I really liked this idea, too. I mean, why push yourself to read Aristotle if you know you're going to hate it? Rubin's vow to enhance the person she already was rather than completely reinvent herself really hit home for me.

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