I love to alternate types of books to read- and now that I read more than one book at a time, I usually have at least one non fiction book on the go. Last week I wrote a bit about True Feelings, which I loved reading in the winter, and more recently just finished The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin after I found it in the library in a happy coincidence.
The Happiness Project is a book that I had seen popping up all over the place a few years ago, and it seemed like a fun book to dip into. The premise is that the author, Gretchen, set herself a challenge for the year in the form of said happiness project. The book walks us through this journey through her year and is set out with a chapter for each month- in which Gretchen explores a different resolution or focus each month with breakdowns of practical things she’s tried for each area. The whole thing hinges on a resolution chart – a way to tangibly see progression month by month.
I loved reading Julia and Julia, which has a similar kind of premise with a year long challenge, a blog about it and a resulting book. I love those big challenge kind of things (I’ve done Nanowrimo three or four times, finished a degree after having two children in the middle, and now I’m doing the 100 day project), and reading about them is so fun too. While my main goal in life is not happiness in and of itself- I think we can all do with a bit of positive proactive thinking, planning ahead and making conscious steps toward shaping our days and lives to work for us and not against the way we are individually made. That we can avoid falling into traps that are set up to make us fail, feel inadequate and generally keep us away from the abundant life that is there for each of us. Approaching the unique life we have been given with gratitude and intention, from a firm foundation means that we aren’t looking to our circumstances to give us happiness but can step into our lives with confidence and grace.
I really enjoyed the structure of the book, and each month Gretchen tackled a different area of her life that she wanted to put a bit more intentionality into. From marriage to fun, parenting to mindfulness, there was a variety of areas which made the reading interesting. It was nice to get peeks into her life through the project while not needing to know everything there was to know about her daily life. Obviously her chapters on books, kidlit and writing were my favourites – in lots of those areas we had overlapping interests and opinions so I definitely found myself able to connect and glean from those ones the most. I didn’t share some of her views in the chapters about mortality and mindfulness- Gretchen described herself as spiritually agnostic or something similar but obviously it was her project, not mine, so I just skimmed some parts that I knew weren’t connecting, and that was fine.
Each month she broke the overall focus into a number of smaller resolutions, such as declutter, have a pollyanna attitude, laugh more or start a collection. Not all of the resolutions stuck (or needed to), so reading Gretchen’s reflections on what she learned from it and why some things she didn’t actually need to add to her life was interesting. As a mother of two young girls (7 and 1 I think, at the time of writing), it was fascinating to me to see how similar some aspects of her life were, and yet how different also. Of course, I don’t live in New York, but I found the insights so interesting. I definitely picked up lots of helpful reminders about not being too serious, doing things without wanting or needing the praise, and buying things needfully. There’s a weatlh of food for thought in this book, so I’d defintely pick it up if you see it!
Some always helpful reminders- the best way to be happy yourself is to make others happy, and the way to make others happy is to be happy yourself. However- the only person you can change is yourself- and how you react to others.
Overall I found it an enjoyable read, with a helpful exploration of the effects of living deliberately and intentionally, not floating through life aimlessly. I often find myself accidentally just getting through each day without positively deciding what I want our week or month to focus on beyond the everyday recurring routine. I always need these reminders about setting positive goals and making new habits, trying new things out to see if they do have positive effects. It would definitely be fun to have some kind of version of this for yourself- as Gretchen explained, often we set goals, reach them and set more- but the resolutions were more like on going habits that she wanted to cultivate and so introducing them gradually over the course of the year seemed like a really wise idea. I know that some people break their word for the year into different chunks for the year to focus on, which could be another twist on this kind of idea.
I am personally finding that months, like years, seem to be incredibly short, so I would love to find a way to incorporate the idea of having a focus or challenge each month (I do this with my mama book calendar for some things, but having a larger umbrella might be nice too!). Of course overall I want to be focusing on the one who gives all things- to seek first his kingdom, and all else will be added, and flow from that- and yet I don’t want to be squandering the life I’ve been given either, when I could be making simple changes that make it richer for everyone in it.
“I am living my real life, this is it. Now is now, and if I waited to be happier, waited to have fun, waited to do the things that I know I ought to do, I might never get the chance.”