The Happiness Project taps deep desires

Who doesn’t want to be happy?

And, in particular, in today’s multi-tasking, strive-for-success, be-better-than-ever-at-everything world, who isn’t looking for ways to focus on the things that bring satisfaction while jettisoning the dissatisfiers?  Gretchen Rubin spends a year exploring one theme a month.  Whether you find your happiness by living a more orderly life (as one of the tactics outlined in January, when the theme is “Boost Energy”) or by examining your habits, good and bad (October, “Pay Attention”), there is bound to be a lot to relate to in The Happiness Project.

The book began with a blog (as so many seem to do these days, whether you’re living a year with Oprah or cooking your way through Julia Child) and still has a very chatty, yet mesmerizing web site for those people for whom the book is just not enough.  You can dip in and out by topic or just sample chronologically – she posts twice a week so there’s always a new thought.  Gretchen has an engaging voice and is appropriately self-deprecating and open about her personal foibles.

Still not enough?  Visit The Happiness Project Toolbox and start your own happiness project.  I admit I started an account.  Like Gretchen, I love plans and charts – few things give me a sense of satisfaction more than viewing the little green dots I placed on my calendar for every day in which I kept to my exercise plan.  How can you have 29 green circles on your calendar and not haul your sorry heinie out for a jog in order to get that 30th dot?  So setting goals, identifying steps, crossing things off… all to achieve happiness!  What could be more happy-making?

Somewhat off-putting – in order to use the tools provided, much of the information you put up doesn’t really belong to you anymore.  So if you’re hoping to download a template, it really doesn’t work that way.  It’s more like Facebook. Picking the privacy settings for everything associated with the toolbox was too overwhelming for me right now.  Maybe I’m too busy to be happy?  Or can’t stick to one thing long enough?

The book itself is well worth the time, and while I got it from the library, I do intend to buy it (perhaps with my 40% off Borders coupon) because I know I will want to refer to it now and then.    I enjoyed Gretchen’s 12 commandments:

  1. Be Gretchen.
  2. Let it go.
  3. Act the way I want to feel.
  4. Do it now.
  5. Be polite and be fair.
  6. Enjoy the process.
  7. Spend out.
  8. Identify the problem.
  9. Lighten up.
  10. Do what ought to be done.
  11. No calculation.
  12. There is only love.

Initially enigmatic, these commandments make a lot of sense once they are put in context by the book.  Be Gretchen, for example, is short for “to thine own self be true.”  In other words, you don’t need to remake yourself to be happy.  Don’t force yourself to become something you’re not, thinking this will make you happy.  It won’t.  Be your best you.

Also fun are some of her secrets to adulthood, such as “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough” and “you don’t have to be good at everything.”  I thought about my own adulthood secrets.  These include:

  • Time spent with a dog on your lap is never wasted.
  • If it makes you feel bad, it’s wrong.
  • Electrical appliances sometimes magically fix themselves, so if it’s broken today, try again tomorrow.
  • If it’s hard to do, it’s probably the right thing.
  • One cookie can’t hurt, but don’t fool yourself, honey.
  • You can change people’s behavior, but you can’t change their personality.
  • Control top pantyhose doesn’t fool anybody.

So explore your own happiness!

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