Gretchen writes about her life and Gretchen's life is not all that interesting.What changed my mind?
I read "The key to happiness is to know yourself" a post on Gretchen Rubin’s blog also called The Happiness Project. Since self-knowledge is one of my goals for 2012, I decided perhaps reading the book would offer suggestions on how to attain more self-knowledge.
What is The Happiness Project about?
One day while riding a city bus Gretchen, a married mother of two, realizes, "Time is passing, and she is not focusing on the things that really matter." Instead she is suffering from midlife malaise – a recurrent sense of discontent and almost a feeling of disbelief “Can this be me?” She also realizes she needs to work on happiness now while things are good because one day that phone call will come. Her husband suffers from Hepatitis C, a potentially fatal disease that attacks the liver. Eventually, he will develop cirrhosis and need a kidney transplant.
This moment evolved into The Happiness Project. Inspired by Ben Franklin's resolution chart Gretchen selects 12 different happiness resolutions, focusing on a different subject each month. The book chronicles this project; what she tried, what she learned, what worked and what didn’t.
Since I’ve been reading Gretchen's blog for some time, I felt the book didn't offer anything new especially in the area of self-knowledge. Plus Penelope was right; at times Gretchen’s story wasn’t very interesting. Then in the midst of reading, I received my own phone call bearing bad news. No longer able to concentrate on the book I had an epiphany. More happiness isn't what I needed, or even what I wanted. What I need to work on is confidence and strength, so when the next phone call arrives I can carry on without falling apart. On further review, I realized this was Gretchen's goal as well:
One of my main goals for my happiness project was to prepare myself for adversity, to develop the self-discipline and the habits to deal with a bad thing when it happened. (Pg. 136)Gretchen's research revealed that change and novelty are key elements to happiness which are also the elements needed to attain self-confidence. Gretchen's husband offered his thoughts on the project:
I think this happiness project is all about trying to get more control over your life. (Pg. 289)Was that true? Gretchen responds with:
Perhaps. The feeling of control is an essential element of happiness-a better predictor of happiness than, say, income. Having a feeling of autonomy of being able to choose what happens in your life of how you spend your time is crucial. Identifying and following my resolutions had made me feel far more in control of my time, my body, my actions, my surroundings, and even my thoughts. Getting control of my life was definitely an aspect of my happiness project, and a greater feeling of control gave me a major boost in happiness. (Page 289.)Bottom Line:
The book though not perfect isn't a complete waste of time. If you are interested in getting more control over your life, reading the book could give you the incentive to start your own project. If nothing else you may glean a couple of little nuggets like if you want more sleep it is best not to go to bed wearing socks and that the amount of time you smile during a conversation has a direct effect on how friendly you are perceived to be.
Is there a happiness project in my future?
Gretchen had her epiphany in April. She completed her resolution chart just in time for January 1st. This is after spending months researching and reading about happiness. "Happiness" is Gretchen's passion and her full-time job. I had set a goal for myself to spend January researching and writing about self-knowledge, February's topic was to be communication. Here it is mid-February and I've accomplished almost nothing. So no there is not a happiness project in my immediate future. But I can spend the remaining months of the year researching self-discovery and what it will take to get control over my life.
Have you read the book? If so what were your thoughts?
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