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I’ve had this book on my To Read list for a long time & decided January 2015 was the perfect time to start a Self Actualization/Self Help book, ya know, “New Year, New You”. That turned out to be the best decision because the author, Gretchen Rubin, created The Happiness Project as a year long project. Each chapter is a reflection of goals she set for herself & how she spent the month working towards them. Rubin was a Supreme Court clerk, but decided to leave law to become a writer. The Happiness Project consists of her personal values and research she conducted on the subject of Happiness.
I connected with Rubin almost immediately because she talks about something that I often struggle with, waiting to start projects until her life is in just the right place. I have a tendency to do the same thing, as evidenced by the way I waited precisely until January 1st to start this year long project. Rubin ends up deciding there are no perfect circumstances & sometimes you just have to dive into things. Her desire to change her way of thinking motivated me to join Rubin on her Happiness Project, instead of just reading about it. Each month I will follow the goals & we’ll see how I do. Look for these reviews periodically as it will (obviously) take me a year to fully complete this review and project.
Below, you will find the Goals for January, February, & March, my review of the author’s experience, and what my own experience was. Click the FOLLOW me button on the top right to be notified by email when I post the next installment!
Goals: Sleep earlier, Exercise better, Toss/restore/organize, Tackle a nagging task, Act more energetic
Review: I enjoy Rubin’s writing, she’s sarcastic and sassy. We would be great friends or hate each other because we’re too similar. She’s pretty Type-A & I can be too. She talks about finding peace through having things in just the right order. My friends & family semi-seriously joke that I have OCD because while I’m not necessarily a neat freak, I can be VERY particular. Another thing we have in common is an “insatiable need for credit” (p 24). We want the gold star! We’re highly motivated by praise – I’m really giving away all my secrets – haha!
My Experience: January’s goals were a breeze as I had already made them my New Year’s Resolutions. I had just moved back to my hometown & was an unemployed, recent college grad – it was the perfect time to focus on my health and sort through the belongings I had accumulated in recent years plus all the stuff waiting for me at my childhood home. I definitely felt better after getting my things in order (somewhat) & getting back into a healthy lifestyle.
Goals: Quit nagging, Don’t expect praise or recognition, Fight right, No dumping, Give proofs of love
Review: While this book is based on Rubin’s experience, she also delves into research she conducted, which I found interesting & somewhat troublesome. Something that struck a nerve for me was, “the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women” (p 52). I found this interesting because I don’t consider myself lonely & a majority of my friends are males because I don’t often find friendships with women fulfilling. The troublesome part of the research was that it relied heavily on stereotypical gender studies. For example, on p53 she talks about her husband not being a good listener, “[l]earning that men & women both turn to women for understanding showed me that Jamie wasn’t ignoring me out of lack of interest or affection: he just wasn’t good at giving that kind of support…[he] wasn’t going to have long discussions…[h]e didn’t want to spend hours pumping up my self-confidence” First of all, who WANTS to spend HOURS pumping up someone’s self confidence?! Second, why should we assume just because he’s male that he doesn’t want to have long discussions or isn’t a good listener? I know plenty of males that enjoy talking way more than I do & are way better listeners – that’s why we’re friends, because we complement each other. I understand there’s science behind these ideas, but if we want to grow as a society, we have to stop applying stereotypes to all men/women. Just learn about people & who they are.
My Experience: This month’s Goals were focused on Rubin’s marriage & I’m single, so I simply chose to apply the Goals to my friends and family. Following through was not as simple. I definitely struggled this month. I was especially nervous about “Don’t expect praise/recognition” because as mentioned earlier – I want that gold star! For example, as a “proof of love”, I bought my mom & myself passes to a ZUMBA studio. The instructor asked how we found them & my mom said, “We found you on Groupon”. Usually, this is where I would jump in & say, “Actually! I found the passes & bought them as a gift”, but I bit my tongue. I tried to consider these struggles as “what difference would it make?” issues. What difference did it make for the ZUMBA instructor to know that taking classes was MY idea, who cares!? Well, I care, but I guess that’s not the point. Another Goal I struggled with was “Quit nagging”. I found it hard to distinguish between nagging and giving a proof of love. Continuing with the ZUMBA example, in the past when my mom wouldn’t want to work out, I’d nag her about getting in shape, being healthy, etc. In an effort to not nag, when she didn’t feel like going to ZUMBA, I didn’t say anything. To me, it felt like I was uninvolved, the nagging was how I showed I cared. In this instance, not nagging worked because my mom found motivation on her own & didn’t feel like I was forcing her. In another instance, when I didn’t nag my friend about following through with something, feelings were hurt because she felt like I hadn’t been involved enough. You can’t please everyone!
Goals: Launch a blog, Enjoy the fun of failure, Ask for help, Work smart, Enjoy now
Review: It was comforting to hear Rubin go through similar trials that I have experienced while blogging. A couple quotes from this month I took to heart are, “People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think. Even if [you do] something wrong on the blog, it [won’t] be a disaster” (p75). Also, “one of the biggest challenges posed by my blog was the doubt raised by my own inner critic…Was it egocentric to write so much about my own experience?…I didn’t want to be [a] novelist who spent so much time rewriting his first sentence that he never wrote his second…I needed to…[push] ahead without constantly second guessing myself” (p78).
My Experience: At first glance, I was feeling iffy about these Goals because I already write a blog (obviously), & failure & asking for help are not things I enjoy. The blog issue turned out to be a non-issue, because I’m still in the beginning stages of blogging, so it was easy to follow some of Rubin’s advice and start creating more content. I think I made great strides in terms of posting here more often, which has definitely made me happier and gotten my creative juices flowing as I try to plan my next post. I’ve been asking for help from others in the form of trying to find work & looking for companies that offer new bloggers support like the Bloguettes or Blogger Babes. I’m trying to enjoy the failure of being rejected from jobs, but that’s proving to be difficult. However, when I’m rejected, I try to think of it like “Woo hoo! Now I have more time to find an even more perfect job!”
Overall at this point, I can’t say I’m remarkably happier, but I feel like I’m challenging myself and growing along the way. Is that the same thing as Happiness? I’m not sure, & I think that’s what Rubin is aiming to find out. What do you think!? Have you enjoyed reading about The Happiness Project? Are you inspired to start a project of your own or follow along with me? Please let me know in the comments below! Remember, you can click the picture of the book at the top of this post and it’ll take you to all the Amazon listings – some sales are as low as one penny! Thanks for reading!