I enjoyed Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project so thoroughly that I finished it in three days. It is one of those books that, when you reach the end, you’re left with a desire for action of some sort. In this case, she inspired me to begin my own “happiness project,” which will be detailed on this blog once I begin in January 2017.
As for the book itself, it is an easy to read, light-hearted narrative of one year in Rubin’s life. However, this isn’t a normal year; instead, she decides to embark on a happiness project that, as you would expect, is intended to reduce her “midlife malaise- a recurrent sense of discontent and almost a feeling of disbelief. ‘Can this be me?'”
Rubin, a former lawyer (she clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor!) and current writer, appealed to me immediately with the professional way she prepared for her project. She even acknowledges her use of business jargon during her research process, something I, as a business student, enjoyed. Even the non-business minded person will be amused by Rubin’s structured approach to a very subjective project.
After completing her “happiness research,” which is referenced throughout the book, Rubin determines eleven overarching goals, with each containing several specific resolutions and each aligning to a certain month of the year. For example, January’s mission is to “Boost Energy,” and she intends to pursue this by sleeping and exercising more, organizing the house, accomplishing “nagging tasks,” and generally acting energetically. Rubin uses a self-made chart to track her progress on each resolution, every day of the month. Her work culminates in the ultimate challenge: spend December meeting all eleven goals and set a happier tone for the upcoming year.
The narrative, while monotonous at times (to be expected, considering this is a novel that simply describes a year in someone’s life), is amusing, entertaining, and thought-provoking. More importantly, it appeals to the average person who is not necessarily unhappy, but could use some help focusing on the little things that make life enjoyable.
Now we arrive at the million dollar question: was Rubin happier after the project was complete? It’s hard to say. She is certainly wiser and more self-aware; many of her resolutions revealed that small changes in behavior can brighten a dreary day. Overall, her happiness project was an attitude check that we can all take note from. Through her resolutions and “Splendid Truths,” Rubin discovered an essential and seemingly obvious concept that is nevertheless overlooked by many: to be happier, we must actively seek happiness in our day-to-day lives.
Have you read The Happiness Project? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If not, I highly recommend it. The book is available on Amazon for $10.68 here and Rubin provides resources for those looking to start their own happiness project on her website here. Let me know what you think!