Happiness is…

One of my “things” for 2015 was to look more into the concept of happiness. I had stumbled across Shawn Achor already and then I stumbled across Gretchen Rubin and her “Happiness Project”. Intrigued, I reserved her book of the same title in the library and I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago.

It’s hard to say what I thought of it. She certainly had a lot of interesting stuff to say and it provided ample food for thought over the last couple of weeks. Evidently intelligent, educated and articulate, she writes about a year of her life where she conducts her own Happiness Project, dedicating each month to a specific task, area or goal intended to make her happier.

I guess I was expecting a light- hearted, witty, entertaining account where she transformed her life with minimal effort into something shiny and bright. Instead, the book was an honest, considered, almost thesis-style report of some of the day-to-day details of her life she felt she needed to change to become happier. As I said, there was a lot of interesting stuff in there, but there were also quite a few bits I skipped (such as reprints of lengthy comments posted by her own blog followers). She came across as a rather serious person who really had to try hard to embrace happiness. In her own words:

“I had a tendency to be discontented: ambitious, dissatisfied, fretful, and tough to please.”

She just doesn’t come across as a particularly likeable author, protagonist and main character and I think that’s partly what un-did me. Likeable’s possibly the wrong word, it’s not that she’s unlikeable either… but then, it’s not a work of fiction and I don’t think it’s designed to entertain, as such, it’s an act of sharing, and if by sharing, it helps people, great. Of course, it’s also how she makes a living now (as a writer).

I think the main things that bothered me about this book, through no fault of the author’s, were

  1. There was no overnight transformation, no magic bullet, just a series of real, practical steps requiring effort and commitment (and therefore much more applicable to most people’s lives).
  2. Instead of featuring someone I fancied myself as in a slightly more glamorous, story-book life (my “superhero self”), the author, in all her serious, grudge-bearing imperfection is actually much more like the real me than I like to admit.

Unfortunately, the week after I finished it, it was due back at the library but I managed to spend some time going through the book again and picked out some of the bits that might work for me. In fact, at the back of the book she includes the web address for her blog and some practical tools that might help the reader with their own happiness project.

And so I have mapped out my own rough Happiness Project for 2015, starting this month, Februray, with “Attitude”…. TBC!

 

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