C’mon, Get Happy!

 

I just finished The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and I’m feeling inspired. The author spent a year test-driving prescriptions for and theories about happiness in an attempt to see if she could become happier.

I love this project for several reasons. First, in and age when cynicism and depressive affect are considered hip and interesting, is refreshing to see someone unabashedly pursuing happiness. Trite as it may sound, don’t we all want to be happy and wish happiness for our loved ones? But we tend to think that pursuing happiness is somehow selfish. But it’s not. Second, it was pretty daring for someone who from the outside seems to “have it all” — successful writing career, loving marriage, healthy children, and financial security — to admit that she is not as happy as she’d like to think she is capable of (even her own insistence that she is happy rings a little false when you see her working at happiness so hard at times). The vulnerability and yearning that she reveals in confessing that despite all of the great things in her life she felt dissatisfied and cranky is quite moving. Third, Gretchen’s approach really resonates with me. A voracious reader, she consulted sources from Aristotle to Ben Franklin to Oprah Winfrey. Then she used herself as a guinea pig and methodically tried out the tactics she gleaned from her research. Each month she chose an area to focus on and made resolutions that she tracked on her Franklin-esque resolutions chart, so she could visually assess her progress. Oh, how I love to be able to chart my progress — like a child with a sticker chart, I find it so gratifying to see my success!

I learned a lot from this book. As it happens, Gretchen (also a redhead and a classmate and nodding acquaintance of mine at Yale) and I have a lot in common in terms of the ways in which we are motivated — including our desire for praise and appreciation from others when we do something nice — so I found a lot of her experience very instructive. There are lots of practical tips as well as deep wisdom to be found within.

Best of all, this book inspired me, both in my own life and in my work. I am being nicer to my husband and children, eating better, exercising more, blogging regularly, and — here’s the biggie — feeling happier as a result of my implementation of the ideas in this book. My work is about helping people find happiness in work and life. Gretchen’s roll-up-your-sleeves approach demystifies the “pursuit of happiness” and puts it in very accessible form. Several of my clients are now using resolutions charts with success. Thank you, Gretchen.