I first came across Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, last summer at Powell’s Books in Portland. I loved the title. I loved the bookstore. I loved being in Portland. I expected to love reading the book as much as I enjoyed the experience of finding the book. But as life sometimes does, it got in the way, and the book sat on my shelf until just last night.
A friend’s Facebook post about her own Happiness Project sent me hunting for this book. Ah – the power of Facebook. Anyway, I found it on a shelf in my kitchen (because every room in my house is devoted in part to being a library). I read the preface “Getting Started” last night and knew instantly that I would be a fan of the book.
First of all, the writing is conversational and easy to read. Nothing turns me off of a book more quickly than having to re-read something to make sense of it. I can tell from the first few paragraphs that I will not have that problem with this book. Second, I learned in the fourth paragraph that Gretchen Rubin is a lawyer-turned-writer. That gives her instant credibility – instant pedestal status – in my mind. Third, this woman talks about a methodical way of tackling different aspect of her life to make it happier. That struck me because most people don’t associate to-do lists and projects as the path towards a happier life. But she writes, “I wanted to perfect my character, but, given my nature, that would probably involve charts, deliverables, to-do lists, new vocabulary terms and compulsive note taking.” My goodness, I have found a woman after my own heart. Finally, I love her recognition that a happy life can be made better – that by taking on this project, she was not suggesting that life was unhappy. She was, instead, recognizing that there was room for improvement. I agree completely. There always is room for improvement.
She got my attention with her preface. I’m in. I want my own Happiness Project.
So what’s my plan?
- Read all the way through the book to get a sense for what she tackled in her own life and how.
- Develop my own Commandments, though I know I will steal from Gretchen and make the first “Be Taline.” That is sometimes my greatest challenge. (For a list of Gretchen’s commandments, see her website.)
- Identify ten or twelve aspects of my life that I want to improve. Again, I’m sure I’ll steal from Gretchen on some of these categories. Hers were vitality, marriage, work, parenthood, leisure, friendship, money, eternity, books, mindfulness, attitude, and happiness.
- Develop the specific tasks towards each of my own categories.
- Get to work on executing the tasks.
Gretchen started on January 1 and spent a year on her project – one month for each category she identified. My plan is to start on June 1 and to spend six months. Why? My birthday is in December, and I want my celebration to include a celebration of having spent the better part of the year developing and implementing ways to make life a little better.
Here are my deadlines:
- Finish reading the book by May 1.
- Develop commandments by May 7.
- Identify the aspects I want to improve by May 14.
- Develop the tasks by May 28.
- Develop a tracking system/chart by May 31.
I invite anyone who wants to do their own Happiness Project to join me!
I considered soliciting your thoughts on categories I might want to tackle, but then I remembered Commandment 1. Be Taline. So I will come up with my own tasks. See, it’s working already.