The Search for Happiness [A Book Review]

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I mentioned in a couple posts that I was reading a book that I was really excited to review & talk about- that book is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Just a heads up, this is one of the few book reviews where I will be talking more in depth about the book, so if you want it to be more of a surprise, don’t read much more than right here!

One of my 101 Goals is to read 2 books on Well Being, and this one has been on my list since I first saw it last year. I only recently bought it (I’m a sucker for books that come out in paperback, what can I say?) and I just flew through the chapters. I’d like to emphasize the fact that I’m NOT a reader of books on wellbeing and self-help, but sometimes it’s nice to read something out of my comfort zone.

The idea behind the book is that the author, Gretchen, realized one day while riding the bus, that she wanted to start focusing on the things in her life that really matter. She focused on improving her happiness by creating a Resolutions Chart, and outlining 12 areas of her life that she wanted to work on. She then took these 12 resolutions and assigned them each to a month of the year; within each of these resolutions, she thought of several specific things she wanted to focus on and worked on that throughout the given month.

These were her 12 resolutions:
1. Boost Energy (vitality)
2. Remember Love (marriage)
3. Aim Higher (work)
4. Lighten Up (parenthood)
5. Be Serious About Play (leisure)
6. Make Time for Friends (friendship)
7. Buy some Happiness (money)
8. Contemplate the Heavens (eternity)
9. Pursue a Passion (books)
10. Pay Attention (mindfulness)
11. Keep a Contented Heart (attitude)
12. Boot Camp Perfect (happiness- attempt to keep all resolutions)

Beyond her 12 resolutions, she created for herself her very own ’12 commandments’ which are 12 attitudes that she wanted to keep in mind throughout the year; basically they are principles that she realized she wanted to stay true to and sometimes she had difficulty doing (more or less). I’d like to say I have one favorite, but they all really resonated with me. Namely the first one ‘Be Gretchen’ or, in broader terms, be yourself. She would often have to remind herself that even though there are millions of things out there she’d love to try or do because other people love them, it’s not necessarily for her, she needs to stay true to what she feels. She needs to ‘be Gretchen’. Definitely something I could stand to learn from.

Gretchen also wrote down some ‘Secrets to Adulthood’ which are seriously awesome and hilarious. I guess I’m not old enough to understand them all just yet, but I really loved a couple of them. The one I read a few times before moving on was ‘If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough’. I mean, story of my life right now? I think so.

Finally, throughout her book, Gretchen makes four big discoveries about happiness that she calls the ‘Four Splendid Truths’. These are basically the biggest things she learned throughout her year; time and time again she finds herself not only thinking about them through every day actions, but she realized over and over how very true they were. My favorite of the four: “The days are long, but the years are short”. I think you can interpret it for yourself, but I saw it much the way she did. As you’re living your life, you don’t necessarily pay attention to the little things that are happening right now. I don’t want to be the person who looks back, 10 years from now, and feels like I wasted my time looking ahead and never living in the moment. Because even if these days feel long, the years are short. Time really flies by. (Here’s a one minute video about it, too!)

The main reason that I truly enjoyed this book is because I’ve become such a goal-oriented person in the last couple years. As a teenager, I did teenager-like things and never really thought of ways to better myself as a person. I never took these things into consideration because, well, I was a teen. I realize that I’m only 21, but working my 101 Goals list has already given me an incredible amount of happiness and satisfaction. Many of the things Gretchen referred to in her book I kept saying ‘I could use this while working my goals’ or ‘Cool! I’m already doing this! Clearly I’m on the right path”. The book gave me a ton of ideas on how to improve my NEXT list, on ways to organize myself to get things done (not more easily) but certainly in a better way. I liked that I could actually associate myself to the things she was saying, even though we’re at completely different parts in our life right now.

The great part is that her resolutions rubbed off on me without my even realizing it. One of hers was to have a better attitude. If you look at things more positively and act more happily around others, you will naturally begin to feel happier yourself. I noticed that sometimes when I have conversations and people ask ‘how are you?’ I immediately go to something that I’m feeling bad about: ‘I’m tired’ or ‘I want to go home’ or ‘I’m stressed’ but I rarely said something like ‘I’m great *insert good fact of life here*’. I KNOW that I’m a complaining type of person, but reading Gretchen’s take on it showed me that I wanted to add more good things in my conversations and less bad things.

There were a few of her resolutions that I know don’t particularly apply to me- not yet anyway. I’m still not at a point where I want to start contemplating my religious views and I certainly can’t really talk about parenthood or marriage, but in each of her chapters I found something that hit home with me, which I think is really great. She also did a LOT (and I seriously mean a. lot.) of research on the subject and shared a ton of really interesting facts about it throughout time, which was really cool.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who’s looking to remember how to be grateful about what they have instead of yearning for everything else, and for people who simply want tips, tricks & ideas on how to improve their own happiness. Beyond that though, even if that’s not your thing, it was a really good read, if only for the sake that I know something will stick with anyone who picks it up!

You can learn more about the book or just about Happiness Projects in general on Gretchen Rubin’s blog/website: www.happiness-project.com

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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5 responses »

  1. Pingback: Seven Links « Press Play.

  2. Pingback: My Twelve Changes | 12changes12months

  3. I’ve been wanting to read this but I wasn’t sure if it would just be another cheesy self-help book. I’m glad you reviewed it for me, now I’ll definitely pick it up! I love the point about the days being long but the years being short, it’s sooo true! I’m always thinking, “Wow, that was three years ago? It felt like just yesterday…” and I get anxious wondering what the heck I was doing that whole time. Time flies and it’s the little things we do every day that build up to create years we either feel accomplished about or disappointed with. I’m glad people are realizing that putting their own happiness at the TOP of their to-do lists is the most urgent task they have!

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