Ever since I read Better than Before, I have been saying to myself and others that its author, Gretchen Rubin and I are just alike. We both like to take action and if we feel strongly enough about something we ignore the advice of others. Having now read The Happiness Project, which was actually written before Better than Before, I still feel the same way.
The one thing I know for sure about Gretchen Rubin is this woman will do just about anything to become her best self. It is the #1 reason I resonate with her books so much. Big tasks. Little tasks. Meaningful tasks. Simple tasks. You name it she does it if it is going to make her life better.
She has tried everything from new workouts, decluttering and hypnosis. Rubin enjoys the idea of taking charge of her life and holding herself accountable for her choices.
The Happiness Project is Rubin’s 12-month action plan for self-actualization. For an entire year, Gretchen commits to taking action on a different resolution each month. Each resolution was intended to make Rubin happier and bring about lasting change so she spent hours drafting them. She refers to these as resolutions, not goals for a very good reason. “You hit a goal,” says Rubin, “but you keep a resolution.” Rubin is dedicated to long-term change.
Much to her dismay, The Happiness Project was met with plenty of opposition.
Her sister called her “weird” when she first learned of it.
Her husband, Jamie, believed that happy people should be more contented. He failed to understand that his wife was in her own words, “suffering from midlife malaise.” I think I understand this discontentment very well. You are by most standards a happy, loving spouse: beautiful, healthy kids, gainfully employed, close relationships with friends and family. However, you still yearn for more out of life. As a habitual goal-setter, I can easily identify. Jamie cannot.
When his wife told him about her idea of a happiness project he replied, “if you were really unhappy, this would make more sense, but you’re not.” To which his wife replied back, (and I love this way of thinking by the way) “I am happy – but I’m not as happy as I should be. I have such a good life, I want to appreciate it more – and live up to it better.” Me too Gretchen, me too.
A friend at a cocktail party was even more obnoxious than her husband. Upon hearing about Gretchen’s book idea he boldly commented, in front of a small group of people I might add, “I don’t think examining how an ordinary person can become happier is very interesting.” Rubin kept her cool and did not one up him like she did her husband. She let it go. Normally, she would not have been so ambivalent. (Later she would intentionally practice, “cutting people slack” as part of her happiness project.)
Despite the lack of support, Rubin begins her project by writing her 12 commandments for success. Then she jots down her personal secrets of adulthood. The 12 commandments were to help guide Gretchen through a very challenging year to come. The secrets of adulthood were written to provide strength during this journey. Finally, she writes down her 12 resolutions. “These resolutions,” says Rubin, “embodied the changes I wanted to make in my life.”
January—-Boost Energy July—Buy Some Happiness
February—Remember Love August—Complete the Heavens
March—Aim Higher September—Pursue a Passion
April—Lighten Up October—Pay Attention
May—Be Serious About Play November—Keep a Contented Heart
June—Make Time for Friends December—Boot Camp Perfect
To me personally, life is all about setting goals/resolutions and fulfilling them. Although I have never dedicated a month to individual ones like Rubin did above, I do think it is absolutely necessary to go after what you want with a fiery passion. No excuses, no guarantees, just a belief in yourself that says, “I am worth it. I can do this. I am going to give it a shot.” And this is what has made me so fond of Gretchen Rubin. She does not listen to others when she feels strongly about something. She moves forward working her tail off until she completes her mission. Sometimes the missions are successful and sometimes they aren’t, but as Rubin discovered, great minds have always suggested we discover the laws of our own nature.
As I said before, Gretchen Rubin and I are just alike. We both like to take action and if we feel strongly enough about something we ignore the advice of others. I would like to add that of all the many lessons I have learned from Rubin, the one that stand outs the most and always runs rampant through my mind is “Be Gretchen.” Therefore, when I read The Happiness Project, I was happy to realize that we were also different in many ways. It’s impossible to be Preston and be just like someone else. We are all unique in our own ways. I had to share this story because although I do have a lot in common with Rubin and really adore her, the greatest takeaway for me from both of Gretchen’s books for me is “Be Preston.”