Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Revelry Review: The Happiness Project

I recently finished the book The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin. She also blogs here.

I'm really into all the information emerging out of the field of positive psychology and I've been reading Gretchen's blog for awhile now, so I was excited to finally get my hands on a copy. In the book she chronicles how she spent a year making resolutions based on other people's conceptions of what might make us happier. With goals such as "quit nagging" in the chapter on remembering love and "read memoirs of catastrophe" in the chapter on contemplating the heavens, Rubin covers all her bases. You'll have to read the book for yourself to find out if she is happier after her 365 day experiment.

There is one particular section of the book that stuck with me, perhaps because it explains a bit of what I've been feeling lately. It's a part of the book where she writes about "the sadness of the happiness project", when she discovers that there are some things she will just never see, do or be. "It makes me sad for two reasons. First, it makes me sad to realize my limitations. The world offers so much!--so much beauty, so much fun, and I am unable to appreciate most of it. But it also makes me sad because, in many ways, I wish I were different. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is "You can choose what you do; you can't choose what you like to do". I have a lot of notions about what I wish I liked to do, about the subjects and occupations that I wish interested me. But it doesn't matter what I wish I were like. I am Gretchen."

There are so many roads I haven't traveled. With every decision I make, I leave behind a potential part of me. And there are things I simply don't like that I sometimes wish I did--running, watermelon, bar hopping, birds, roller coasters, public speaking, shoe shopping, playing a musical instrument, etc.--and those things will never be a part of my life. And I will never be a veterinarian, nurse, lawyer or editor of the New York Times (all professions to which I once aspired). It is sad to know that and to let go of those things but in many ways it is liberating to acknowledge that and honor the things I am instead of the things I might have been.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting observation. I have never once been "sad" that I didn't like something. I don't like it...that's that.

I would never think to be sad about that or about not being something that I'm...not.

Interesting. I have to think about this more and the identity issues of it.

Carolyn said...

I've been curious about this book... may have to pick it up! Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

I am about half way through "The Happiness Project".

What I find so interesting is her structured/systematic way of finding happiness. I am in no way that organized. I would have thrown out the schedule by month three.

But I guess that's why she's No. 1 on the NYT Best Sellers list. And I'm not.

Her study of her own happiness offers me insights into my own happiness, as well as things I've forced because I believe they are supposed to make me happy.

I love her 12 Commandments so much that I wrote my own.

Thanks for sharing!