Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Happiness Project

I just finished reading an excellent book called "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.  I've linked her blog there, which was actually something she started as a part of her personal project.  This book has me feeling really inspired.  First, because it's the first book I've gotten all the way through in... a pretty long time.  Second, because her personality seems so much like mine (with all its faults) and the changes she makes in her life are totally achievable, totally manageable and very positive changes. 

That and I'm on a self-help, self-improvement kick lately. 

Gretchen's basic idea was an approach to improve her life.  She began by settin a Resolution List, followed by a List of Personal Commandments (the woman loves her lists).  Her Resolutions were all of the areas that she wanted to find more happiness and her Personal Commandments were the rules she had to maintain throughout all of those resolutions. 



Areas she wanted to find more happiness were your basics - energy levels/health, family, friends, career, spirituality but she also looked at other things like money, pursuing passions, mindfulness and leisure.  Her set of commandments were as follows:

Of course, you need to really read her book to understand how she uses these tools to help her pursuit for (more) happiness.  But certain aspects of her journey really spoke to me. 

Things like 'showing up'. 

Something that I really value in others is when they show up to things they promise to show up to.  It really really makes me upset when people cancel at the last minute, flake out with some ridiculous excuse, or don't come at all to something important to me. 

But then I had to ask myself, do I always show up?  One thing about Cariocas and living in Rio is that people are pretty flaky and it's pretty common to make plans with someone that you don't actually intend to follow through on.  This has kind of given me a carte blanche to cancel plans when I don't feel like going. 

But then how can I be such a hypocrite?  The truth is, this bothers me in others.  The solution is that I have to make an effort to show up 100% of the time.  It's the old 'practice what you preach' saying, which could be one of my commandments if I were to start my own Happiness Project (which I'm seriously considering). 

That leads into another of the elements about Gretchen's project that inspired me.  Do it now.  If I'm thinking about doing a happiness project, or re-starting acupuncture, or joining the yoga studio down the street, or making an appointment at the doctor to look at this funny spot on the bottom of my foot - well why not just DO IT NOW?  It would be a big source of happiness to follow through on my thoughts and ideas and not just let them float around in space. 

Anyway, this is a starting point for me to consider what I need to do and I really don't think there's a better time to start than now.  With all of the changes (and happiness) that have come into my life in the last 2 months (which quieted some major sources of unhappiness) I was beginning to wonder "ok, so now how can I get even happier?"  My basics are now covered in Maslov's hierarchy when they weren't before, and now I want to keep growing. 

And I wonder... Do you think it's possible to be too happy?  Do you think we can max out our happiness?  I don't want to reach a point of 'ok well, I achieved that! Now what?"  What are some of your sources of happiness and what do you do to keep finding new happiness?  Very interested in this idea of personal happiness.....

 A Happiness Manifesto
  • To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
  • One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
  • The days are long, but the years are short.
  • You're not happy unless you think you're happy.
  • Your body matters.
  • Happiness is other people.
  • Think about yourself so you can forget yourself.
  • "It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light."—G. K. Chesterton
  • What's fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa.
  • Best is good, better is best.
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  • Happiness comes not from having more, not from having less, but from wanting what you have.
  • You can choose what you do, but you can't choose what you like to do.
  • "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy." —Robert Louis Stevenson
  • You manage what you measure.


  1. Hooray, friend! It's so good that all the lower-order stuff is under control (food, safety, shelter) and now you can focus on the self-actualization stuff. You should definitely start your own happiness project!

    My personal "happiness project" lately has been more of a "be less angry and irritated all the time" project. I know we've talked about this and I thought you'd be interested in this article that I found:

    One of the ideas in it (or at least how I interpreted it) was that some anger comes from your definitions of right and wrong being questioned or betrayed, because it forces you to also question who you are (if you think that things like "your definitions of right and wrong" help define who you are).

    Anyway it's a pretty helpful article. Let me know what you think. xo

  2. Very cool post...what an interesting book! I think Buddhist texts have a lot to say about happiness. Ancient wisdom is time-tested at least ;-)

  3. I wanted to share this article with you- I just found it today, and thought it went well with your post!

  4. Thanks girls for those articles - I'm going to have a read right now!

    Danielle, I totally hear what you're saying. That was also part of my 'project' - that and to stop being so critical of everything in my path. The book talks about that as well (the author is also a very 'know-it-all', 'I'm always right' and 'why do you even think that' kind of person). It's totally a struggle because what we are fighting (other people being wrong) is exactly what we should be examining in ourselves - why do I feel the need to be right? Why do I need to criticize? What is the benefit and what changes from my negativity?

    Thanks for that article.

    Jen - the book goes a lot into Buddhism as well!! She researches it a lot...

  5. Good luck with the project Lindsey. I've been trying to not let things irritate me but have been failing miserably. Will check out that blog for some tips.

  6. I haven't read the book, but the articles on Gretchen's website are great.

    For me, one key to improving my general happiness recently has been to have fewer goals, and/or to let my goals be more "flexible."

    I'm a really driven person, so I always set goals (even self-improvement ones :-p) and when "things" come up (as is inevitable in Brazil) and I don't achieve my objectives by my self-imposed timeframe, I get frustrated.

    One site that has helped me a lot is


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