I took 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, on a plane trip to visit friends in Florida.
The title both attracted and repelled me. On the one hand, I appreciate and value happiness and was interested in reading an entire book on the subject. On the other hand, I wondered if the book would be about one woman’s self-indulgent quest.
The book covers Rubin’s year-long happiness journey. The text is interspersed with quotes and snippets of research. Like any good project manager, Rubin created a plan and interviewed stakeholders (family and friends) before beginning The Happiness Project book.
Since The Happiness Project was a year-long project, it is logical to have the book broken into monthly chapters on various happiness topics/resolutions. This also dovetails with the beginning of the year and making resolutions. Projects require a tracking tool to measure progress, and Rubin created the Resolution Chart to track her progress. The 12 chapters are:
- January – Boost Energy: Vitality
- February – Remember Love: Marriage
- March – Aim Higher: Work
- April – Lighten Up: Parenthood
- May – Be Serious About Play: Leisure
- June – Make Time for Friends: Friendship
- July – Buy Some Happiness: Money
- August – Contemplate the Heavens: Eternity
- September – Pursue a Passion: Books
- October – Pay Attention: Mindfulness
- November – Keep a Contented Heart: Attitude
- December – Boot Camp Perfect: Happiness
Rubin established her list of 12 commandments to guide her journey and decision making. They included items like, “Be Gretchen,” “Do it now,” “Enjoy the process,” and “There is only love.” Another list entitled “Secrets of Adulthood” reads like a collection of Rubin’s guidelines to live by mixed with common sense.
The back of the book contains tips that include, “9 tips to stick to a schedule of regular exercise,” and “7 tips for being a more light-hearted parent.” A section provides readers with ideas on how to start a happiness project. I especially appreciated the suggested reading list of books on happiness related topics.
The Bottom Line
Rubin delivered a thoughtful and entertaining narrative on what she views as the facets of happiness. She shared her happiness philosophy through her own experiences and showed her strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. How many of us would be willing to do that? At times, I must admit to wondering how her family felt or will feel in the future about having their lives displayed in the book.
A companion to the book, The Happiness Project website contains Rubins’s blog, videos, tips, and resources to help people start their own happiness projects.
Rubin has advantages that many people don’t but that doesn’t necessarily invalidate the information and concepts in the book. Readers are free to take away ideas that resonate with them and leave the rest.
I enjoyed the book and passed it onto a friend.