Author: Gretchen Rubin
One rainy day on a train in New York City, Gretchen Rubin was jolted to discover her life as it was. She always believed she’d outgrow her limitations and found herself questioning: “Can this be me?” This inquiry led to a year-long happiness project and the resulting books. Instead of setting out to define happiness, as so many philosophers have done, Rubin set out to put the schemes into practice in her own life.
In the preparation stage, Rubin observed what brought her joy, satisfaction, boredom, and guilt. Next, she made her resolutions, emphasizing that no two happiness projects will be exactly the same; instead Rubin’s book should be viewed as an example, guidelines rather than steadfast rules. Seeing how someone else structured this type of resolution-based project can help inspire other happiness projects.
The chapters are broken down into months and their corresponding resolutions: January: Boost energy; February: Remember love; March: Aim higher; April: Lighten up; May: Be serious about play; June: Make time for friends; July: Buy some happiness; August: Contemplate the heavens; September: Pursue a passion; October: Pay attention; November: Keep a contented heart; and December: Book camp perfect. Each month also corresponds to a specific trait: vitality, marriage, work, parenthood, leisure, friendship, money, eternity, books, mindfulness, gratitude and finally happiness.
Rubin does the research so we don’t have to. By quoting the likes of Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, St. Therese of Lisieux, Ben Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, the Dali Lama, Buddha, and countless others, Rubin condenses the canon of happiness into reasonable chunks that are appealing and manageable. Littered with personal real-life examples, Rubin reassuringly ends with the admonition that she never expects to be done with her resolutions. Instead, each day is a clean state to live up to them.
Part I liked best:
Rubin’s tone is not only straightforward, as expected from a former lawyer, it is also remarkably reassuring and inspiring. She realistically shares that though her project was successful and she did achieve greater happiness, she recognizes her limitations. By setting out to change her life without changing her life, she provides doable resolutions that can be modified for any person and situation. Did she cease to snap at her kids? No. Did she nit-pick at her husband? Yes. Does she continue to argue? Yes. However, she snapped less, she nit-picked less, she argued less. By being consciously aware of her resolutions, Rubin reassures us that with focus and dedication, finding greater happiness is totally achievable.
How this book impacted my life, especially as a mother:
Several lines stood out and made significant impact on my mothering, so much so that I printed quotes out to hang on my fridge. The first: “Days are long, but the years are short.” When in the throes of motherhood, surrounded by dirty dishes, piles of laundry, and snotty noses, it’s hard to envision life beyond. However, that beyond creeps up and soon, the one year-old throwing spaghetti noodles at the wall is a six year-old getting themselves second helpings. Remembering to slow down and prioritize is also nestled into the next quote: “I can do anything I want, but I can’t do everything.” Pretty self-explanatory, but essential to remember. Finally, Rubin shares that the Shakers used to deliberately introduce a mistake to their work because being flawed is more perfect than perfection. My flaws, as well as my strengths, are what make me the best mother for my children. In addition, I fully intend to begin my own happiness project for 2015 and hope you all will join me!
Read our review of Rubin’s Happier at Home
Learn more at her website http://www.happiness-project.com/about/
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