“I wanted to change myself but accept myself. I wanted to take myself less seriously— and also more seriously. I wanted to use my time well, but I also wanted to wander, to play, to read at whim. I wanted to think about myself so I could forget myself. I was always on the edge of agitation; I wanted to let go of envy and anxiety about the future, yet keep my energy and ambition. Elizabeth’s observation made me wonder about my motivations. Was I searching for spiritual growth and a life more dedicated to transcendent principles— or was my happiness project just an attempt to extend my driven, perfectionist ways to every aspect of my life?” Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project
Years ago I finally picked up Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert after owning it for a few weeks and after it seemed the rest of the country had already read it. And it was exactly what I needed.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin fulfilled the same need. It was exactly what I needed. Outside the guidelines and tactics the author took to feel happier, it was some of the research she found on the subject along the way that spoke right to me. So, in this post I’m mostly going to share some of those passages and talk about why I found them relatable and what I’ll do with them.
You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you like to do.
Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.
What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.
You don’t have to be good at everything.
If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.
Over-the-counter medicines are very effective.
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you— and vice versa.
All quotes from: Rubin, Gretchen (2009-12-16). 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. Harper Perennial. Kindle Edition.
Above are some of Ms. Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood. She has more listed, but these are the ones I liked the most. Even down to over-the-counter medicines are very effective. In fact, I’d like to add on to that and say the generic version of OTC medicines are very effective. I once heard one of my business role models, Gary Loveman, give a speech and he talked about why anyone would pay 3x the amount for Tylenol when the generic was the same thing was beyond him. If Loveman can buy Wal-ynol, so can I.
The time to start exercising, stop nagging, and organize our digital photos was when everything was going smoothly. I didn’t want to wait for a crisis to remake my life.
YES. This point is so good. You can’t wait for crisis to get prepared. You can’t let a big, bad event scare you into changing your ways. Being prepared with happiness and coping mechanisms is emotional insurance. I’m an impatient person. I strongly dislike waiting. Maybe that’s why this one is sticking with me. I am in a holding pattern for the next few months – waiting for school to be done before I apply for new jobs and potentially move to a new city. I can do things NOW though that still make me happy AND prepare me to move, if I find that opportunity. Clearing out my clutter will make a move easier, being organized now will make all the paperwork of a new job or taxes next year easier, etc. I used to always say I was waiting for the good part of my life to begin. I said it through college and the early years of working. No day but today, friends.
Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice. Therefore, career experts argue, you’re better off pursuing a profession that comes easily and that you love, because that’s where you’ll be more eager to practice and thereby earn a competitive advantage…..
…people feel overwhelmed by the question “What’s your passion?” It seems so large and unanswerable that they feel paralyzed. If so, a useful clue to finding a passion to pursue, whether for work or play, is to “Do what you do.” What you enjoyed doing as a ten-year-old, or choose to do on a free Saturday afternoon, is a strong indication of your passion. (One blog reader pointed to an even more basic indicator: “Actually very similar to advice from a physics professor of mine, who said, ‘What do you think about when you’re sitting on the toilet? Because that’s what you *want* to think about.’”) “Do what you do” is helpful because it points you to examining your behavior rather than your self-conception and therefore may be a clearer guide to your preferences.
This point is all over Strength Finders. We do not change, we just become more of who we already are. Marcus Buckingham uses an equation to illustrate. A strength = talent x investment. You’re best suited to pick something you’re good at and want to spend time doing. I think I’m down that path. I would read some of the textbooks I have for school on my own. I think that’s a good sign. I genuinely love role playing with managers helping them have more courageous conversations with employees about performance. And as for training – I was pretty much born to charm and chat with strangers – so that is my calling. What’s your passion?
My research had revealed that challenge and novelty are key elements to happiness. The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction. If you do new things— visit a museum for the first time, learn a new game, travel to a new place, meet new people— you’re more apt to feel happy than people who stick to more familiar activities. This is one of the many paradoxes of happiness: we seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness.
Yay for always learning and growing. I’m naturally inquisitive. Maybe this is why I love hearing other people’s stories and I love to travel and am willing to do most anything once. Wooden roller coasters – never for me, thanks. She goes on to say this about the topic…
One reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to expand your self-definition. You become larger. Suddenly you can do yoga or make homemade beer or speak a decent amount of Spanish. Research shows that the more elements make up your identity, the less threatening it is when any one element is threatened.
I get this. I once made a list of all the things I wanted other people to view me as and started working from that list. I never thought of starting with a list of the things I am, or I would like to be. I started with how I wanted others to define me. Is that weird? For example, I wanted to be someone that people thought smelled good. You know when you pass someone who just has the perfect perfume or cologne on and it’s noticeable without obnoxious? I wanted that. And I tried out perfumes until I found one that I got more compliments on than ever. It’s my perfume. I don’t think that’s exactly the point from the book, but I understand the sense of feeling larger by having more attributes. I’m a runner who can cook and can knit and Zumbas and has tried riding a unicycle, etc.
…studies show that the absence of feeling bad isn’t enough to make you happy; you must strive to find sources of feeling good. One way to feel good is to make time for play— which researchers define as an activity that’s very satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn’t create social harm, and doesn’t necessarily lead to praise or recognition. Research shows that regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life; people who have fun are twenty times as likely to feel happy.
Once again, I say a big yes to this. I’m silly and I love a good joke and teasing and I love to play and laugh. I used to ask Adam Science if he would had fun after a dinner or party or event that we had been to and his answer was always no. To this day I have no idea what that guy found fun. And it was draining to me. And I acknowledge one of the Secrets of Adulthood from above – what’s fun for other people may not be fun for you. I know that fun is different to everyone. My version of fun might be sillier than others. My version of fun could just be a knitting circle at a local tea room. It’s also fun to cook for a crowd and have board game night and go dancing. I think that will be another list I make. Things I find fun.
…having strong social bonds is probably the most meaningful contributor to happiness.
No worries here. I got people. :) In fact, just an hour or so ago, my former colleague and friend Angela told me she had finished a recommendation for me on Linked In. I teared up when I read it. First of all, it’s lovely. Second, it makes me so happy that Angela has grown so much from when I first met her. Third, I don’t just “got people”. I have amazing people. A classmate who IM’d me about forming groups, another friend who made sure to say bye before leaving for Germany for a couple months, a friend texting me to say she got my “just saying hey” card, my sister, my Claire. These are people I spoke to just today that make me so happy.
I’ll end with this one for now. She has a few other passages that I highlighted that may get a dedicated post all their own. It’s clear that I would recommend this book. One of the readers on her blog made the comment, that by making these resolutions and doing these things now – he always had an answer to the question “What’s new?” I love that. I’m saddened by people who answer “nothing” and really mean it with that question. When I was training for the Rock and Roll half I always had a new running or training story. I had a grad school story. Or, I had just read a book or watched a movie that I felt was interesting. A project like the one she encourages helps us all become more interesting, and therefore leading to one heck of a conversation. And I know the value of a continued conversation…
One of the biggest surprises of the happiness project was just how hard it was to know myself. I’d always been slightly exasperated by philosophers’ constant emphasis on what seemed to me to be a fairly obvious question, but in the end I realized that I would spend my whole life grappling with the question of how to “Be Gretchen.”
I’m off to think about Being Sarah.