I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (I know, I’m a little late to the party), and after only a few chapters two things stood out to me:
1.) I’m fairly certain Gretchen and I were separated at birth and/or we could be very close friends. Every word on those pages sounds and feels like it could come from my own mouth.
2.) Everyone should read this book. EVERYONE.
I picked up THP from our local library after buying Rubin’s latest book, The Four Tendencies. Being the OCD-person that I am, I thought it might be wise/fun/logical to read one of her earlier works to get a feel for her style and voice (and quell any earlier wisdom she may impart), and to ensure I get the most out of her newest work.
Boy, am I glad I did. (Well, doesn’t that sound cheesy?) But I am, really. I’m in a season of change right now–having recently quit my job–and I have some time to reflect on what I’ve learned about myself in these past 35 (!!!) years. THP has inspired me to take the next couple months and really think about how I’m living my life, and improve where I can. (Because, you know, training for a triathlon, putting in a fence, entirely re-doing our porch and an ambitious landscaping project aren’t enough to keep me busy this summer.)
I’m a pretty introspective person by nature, but THP takes all of that to another level. Rubin has an excellent voice and writing style–one that keeps readers engaged as she presents both her findings from happiness-related research and her own personal experience. I eat this stuff UP. Every topic she covers makes me want to spend a day examining that aspect of my own life, and ask myself how I can do better. How can I have more energy? How can I love Andrew better? How can I lighten up? (Goodness knows I need to!)
Before I get too far in this post (and oh, there will be many posts on this book), I do want to address my personal thoughts on ‘happiness.’ I do not believe we’re all supposed to go through life blissfully happy, and only concerned with increasing our own happiness. As a Christ-follower, my purpose in life is to love God and love others. In doing that, I want to find JOY in my circumstances, good or bad. Joy and happiness are not the same thing, and God doesn’t promise any of us ‘happiness.’ In fact, as believers, our lives are often ‘less happy’ because of our faith. (See Paul for ‘less happy’ circumstances.) My goal should not be happiness, but rather joy in my circumstances and to bring glory to God through my life and by others seeing Him in me.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with making changes (big or small) to decrease stress, increase energy, bring about more calm or order into ones’ life, etc. We may not be promised happiness, but we aren’t commanded to live in misery, either. If research says going to bed earlier, or purging your home of unused items, or laughing more can increase one’s happiness, why not try to do those things? (In fact, I bet you could even find somewhere the Bible touches on those topics in some way or another, too.) I very much enjoy reading and the challenge of implementing something new for the sake of self-improvement, and having some extra time on my hands this summer will allow me to explore some of the topics Rubin addresses.
[Speaking of ‘challenge,’ Andrew and I had a very introspective discussion over one of our dinners in Idaho about who he thinks I’m NOT (and who he thinks I am), and he thinks I like a challenge. (And that I’m a risk-taker! Who knew?) The discussion was insightful, somewhat disheartening yet inspiring, and will be the fodder for a future post soon. THP has brought up a lot of feelings/thoughts/emotions, and it was good (I think?) to get his take on it all.]
Have you read The Happiness Project? If so, what did you think? Did reading it make you want to change anything in your life? Does reading this post make you want to read the book?