Gretchen Rubin set out on a year-long mission – to become a happier person. She researched everything from Plato to pop-culture as it related to her mission. Each month she sets new goal relating to a different area of her life and chronicled her successes and failures with research and a bit of humor. The result is an uplifting read full of ideas to help each one of us on our journey to a more smile-filled life.
Here are ten points from the book to get you started:
1. Give Positive Reviews
For some strange reason Gretchen admits that being critical made her feel “more sophisticated and intelligent” She sites a study where people judged writers of negative book reviews as more competent than the writers of positive reviews, even though both were of equal high quality. Give positive reviews reminds us to be humble and look to give credit where credit is du. This results in feeling good for the right reasons not because we’ve successfully torn someone or something apart.
2. Don’t Expect Praise
Gretchen quotes one of her favorites, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, “When one loves, one does not calculate.” Do things for others because it’s the right thing to do not because you want something in return be it tangible or otherwise. This “no calculation” rule fosters love and generosity and will make your world a better place.
3. Make Your Resolutions Measurable
Sounds complicated but it’s really not. Resolutions are easier if they are concrete, not abstract. Instead of saying you want to be healthier (abstract) set a measurable goal to exercise 30 minutes a day or something else specific that will allow you to track your progress and see where you’re at.
4. Act the Way you Want to Feel
We often feel because of the way we act not the other way around. Gretchen points out that by acting a certain way you can create the emotion in yourself. In other words we take back the power to control how we feel. If you have an unpleasant feeling act the way you wish you felt and pretty soon that’s exactly how you’ll be feeling.
5. Enjoy the Fun of Failure
No one likes to fail that’s for sure, but Gretchen helps the reader to view failure from another angle. “Failure is a necessary part of creativity, risk-taking and aiming high”, she says and trying to enjoy the fun of it helps one to be more lighthearted when it comes to taking risks. Embrace failure and know that it means you’re on the path to new skills, new experiences, growth and a large dose of happiness.
6. Spend Out
Rather than “saving” things Gretchen advocates “trusting in abundance”. Bought a new piece of clothing? Wear it and enjoy. Own some fine china? Why wait for the Queen to come for tea when you can use it and make yourself and those around you feel special. Enjoy the good things you have now – it’s OKAY!
7. Let it Go
Gretchen explores her tendency to obsess about her mistakes and then bore everyone with her “endless explanations, justifications and excuses.” Letting it go means to stop doing this. Most things don’t matter very much in the long run so why beat ourselves up about it today?
8. Be Polite and Be Fair
Henri-Frederic put it this way, “Life’s short and we never have enough time for gladdening the hearts of those who travel the way with us. O, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind.” Strive to be nice to others and you’ll boost your own feeling of happiness while you’re at it.
9. Do it Now
Gretchen offers great suggestions we can all implement to stop procrastinating and make ourselves do the things we’d much rather put off. Among them, do it first thing in the morning so you have less time to come up with excuses as the day goes on. Clever. Make it a daily routine and not a sporadic one and you’ll actually find that the task will become easier. Another great idea? Prepare. Divide a tough task by taking one day to get ready and anther day to execute.
10. Identify the Problem
Keep this in mind if you’re feeling annoyed or frustrated or otherwise miserable. By pinpointing the problem you force yourself to be mindful and come up with realistic solutions instead of staying caught up in the emotion of it. Try it and you’ll be surprised at how simple the solution might be.
Gretchen has inspired many with her down to earth, much researched and often humorous approach to happiness. She must be on to something good; her book has just crossed a new milestone according to her latest blog post—two years on the New York Times bestseller list. That’s no small accomplishment. Have a read and join the many who’ve been inspired to work on their own Happiness Project.
By Leah Leitch