Saturday, January 30, 2010

16 - The Happiness Project; Gretchen Rubin


Gretchen Rubin's new book is part memoir and part self-help. It is based on the author's 365 day quest to find more happiness in her life. One day the author had an epiphany of sorts while riding on a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter."  Recognizing some of her own flaws:  quick to blame, craves praise, snores and is somewhat messy, she decided to spend a year making her life happier, hence, The Happiness Project. The project involved "scientific studies" and "wisdom of the ages" to see what works.

What is a Happiness Project?

As define by the author: "A Happiness Project is an approach for changing your life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse.  Second is making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. Then comes the interesting part keeping your resolutions."

 In this book, beginning with January, each month was dedicated to a new resolution.
  • January -  Boost Energy: Vitality
  • February - Remember Love
  • 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)
(In addition, within each month's resolution there were points to focus on and examples.)

Take February -- Resolution = Remember Love (Focus on - quit nagging; don't expect praise; fight right; no dumping and give proofs of love)

At the very end of the book there are guidelines for starting your own personalized Happiness Project. The guidelines include questions for the reader to answer to help them formulate their own game plan.

MY THOUGHTS - I started out really loving this book, even though some of the January resolutions were nothing new: go to sleep earlier; exercise better; toss, restore, organize and tackle a nagging task.  Her personal resolutions would be pretty easy to apply to most anyone's life. I was even thinking of a few people I knew who might enjoy this book.  However, by the time I got about half way though I decided to nix that idea. A lot of what I was reading seemed rather self-indulgent.  There are also a lot of references and comments from her blog throughout this book, so I began to think perhaps I'll just recommend the blog instead to the people I had in mind. (Happiness Project Blog)

As I mentioned there were things I did enjoy a lot about the book. It was well written, insightful, and oftentimes humorous.  My problem really was that the author, in my opinion, is not what most might consider to be a typical, wife and mother with job who happens to be in a bit of a rut.  Far from it, the author has many advantages: for starters, she admits that she is married to the love of her life, has two wonderful daughters. In addition, her bio she states the following:

"I wrote a bestselling biography of Winston Churchill, "Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill," and one of John Kennedy, "Forty Ways to Look at JFK." My first book, "Power Money Fame S..: A User's Guide," is social criticism in the guise of a user's manual. I've also written three dreadful novels that are safely locked away in a drawer.

Before turning to writing, I had a career in law. A graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, I clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal."

While all this is certain admirable, most who are might consider reading this book are coming from a whole other place in life.  I would think that many might look to this book as a self-help guide. If that is the case and if, for example, the reader is unhappy and prone to depression, this book is unlikely to be the cure. In fact, it might make such a reader feel more overwhelmed by the thought of taking on such a huge project.  But, on the other hand  if your life is pretty good and you are just looking for a way to make things run more smoothly or to become more organized in life, then you might want to give The Happiness Project a try.  MY Recommendation  ? YOU DECIDE. (3/5 stars)

(Thanks to Harper Collins for sending me a review copy)


  1. I've been following the Happiness Project on for a few months now, so I thought I'd probably read this book when it came out. I've enjoyed some of the things she's said on the blog, and interested in the conclusions she came to. But it does sound a little self-indulgent, given her privileged position in society.

  2. I hadn't heard of this book or blog before. Thank you for your insightful and honest review.

  3. thanks for the review - I have this book to read in Feb for a book club meeting. I will let you know what I think of it!

  4. We all need to "get in touch with ourself" and make changes in our life, but completing her list of self-revelations in one year would be a tough nut to crack for anyone.

    I'll pass on this one and see how it works for you, Diane.

  5. I'm a sucker for these types of books and concepts. I kind of started my own project by making a list of goals that I need to work on in life ... not so much for happiness but on things I really ought to do. I'm having mixed results but at least I'm doing something.

  6. That's a good reminder to get in touch with ourselves again. Thanks for the review!

  7. I like the idea of looking at my life as a project, to organise me to do more good things that make me happy.

  8. That was great post. I agree it would be really difficult to read a book that you think might really be a guide to help get your life on track to happiness in a year from someone who clearly comes from a place of just being paid to write this and sounds like she should be happy to begin with. But who knows, maybe she doesnt have it all either?

  9. I have this book on my wish list, as I think the premise is a wonderful one. I had no idea about the author's background ... I guess everyone can find some part of them that needs improving/uplifting!

  10. I am not sure if this book would work for me. I do have goals I would like to accomplish, but I don't know if I could really relate to the author and find meaning in her plight. I have a sort of average life going on over here, with not a lot of room for self indulgence, so I am not really sure about this one. Thanks for giving me something to think about with this book.

  11. I commend you for being willing to share your honest opinion of this book. I shared mine here which you might be curious to read:


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