Book Review: The Happiness Project

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” by Gretchen Rubin.  Spoilers may follow.

Brief summary: The book follows a woman as she dedicates a year to diligently trying to improve her demeanors, attitudes, and habits towards herself, her daily life, and those around her.

My thoughts: This book was amazing. It provides many small ways you can greatly impact your own life. I’ve implemented some very tiny things after being inspired by the book, and I’ve already felt my happiness multiply. It is also a great book for self reflection. I wrote a post already before I’d finished reading, see here “Happiness, Discussed.”

Relevant Quotes/Snippets of Awesome (with my commentary, of course):

“I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations.” — I don’t know why, but I did too. Don’t you remember being young and idolizing adults, thinking how wise and together they were? It’s disconcerting to reach those ages and still have the limitations you always have had.

Rubin wrote several ‘Secrets of Adulthood,’ or things she has realized hold true throughout her life. The last one is a great reminder — how often do you put something off or avoid it because you don’t think you’ll do it well enough or you are overwhelmed by the pressure of doing something well enough? Instead, focus on just doing something, even if it’s brief or poor. For example, if I haven’t called someone in a while and I feel guilty, I avoid contacting them at all even when I think about emailing because I feel like I have to call to make up for it. In reality, calling is the perfect, but emailing is still better than nothing and thus good. Life lesson, BOOM. My favorites from her list:

  • People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think
  • 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
  • If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough
  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

The ‘Hawthorne Effect’ is described as how people being studied improve their performance, simply because of the extra attention they’re getting. This is a personal trait of mine that I wish sometimes I didn’t have. I have high standards for myself, but if I think eyes are on me or that I need to please someone else, I work harder and do better at achieving my goals. In many ways, this is how D/s could really help me be my best. When I know someone else’s pleasure and happiness is at stake, I will work out that much harder, get things done that much more efficiently, etc. This is why my apartment is always most clean when other people are coming over.  I didn’t realize this was a common thing amongst many people, so it was interesting to read about it.

Interesting tidbit: “The most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn’t make a difference.”

A quote of a quote – Pierre Reverdy, “‘There is no love; there are only proofs of love.’ Whatever love I feel in my heart, others will only see my actions.”

“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.” — Why you should pursue your passions in your career (because you’ll innately be better at those things since you like practicing them)…and, you know, why I’ve been told I’m good at giving head, even if I don’t have all the skills and experience of others.

“I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am. Sometimes I pretend even to myself to enjoy activities that I don’t really enjoy, such as shopping, or to be interested in subjects that don’t much interest me, such as foreign policy. And worse, I ignore my true desires and interests.” I hate how frequently I’m guilty of this, especially in DC, where there’s so much pressure to be sophisticated. The author puts a lot of emphasis on “being Gretchen.” Not letting others influence her desires and fun, but being herself. Easier said than done, sometimes.

“The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction.” This is why I love trying new things, and I thrive on new experiences.

Another quote of a quote – C.S. Lewis “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” 

And another – Proverbs 26:20 “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”  I need to rule out gossip altogether from my life. Truth. The idea of spontaneous trait transference (brought up in another part of the book) also supports that goal – “people unintentiaonally transfer to me the traits I ascribe to other people.”

“Familiarity, it turns out, breeds affection. The mere ‘exposure effect’ is the term for the fact that repeated exposure makes you like music, faces — even nonsense syllables — better. The more often you see a person, the more intelligent and attractive you’ll find that person.” — This is why it’s important to regularly say yes and show up to things.

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

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