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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 Mor...

By Gretchen Rubin
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  • Contains 11 key ideas
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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

What is happiness and how can we bring more of it into our lives? Gretchen Rubin asked herself this question because although she fulfilled all the prerequisites for a happy life – an intact family, a good job and enough money for a rainy day – she found herself frequently unhappy. During her year-long Happiness Project, she read about various techniques and theories on increasing happiness and tried to become happier with their help.


Key idea 1 of 11

On the road to happiness: make good resolutions and take small steps.

Given that people are better suited to working toward concrete goals than abstract things like being happy, Gretchen Rubin gave herself concretely formulated and measurable resolutions and requirements that she adhered to throughout the entire project. They served as universal principles to be followed in each of the phases of the experiment she undertook.

Rubin knew what easily soured her mood and tried to avoid those things using her resolutions. By giving herself instructions such as “Do it now!” and “Be Gretchen!” she hoped to achieve positive feelings in all kinds of situations. What she saw was a basic opportunity to feel more happiness by, for example, simply carrying out tasks as they arose (rather than putting them off) and staying true to herself every step of the way.

She had several realizations concerning these general guidelines, which she had amassed over the course of her life. She then repeated these to herself constantly during each phase of her project – regardless of whether she was seeking a professional challenge or more harmony in her family life.

For example, phrases like “People usually notice your mistakes less than you think,” “You don’t have to be good at everything,” or “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while,” helped her to stay focused when things got rocky and not lose sight of her path to happiness.

Finally, Rubin realized that the small steps and moments of happiness were what really helped her achieve the desired change. With the motto Change your life without changing your life, she wanted to attain the highest level of happiness possible from the most mundane of situations. Rather than dropping out of society and moving to the rainforest or turning her life completely on its head in her search for happiness, she simply wanted to become a little happier and more satisfied with the life she was already leading.

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