I recently read how when reading a book you should consider three things... what is the author saying, what does the author mean and do I agree with the author. When I think about "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin in the context of those questions, it's clear that the author is saying that we can have a direct affect on our happiness; that there are things we can do in our everyday lives to bring about more happiness and/or put us in position to experience said happiness. She does admit, however, that we cannot change ourselves completely; that there is a level of happiness that we are prepositioned for and while we can't move out of that level, we can move up and down throughout it....so basically, if your at the bottom, you can do things to bring you to the top of the level and if you're at the top, your actions can affect you in a way that pushes you to the bottom. I have to admit, that while she is definitely more scientific in her studies and writing, I think she might be onto something. I decided to read this book, because much like the author, I felt like I wasn't as happy as I could be. However, I can't say upon completing this book, I feel any different. I do however feel like I have some tools to work with in increasing my standing in my happiness level and maybe that's a start.
I truly appreciated her honesty in the beginning of the book when she penned, "As I thought about happiness, I kept running up against paradoxes. I wanted to change myself but accept myself. I wanted to take myself less seriously, but more seriously. I wanted to use my time well, but I also wanted to wander, to play, to read at whim. I wanted to think about myself so I could forget about myself." . Can you not understand that struggle as well? For me I often feel like I need to work on myself in order to stop having to think about myself so much; like I need to focus on myself for a minute in order to not have to focus on myself forever. And so I felt a sense of connection in her words... like in this struggle I am not alone.
I also appreciated the way she went about trying to increase her happiness. Maybe it's my Type A personality, but I like steps and goals and action points; I like charts and check ins and having some sort of way to track progress. I also like books that follow a work on one thing for a year but split it into simpler goals, one for each month of the year. I thought because of these things that I would find an enjoyment in this book like I have in others similar to it. Sadly I didn't enjoy the set up of it like I thouhg... not in this book. It's not to say I didn't enjoy the book at all. As I shared above, in many ways I did, but even though in the end I came to agree with the author, for majority of the book I felt like she wasn't really making any progress and wasn't really reaching the goal she set out to do.
I think ultimately the biggest turn off for me what this idea that she kept going back to, that if we act a certain way, then in fact we will be that.... for example, if you act happy then eventually you will just be happy. As someone who has spent many days and many years acting the part, I am not so sure that this is how it works. Short term I think you can convince yourself that you feel a majority of ways... but in the long run the truth always makes it back to the surface. I would actually like to see what she has to say about this ten years from now, when it's no longer an experiment but a lifestyle for her.
Maybe I need to give it more time to sink in though. Maybe the mix of good and bad I find in this book will make a bigger impact on me when I actually put into practice some of those tools I picked up from it. Maybe I will not just agree with the idea that she might be onto something, but I actually experience what she is talking about when I do that. I guess only time will tell...but for now I leave you with this somewhat confusing, mixed review.