SJfromSJ’s #CBR5 Review #5: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

5 happiness project

This is a book I looked at a few times in the store but never felt compelled to purchase right away. I was finally compelled days after having an epiphany regarding my work:life balance. I figured maybe I could use some guidance.

Gretchen Rubin is a law-clerk-turned-writer who lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters. She had an epiphany one morning that she felt like her life was passing her by and all she wanted from it was to be happy. She decided to devote each month of a calendar year to improving a different facet of her life, including relationships, career-building techniques and general quality of life. 

I equally liked and disliked this book, and I think half of that stems from the fact that I have the same personality type as the author. I’ve discovered that it is harder for me to sympathize with “characters” I relate to because I can see the traits I don’t like in myself and I tend to fixate on them. Her extreme organization and need to keep a physical documentation of not always physical tasks are identical to my productivity style. I actually salivated over some of her tips in those departments. We also share the tendency to become really annoyed easily. Her annoyances were very off-putting for me, though, and that explains the other half of my feelings for this book.

Rubin is a woman who works from home on her own schedule. Her husband makes enough to afford her a comfortable lifestyle in New York City. On the positive side, she had the time for trial-and-error on some happiness “resolutions”. She crammed a LOT into her months and wrote very thoughtfully about all of it, which was super beneficial for inspiration for my own resolutions.

On the negative side, the majority of her annoyances were with her husband, the very husband who had a great job that paid the bills and then some on top of what she made so that she had the time to do this project while living in New York City. She’s a writer and had the free time to write one of those bullshit novels-in-a-month as a SIDE PROJECT. She seemed so ungrateful for him and other people and situations. Particularly in the later months, since she had spent earlier months improving more physical things, later months were used to improve on more emotional and intellectual things. After several months of improving her quality of life, you would think she would be somewhat of a nicer person, but she just seemed like even more of a bitch in those later months.

I’m still trying to decide if that was on purpose, to show that nothing is perfect and this is something you really have to work at, but iI don’t understand why she would include a lot of that negative material. Glossing over it doesn’t give a true depiction, but I needed more happy feels.

As a tool to look at your life and look at your choices, this book is great. There are tips to start your own happiness project, and really the beauty of it is that it can be as involved as you can handle with your life situation. However, it is mildly disheartening when the author is putting in all of this effort to be happier and has to constantly assess whether she is actually happier. Maybe it’s the plight of the Type A, and maybe I just don’t want to accept that about myself, but I needed to feel more assured that she actually was happier. It seemed slightly forced in the last chapter.

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