The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I’ve read this book a bunch of times and my paperback is full of underlining, margin notes and little stars, but when I try to recall the main points of Gretchn Rubin’s the Happiness Project, I come up somewhat empty. It’s a book written in the “one year spent doing x” format, which I happen to like. Rubin and I have similar personalities–we are sticklers for rules, self-monitoring maniacs, lovers of gold stars and atta-girls. A lot of the stuff about her that bugs me is the same stuff that bugs me about myself.

I wish I could be cooler. I wish I didn’t care if other people didn’t follow the rules. When California legalized jaywalking it was a big relief for me. I can stop being so irritated by the tourists who do an unhurried diagonal cross anytime, anywhere on Main Street in the historic little town I live in. The author says, “Be Gretchen,” meaning don’t keep beating yourself up for your usual inclinations–it’s much easier to maintain routines that are in line with your true nature.

I appreciate how much thought Rubin put into the progression of her Happiness Project. She starts with health, and I couldn’t agree more that until the body feels good and we have control of our health it’s difficult to work on anything else. For most of us, health is also one of the easier and more measurable areas of one’s life to improve.

Rubin also tackles parenting, romance, money, work, fun and recreation and home organizing. As a professional organizer, I relate to the decluttering and the evangelical attempts to get all of her friends and family to buy into it.

I think of myself as a happy person, but I still wonder, at age 59, if I’m not wasting time. Should I be traveling more? Should I buckle down and learn another language, finally, at last? Should I force myself to be much more social? I know that I feel better when I am scheduled up and spend time with other people but if I’m really going to “Be Angela,” the bigger percentage of my time will be spent alone at home with my books.

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