The Happiness Project

So far my 2015 Reading Challenge is right on track. Yes, I realize it’s still January, but I’ve completed the first challenge: a book I’ve been meaning to read.

I first heard of Gretchen Rubin and her happiness project in 2008, when my friend Alex Fayle interviewed her for his Someday Syndrome blog. After the book was published, it kept popping up everywhere, so I was excited to get my own copy with a Chapters gift card I’d received for Christmas.

Yet, for some reason, I didn’t read it right away. I think deep down inside I expected it to be life-changing, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. And so it sat neglected on my bookcase for a few years. And of course, when something is so wildly popular, there’s always the fear that it won’t be nearly as good as you’ve been led to believe.

Some time later, I suggested it for my book club, but my friend (who had already read it) said it was more of a self-help book than one to discuss as a group, so there went that idea. Most of the self-help books I’ve read include exercises to work on as you read through the content, so I expected this one to be no different. At that time my reading life consisted of novels at bedtime and books I could review on my business blog when I could fit them in, and there just wasn’t room in my life for The Happiness Project.

Having already resolved to fit more reading time into my schedule in the new year, and specifically to finally get around to reading The Happiness Project, it was such an obvious choice for this first reading challenge that it almost feels like I cheated. But that’s okay – I know there are more difficult challenges to come.

2015 Reading Challenge #1

That’s more than enough background! I’m sure you’re much more interested in my thoughts about the book itself.

I liked it, but it wasn’t at all what I expected.

For starters, it really wasn’t what I’d consider to be a self-help book, because it didn’t actually focus on the reader and what he or she should do to achieve happiness. It’s more about Rubin’s personal happiness project, suggesting a framework that others might like to adapt to their own life circumstances. In fact, the worksheets she developed aren’t even included in the book. Instead, those wishing to undertake their own happiness project are invited to download the daily time log and resolution chart from her website. In my opinion, this is not only more practical for the happiness seeker, but makes the book more readable, because you can just enjoy Rubin’s story and be inspired by it, without feeling any pressure to act.

Secondly, it wasn’t life-changing. Maybe it would have been if I’d read it when I first got it, but I’ve already made a number of changes since then – many of the same ones that Rubin chose – so in a way I’ve been working on my happiness project all along, without even realizing it.

That’s not to say I was disappointed, not at all. I was actually delighted to discover that it wasn’t a textbook telling me how to live my life. I loved reading about Rubin’s life with her husband and kids as much as some of the fiction I’ve enjoyed, and I learned a few things about happiness as well.

I can definitely see myself picking it up again from time to time when I need a dose of inspiration.

As of today, I’ve read four books towards my Goodreads challenge, putting me one ahead of schedule. In addition to The Happiness Project, I’ve read February by Lisa Moore, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (which inspired one of my previous posts) and Necking with Louise by Rick Book.

What have you read lately?

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