While riding the NYC bus to bring her daughter to school, Gretchen Rubin had a sudden realization; she was unconsciously going through the motions of her day, preoccupied with the future, and in danger of missing out on her own life. She was mindlessly rushing about to get her daughter to school without recognizing the time they spent together on that bus as special. As she put it, “the days are long, but the years are short.”
She set a plan in motion to intentionally seek more happiness. Gretchen began to research the subject of happiness in philosophy, physiology, and psychology books. Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s virtue chart, Gretchen developed a one-year program that she named “The Happiness Project”.
Each month Gretchen chose a focus (i.e. boost energy). She then broke down larger goals into smaller tasks. For “boost energy” she set a new bedtime, organized her apartment, and begin an exercise routine. Other months themes centered around love, money, and creativity.
In the Happiness Project book, Gretchen shares her experiences navigating the program she created for herself. Her authentic storytelling took me along for the ride, learning from her failures and applauding her success.
One of the aspects of the book I really enjoyed and still carry with me was her lists of “words to live” that she learned along the way. She goes into depth for each saying in the book and I find myself repeating her mantras in my own life.
Some of Gretchen’s commandments:
- Be yourself
- Let it go
- Enjoy the process
- Lighten up
- There is only love
And some of her secrets of adulthood:
- What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.
- Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
- People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think.
- You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you like to do
The happiness project was a perspective shift for me. When I think of all the changes I want to make in my life as a whole, it feels insurmountable. Gretchen shows a blueprint of adding changes slowly and deliberately to form habits in earnest rather than attempt an overwhelming life overhaul. If you want to develop your happiness project GretchenRubin.com has a resource section to get you started.
If you’ve already read The Happiness Project and want more Gretchen:
check out her podcast: Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Follow her on Instagram
Check out some of her other books
“Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”Gretchen Rubin