I’ve made no secret of my status as a Gretchen Rubin zealot. I read her book The Happiness Project when it first came out in 2009. If you’re unfamiliar, The Happiness Project was Gretchen’s personal crusade to be happier in her life.
With humor and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.From The Happiness Project book jacket
From the very first time I read the book, I felt a desire to embark on my own Happiness Project. At first it was a fleeting idea, but as the years have passed, I’ve found myself edging closer and closer to committing to it. Finally the pandemic carved enough space into my life that I had time to contemplate it before it was already the beginning of the next year. (There’s a certain amount of planning involved and it takes a little while to map out exactly what will happen when.)
One of the big differences between Gretchen and me is our willingness to see a project through. She seems to easily make a clear resolution and stick to it, whereas, for me, that’s much more challenging. In another of her books, The Four Tendencies, Gretchen outlines her personality framework that fits people into tendencies based on how they respond to expectations. She is an upholder, someone who upholds both inner and outer expectations. I am a rebel, someone who resists both inner and outer expectations. (What are you? Take the quiz.) She will see something through every time while the likelihood of me completing something is anyone’s guess (including my own!)
In Gretchen’s approach to The Happiness Project, she assigned a theme for each month. January’s theme was Boost Energy and was related to vitality. She then chose a few related tasks to focus on throughout the month. In May, under her theme of Be Serious About Play (leisure) she listed: find more fun, take time to be silly, go off the path, and start a collection.
Creating the bones of a Happiness Project is no small feat. It took me several weeks and countless notes, sketches, and hours of contemplation to narrow down my twelve monthly themes. I have a point form outline for the monthly topics with subtopics assigned to each of them (and a few still floating around, homeless,) but haven’t decided the order in which I’ll do them. Only January and December have been assigned – one because I needed a starting point and this one felt like the right fit and the other because it is the natural ending.
Here they are:
- Make space. Space as in physical, but also mental, emotional, psychic.
- Keep moving.
- Sleep soundly.
- Find peace.
- Eat with intention.
- Be mindful.
- Get clean.
- Spend out.
- Keep it simple.
- Happiness Boot Camp. This is the culmination and practice of all the successful practices at once and will happen in December.
I do intend to put the themes in order before the beginning of 2021. I’ve decided that part of each month’s work will be to iron out the details of the next month’s action items. As a month begins, I’ll share my approach to the month and what I’ve got planned.
As I worked through my themes and all the ideas that fit into them, I noticed that there are some serious themes of reducing, simplifying, and letting go. These aren’t things that come naturally to me in many areas of my life so it feels like there is a sea change afoot and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
I’m excited to take action on something that is more than ten years in the making, however, I am a bit freaked out. I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to keep it fresh enough to feed my need for variety and change.
Have you ever attempted and/or completed a Happiness Project of your own? Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s books or listened to her podcast? What’s your tendency?