My Happiness Project

I cannot even count how many times I tried to write an intro to this post. The fact is, I am not the one to clearly explain what a Happiness Project is. The idea comes from author Gretchen Rubin who just so happens to have written a book called The Happiness Project. “It is the account of the year she spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier.”

Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

Cover via Amazon

In her very first blog post (one of the tasks she set herself during her Happiness Project) Rubin describes her venture like this:

“Now, what is the Happiness Project? One afternoon a few years ago, I realized with a jolt that I was allowing my life to flash by without facing a critical question: was I happy? From that moment, I couldn’t stop thinking about happiness. Was it mostly a product of temperament? Could I take steps to be happier? What did it even mean to be “happy”? So The Happiness Project is my memoir of one year in which I test-drive every principle, tip, theory, and research-study result I can find, from Aristotle to St. Therese to Benjamin Franklin to Martin Seligman to Oprah. What advice actually works?”

It is a wonderful book that I picked up mid-last year after seeing a referral to it in a magazine. The entire time I was reading it, I had a massive grin on my face, I could relate to many of the things she spoke about.

According to Rubin:

“A “happiness project” is an approach to changing your life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse. Second is the making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. Then comes the interesting part: keeping your resolutions.”

Rubin designed her Happiness Project so that each of the twelve months of the year would have a set theme about something she wanted to tackle in relation to happiness and she created resolutions around that theme to adopt during the month, building on more each month. She tackled Vitality, Marriage, Work, Parenthood, Leisure, Friendship, Money, Eternity, Books, Attitude and Happiness.

Upon reading this wonderful book I decided I wanted to embark on my own Happiness Project. Of course, mine cannot mimic Gretchen Rubin’s as not everything applies to my life. I have been preparing for a while and identifying some themes I would like to focus on. I am now working on making my own resolutions.

I don’t want to write an essay of a post, so I’ll just leave it at that for today and I’ll keep you updated with my progress.

If you like the sound of starting your own Happiness Project, or are intrigued to learn more, I suggest you buy the book or head to The Happiness Project Blog.

Eleanor x

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My Mantra…

SUBJUNCTIVE

In the afterlife you are judged not against other people, but against yourself. Specifically, you are judged against what you could have been. So the afterworld is much like the present world, but it now includes all the yous that could have been. In an elevator you might meet more successful versions of yourself, perhaps the you that chose to leave your hometown three years earlier, or the you who happened to board an airplane next to a company president who then hired you. As you meet these yous, you experience a pride of the sort you feel for a successful cousin: although the accomplishments don’t directly belong to you, it somehow feels close.

But soon you fall victim to intimidation. These yous are not really you, they are better than you. They made smarter choices, worked harder, invested the extra effort into pushing on closed doors. These doors eventually broke open for them and allowed their lives to splash out in colorful new directions. Such success cannot be explained away by a better genetic hand; instead, they played your cards better. In their parallel lives, they made better decisions, avoided moral lapses, did not give up on love so easily. They worked harder than you did to correct their mistakes and apologized more often.

Eventually you cannot stand hanging around these better yous. You discover you’ve never felt more competitive with anyone in your life.

You try to mingle with the lesser yous, but it doesn’t assuage the sting. In truth, you have little sympathy for these less significant yous and more than a little haughtiness about their indolence. “If you had quit watching TV and gotten off the couch you wouldn’t be in this situation,” you tell them, when you bother to interact with them at all.

But the better yous are always in your face in the afterlife. In the bookstore you’ll see one of them arm in arm with the affectionate woman whom you let slip away. Another you is browsing the shelves, running his fingers over the book he actually finished writing. And look at this one jogging past outside: he’s got a much better body than yours, thanks to a consistency at the gym that you never kept up.

Eventually you sink into a defensive posture, seeking reasons why you would not want to be so well behaved and virtuous in any case. You grudgingly befriend some of the lesser yous and go drinking with them. Even at the bar you see the better yous, buying rounds for their friends, celebrating their latest good choice.

And thus your punshment is cleverly and automatically regulated in the afterlife: the more you fall short of your potential, the more of these annoying selves you are forced to deal with.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman