This is one of my favorite all-time books. I highly recommend it to everyone. Gretchen Rubin matter-of-factly explores what we can do in our every day lives to make the most of what we have and be happy. It inspired me to do what I had always wanted to: take happiness seriously.
It begins with a simple yet powerful quote:
“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson
One of the most important things the book address is that happiness, and the pursuit of happiness, are not selfish, they are the least we can, and must do.
I first came across The Happiness Project in November 2009. A copy was sent to the radio show where I was an intern at the time. I was immediately drawn to it because of its cover and the press release that came with it. I pitched it to the producers, but it wasn’t right for the show at the time. Before I left them that December, they generously invited me to choose a few books from their enormous pile. This was the first one I chose. But here’s the thing: I didn’t read it. I placed it on my bookshelf. A few months later, I moved it with me from Boston to New York and put it on another bookshelf. Still, I didn’t open it. Finally, in the end of May this year, when I arrived to San Francisco for yet another internship (and took the book with me of course), I began to read.
As I made my way through it that summer, I realized two things. First, the timing was everything. Rubin touches on this in a note to her readers:
“Whenever you read this, and wherever you are, you are in the right place to begin.”
The second thing I had already started my own happiness project without really knowing it. This tied in beautifully to the a saying Rubin quotes in the book:
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
I was grateful to the book, the research shared, and the clear, inviting writing. I took endless notes, as though taking a class. Some of the wisdom in the book include:
“Enjoy the fun of failure.”
“Forget about results.”
“Do what you do.”
“I needed to accept my own nature – yet I needed to push myself as well.”
“You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.”
A few years later, Rubin wrote Happier at Home, which felt like an accompanying guide, a way to dig deeper into one important source of happiness. This was a great read, more so for tips and ideas of things to do than for the general inspiration and research of The Happiness Project. In fact, I’ll share one of my favorite tips from Happier at Home soon.