‘The Happiness Project’ Read Along: Final Week

Posted 29 January, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

The Happiness Project by: Gretchen Rubin

In case you missed it, 
Week One
Week Two
Week Three 

Read Along hosted by Joy at Joy’s Book Blog

Oh damn it all. This is why read alongs and book clubs get me into trouble, invariably at some point I rush ahead and read the rest of the book only to come to the point of discussion and not remember a majority of what I wanted to say! C’est la vie my friends, I made copious highlights and will do my best. 

1. Of the three topics covered in chapters 10, 11, and 12 (Mindfulness, Attitude, and Happiness), which area would you like to improve the most in 2014? Why? Would some of the techniques that worked for Gretchen work for your situation?
Dear Mindfulness: You are everywhere these days. I know there is a reason for that, but it doesn’t mean that I like you any better. Love, April.

Seriously though, I’ve been aware of mindfulness since I went through my Buddhism phase my senior year of high school (’99 – ’00). I keep coming back to it here and there but I’m bad at mindfulness. I joke with my husband that he’s the ‘girl’ in the relationship (my inner feminist is cringing), largely, this is a compliment he’s the thoughtful (and mindful) one. He gives the best Christmas gifts, while I struggle with picking out a tie to purchase him. He always remembers graduations and other important events and does something immeasurably special for them. 

That’s never been me. Gratitude is an issue for me, as I discussed previously (I think). Even when I’m grateful I often forget to show my gratitude towards those people that I’m most grateful towards.
So I would love to improve mindfulness. I think it would make me a better person, a better partner, and a better mother. I don’t necessarily find that Gretchen’s methods would be useful for me but I do like this quote: 

I’m an adherent of the Western tradition of cultivating deep passions and profound attachments; I didn’t want to detach, I wanted to embrace; I didn’t want to loosen, I wanted to deepen.”
2. What idea from chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The Happiness Project could you use today that would likely make you happier?
Good manners! Absolutely this would make me happier. When I lived overseas I consistently kept a smile on my face and was sure to know all of the ‘polite words’ in the common language. The military considered me to be an American ‘ambassador’ and I considered myself the same. But since I’ve returned home in 2008, I’ve forgotten to be an ambassador of goodwill to my own countrymen. 

Indeed, at first I got a little thrill from not feeling like I had to smile at that cashier at Wal-Mart, she was an American, so was I! No longer did I have to worry about representing my country poorly. But as I have spent more time throughout my own country I realize that it’s important to represent myself in the best possible light. Sure, the cashier at Wal-Mart might expect me to treat her indifferently (or worse) but can I make other’s days and lives a little better by acting better than they expect me to?

I think that the answer is absolutely yes. An extra smile, a few more polite words, it’s never going to hurt and might just help.

3. What idea from chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The Happiness Project are you pretty sure wouldn’t make you happier at all, even if it seems to work for Gretchen?

“I will listen intently, so that I follow up their comments, laugh at their jokes, engage deeply. No more interrupting or waiting impatiently for my turn.”

I have no doubt that if I could put this into practice it would make me happier. My problem is the same one that I have with mindfulness. Right now I just don’t feel capable of it. I don’t know if that’s selfishness or laziness or something in between. Alas, it is me.
4.The last two questions are borrowed from The Happiness Project Reading Guide at HarperCollins. Gretchen writes, “Everyone’s happiness project will be different.” How would your happiness project be different from Gretchen’s? How might it be the same?
My project might take some of the opposite steps of Gretchen’s. Mine will be coming back to the legal profession after being out for nearly a year caring for a loved on that was ill. I’m lucky to also live a very charmed life where I can start at the bottom of the legal profession and I’ll have to because I’m not licensed to practice law in Georgia yet (only Illinois) so I’m planning to do some volunteer work with the Atlanta Legal Aid services. 

I would love to create a Resolution Chart or something equally productive, it would probably make me happy, but I’m not sure I have the ‘get up and go’ right now to do that.
5. What was the one most valuable thing you learned from The Happiness Project about happiness—for yourself?
This is an easy question. The answer is, “Be Gretchen” or, of course, for me “Be April”. This means not invalidating things that I enjoy just because they don’t feel legitimate. This means that I have a right to try things that I might enjoy even if I’m not automatically good at them. It’s confidence and authority all wrapped into one. I can because I am. It doesn’t have to be perfect or great or even good. It can just be… and that’s okay too.

April @ The Steadfast Reader


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