Author: Gretchen Rubin
Genre: Non Fiction
Year Published: 2011
Source: I purchased this book.
Gretchen Rubin realized that despite having a seemingly “perfect” life she was not as happy as she should be. Blessed with a kind and loving husband, two beautiful daughters ages 7 and 1, and a law degree, she knew that she appeared to have it all but was discontented. She had left the law for working full time as a writer because she loved to write, but started wondering why she wasn’t happier.
I had everything I could possibly want –yet I was failing to appreciate it. Bogged down in petty complaints and passing crises, weary of struggling with my own nature, I too often failed to comprehend the splendor of what I had.She also realized that “I wasn’t as happy as I could be, and my life wasn’t going to change unless I made it change.”
So Rubin started “The Happiness Project”, because she was trying to find a way to make herself happier and find out what is important to her. She not only wanted to make herself happier, but those around her as well.
She de-cluttered her closets, ate better and exercised more, slept more, tried to stop nagging her husband and children, and decided to not only be a better friend, but to keep making new friends. She drew up charts, and came up with her own solutions to her problems (including The Four Splendid Truths), and shared these solutions on her blog. She sang in the mornings and collected bluebird figurines.
She also tried not to always expect others to appreciate her efforts, because she always expects "gold stars". This was one of the hardest things for her to do.
Many of her ideas are quite sensible. Having a clean, orderly environment is essential. Helping others and being a good friend are clearly important to true happiness. She realized "one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy."
Then we got to a sticky subject:
One of her solutions was about using money wisely. She says: “Prosperity allows us to turn our attention to more transcendent matters-to yearn for lives not just of material comfort but of meaning, balance, and joy.”
This is where I stopped. Something had been bothering me. I noticed that in her author credits she never mentioned where she went to college, and she is strangely silent on what her husband and father-in-law do for a living. I also wondered when she said that her daughter would have lunch with her father-in-law in his office. I realized that he must have a pretty important job.
Gretchen also seems to have a lot of free time on her hands. She seems to wander around Manhattan without the children, and she seems to go on an endless round of cocktail parties, book clubs, and mysterious “meetings.” I had a feeling that she was pretty privileged. She had clerked for Sandra Day O'Connor so it was obvious that she had gone to a top law school. "Yale" popped into my head. I was convinced that she had gone to Yale Law School! (I don't know how I knew it was Yale and not Harvard or Stanford).
So I Googled her name and found sure enough, Gretchen graduated from Yale Law School! Her husband is a big time hedge fund manager and her father-in-law is Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary, big honcho at Goldman Sachs and former director of Citigroup. He’s worth over $100 million.
It must be nice never to have to worry about money. That would make me happy, too.
However, even the extremely privileged have their problems. Her husband suffers from Hepatitis C, a potentially fatal disease that attacks the liver. Eventually, he will need a kidney transplant. He has participated in clinical trials for new drugs, but nothing seems to work.
So Rubin has also become involved in boosting the number of organ donations. She realized that helping others leads to happiness, too.
Rubin is clearly sincere about helping others find happiness.
Her blog has inspired many others to start their own happiness projects.
You can read her blog here.