Friday, August 12, 2011

The Happiness Project

I was at Target (my favorite store) late last month browsing through the book section, and came across this one.  Now, I have to say that when I read the title I was a little skeptical.  How does one undertake a project to be happier?  Is there even such a thing?  You are either happy or you're not, right?

I left the book behind, but the thought stuck with me all much so, that I ended up getting the book on Kindle.  There were things about the book that I didn't necessarily agree with but the basic premise of the book, I think, is a good one.  It's true, like the author states, that we often make resolutions that we don't keep.  How many of us have made a New Years resolution to lose weight year after year to no avail?  I also think it's true that we often set goals for ourselves that we never achieve.  I don't think our failure to succeed has anything to do with us.  I don't think we are inherently lazy or predisposed to failure.  I think that there are two things at work here that keep us from achieving what we set out to do: 1) We are probably making the wrong resolutions and/or goals, and 2) We phrase our resolutions and/or goals as ideals instead of as concrete actions that can actually be accomplished.

Let's take the first premise...the September issue of Yoga Journal has a great article titled Soul's Desire which is about happiness and how we set out to attain it.  The article talks about how often what we think we need to make us happy is really not what we need at all.  There are so many forces that affect our daily lives - work, home, relationships, health, etc - that we often don't realize how each of those things truly impacts what we do and who we are.  We take them for granted and at face value, and thus fail to see the interconnectedness of our lives.  So sometimes we think if we do X it will make us happy, when in reality what we really need to do is Y.

The second premise has to do with how we frame our resolutions or goals.  It's easy to say. "This year I'm going to make a resolution to lose 20 lbs."  Then we go about our lives as we do everyday and when next year rolls around we are still carrying around 20 lbs (or more) of unwanted weight and not feeling very good about ourselves.  Now, if we said, "This year I'm going to make a effort to eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day" or "This year I'm going to go out for a walk three times a week," then it is more likely that by the end of the year we would have shed those 20 unwanted pounds.  Framing your resolution as a concrete action, something you can actually do, makes it more likely that you will do it, and as a consequence achieve what you want.

So what does this have to do with happiness?  Well, I'm not going to try to explain the whole happiness project here.  I encourage you all to get the book.  It's a fast and easy read.  But I do want to share a cool resource that the author has made available, in order to encourage everyone to start their own happiness projects.  I will be starting mine on September 1st.  I felt it was appropriate to start in the Fall because ,for me, it is really the season for new beginnings.  

I am approaching it as an "Uncovering Happiness" Project.  I truly feel that happiness exists everywhere, everyday and it is up to us to embrace it.  However, sometimes we bury it under our inclinations to rush through life, or it becomes obscured by our worries, anxieties, and fears.  So, for the next 12 months, I hope to "dig out" happiness in every corner of my life, in order for me to live my best day, everyday.  I hope to share what I discover here on occasion, so please come back and visit and let me know you've been here.

To happiness!!


  1. I own and have read the book. Like you, I don't agree with everything she wrote and mainly because we are at different stages in our lives, but I did gather some use full ideas. The main one? I started a blog! Can't wait to see how it works for you! xx

  2. Interesting! I've never heard of this book, but I will have to check it out now. I agree that sometimes "Happiness" is something you have to practice. I think it's there all along, as you said, we just need a little help to digging it out! Cheers to happiness!

  3. Happiness is so crucial to overall wellbeing. I have found that counting my blessings no matter how small has really helped my perspective.
    THanks for the recommendation!