My name is Gretchen Rubin, and I’m working on a book, The Happiness Project , an account of the year I spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and tips from popular culture about how to be happy—from Aristotle to Martin Seligman to Oprah.
I started this project because one April morning, looking out the rain-spattered window of a bus, I asked myself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” and I thought, “Well, I want to be happy.”
I realized with a jolt that I never thought about happiness, or whether I was happy, or what I could do to be happier. “I should have a happiness project!” I thought. So I started one.
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.
This blog, which I’ve been writing since 2006 , recounts my adventures as I pursue my happiness project—what I try, what I learn. Your project would look different from mine, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit.
“But,” you might think, “if everyone’s happiness project is different, why should I bother to read about yours?” Here’s why: During my study of happiness, I’ve been surprised by how often I learn more from one person’s idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies. I’ve learned more from Ben Franklin’s happiness project (yes, he had one) than from any other kind of argument.
Some people think that wanting to be happier is a selfish, self-absorbed goal—but I disagree. Robert Louis Stevenson got it right: “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy,” he wrote. Research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likeable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in the problems of others, friendlier, and healthier. Happy people make better friends, colleagues, and citizens. And maybe betters bloggers, too.
** Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just e-mail me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.