Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

Cover via Amazon

 In part, this explains how I turn out a weekly column–it is a simple process–I type “On the Homefront”  (which coincidentally is the name of my newspaper column) at the top of  the page and nine times out of ten it works–I am off and running the weekly race to fill the column set aside on page 5 of the newspaper for me. That tenth time, well–sometime I will write about it……

Whenever I write a column I always type in the title “On The Homefront” first.  I don’t know exactly why, except that it seems to give me focus, so I can centre myself on the task at hand. I know that once I have committed to writing the column then that is what my agenda clears itself for. I wonder if this would work with the rest of my life.  I have a book that is titled, “Write It Down, Make It Happen”, (which I cannot find right now—must have lent it out) that prescribes this simple theory: if you write something down, you have in essence written it down in your psyche, and therefore you will (almost unwittingly) work towards that goal.

I know this works on a certain level, after all, when I write down the title of this column, then I usually make it happen. But having a deadline also works—specifically for a world-class procrastinator like me. I have reached a certain comfort level with my procrastination—having studied it ad nauseam I realize that I suffer from “perfection syndrome”, or “if I don’t understand it, how can I do it.” (Okay, I just hit something on my keyboard and now I am composing in italics—I don’t  know why and I cannot seem to get rid of it—pardon me for a few moments while I work on this.)

  Okay, the italics went away. Now back to my “perfection syndrome”—it is annoying, and I am trying to cure myself of the malady, which you think would be easy since there are so many facets of my life where imperfection is a fact.  I generally get over perfection syndrome when faced with a deadline that will not be moved, or when I realize there are just some things in which I will never reach perfection.  But the goal of perfection is kind of what you make it.  Defined as excellence, it is a good thing; defined as flawlessness, it is not.

When Gretchen Rubin embarked on her “happiness project”, she soon realized that her critics were being a bit mean and miserable when they called her book, “The Happiness Project” the result of a newly popular genre called “stunt journalism”.  I don’t think Gretchen’s main goal was perfection in trying to find the elements of happiness, but she was looking for a form of “excellence”.  She felt she was wasting her life and she wanted to do something about it. Her stunt was to go about her goal over a period of twelve months. Each month had several goals. Apparently this plays into the definition of “stunt journalism” which is defined as “doing something for a year” (and then writing about it.)

I am all for stunt journalism or anything that gives inspiration some get up and go. Inspiration is great, but it needs motivation. Gretchen stretched her project out over a year to give it a chance, and she broke it down thus: January-boost energy by going to sleep earlier and exercising better. This was also her toss, restore, and organize month. In February she wanted to quit nagging and give proofs of love (àpropos to the month of love). In March her overall goal was to “aim higher” and enjoy “now” (à la Eckhart Tolle).

In April, she decided to “lighten up” so she began to sing in the morning. May was her “play” month, where she resolved to find more fun, take time to be silly, and “go off the path” and be more adventurous.  She made time for her friends in June and “bought her happiness” in July by indulging in a modest splurge. She got ethereal in August by “contemplating the heavens”. No one can say the girl did not set some pretty lofty goals.

Her September goal was to write a novel and she did. Not an edited, ready to publish novel, but a novel nevertheless. October was her “pay attention” month, where she meditated and “stimulated her mind in new ways”. She did this by leaving post-it notes around her home. In her bathroom she posted this note: “Tender and light-hearted.” Ten months into the project and her husband, who needed a sense of humour to get through his wife’s “happiness project”, crossed off the words “tender and light-hearted”, and changed them to “light and flaky.”

Her goal in November was quite poetic: “keep a contented heart”. She did this by focusing on her attitude to “cultivate a light-hearted loving, and kind spirit.” Month twelve, December, was boot camp, where she tried to practice all her resolutions, all the time. She had created a Resolution Chart and she wanted all gold stars for that month. (We are all kids at heart).

Her stunt was to get happier. She wrote it down and made it happen. Good stunt.


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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Gretchen makes happiness sound like hard work, but worth the effort.

  2. if you read her book, you will find out that it was hard work–guess nothing is ever easy–even happiness

  3. She wrote a novel in a month?? what kind of a novel was,it, one has to wonder….definitely not a James Joyce number 2…. by the way, I prefer the word “immaculate”, has such a nice ring to it, a bit holy even, don’t you think?

    • Immaculate is a lovely word I agree–a very nice spiritual ring to it.
      The novel she wrote she admitted readily was not something that could be published–she was just happy with the result of finishing it–sometimes, I guess, perfection is not the goal.

      • I honestly cannot fathom how one could possibly write a NOVEL in month… a novella, maybe…. well, us underachievers live in quite a different reality altogether I guess….

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