Yes, it’s another “I did something for a year and got a book contract!” books. And yes, it has the obligatory blurb from A.J. Jacobs. But I still enjoyed it. Call me a sucker (though a bitter sucker, since I still haven’t figured out the year-long challenge that will get ME a book deal), but as long as the book is well-written, I’ll dedicate a few hours of my time to finding out what someone else dedicated a year of theirs to.
In a lot of ways, this is the lamest project yet, and yet the book is more enjoyable than you’d think. Gretchen Rubin, a not-particularly-unhappy writer, decided to dedicate a year to learning about happiness, and to making and following resolutions that would help her be happier. She didn’t travel anywhere or uproot her life in any signficant way — basically, each month she just focused on things that would help to make her a happier, better, more productive person. And it worked.
Lots of her resolutions are simple and obvious, and the sort of things I’m always trying to put into practice. It’s interesting to see how she learned to push herself outside her comfort zone, but also learned about ways she needed to stay inside her comfort zone — such as her realization that “What’s fun for other people may not be fun for me.” Practical translation: if someone else tells you how much their life was transformed and enriched by hiking the Appalachian Trail, but you have no desire to hike and know you don’t like it, don’t do it. Do something else instead.
Simple, practical wisdom, told with a touch of that self-deprecating humour that makes this sort of thing palatable — that’s what this book has to offer. I doubt it will transform anyone’s life — in fact, I’m not even sure, by her own account, that it transformed Rubin’s in any major way (except of course getting the deal for a book that turned out to be a bestseller). Personally, I wouldn’t be tempted to take on anything called a “happiness project” since one of the ways I’m lucky is that I’ve always been pretty happy without really trying. But lots of her resolutions are simply things that could make your life better, and I’m always on the lookout for those. If you’re interested in light, gentle steps toward self-improvement, you might well enjoy this book.