Saturday, March 05, 2011

Can one make a "project" out of "happiness"?

I turn everything into a project. I have projects tackling career, relationship, and house chores. I break each project into smaller projects and then assign each a date. I track my progress diligently. If I procrastinate I start making notes to myself. The notes are supposed to serve as reminders; but they become source of frustration. Source of frustration because I dislike clutter. When I see one of these notes, I become more motivated to complete the task jotted on it so I can get rid of the note itself.

I am so comfortable with "projectizing"!

However, I have to admit the title of the book I recently read, "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin, made me uncomfortable at first. I couldn't imagine an end date for such project, in fact nothing about it fit the definition of a project.

A project, by definition, is a temporary activity with a starting date, specific goals and conditions, defined responsibilities, a budget, a planning, a fixed end date and multiple parties involved.

I have always been curious about the topic. Is happiness a "what" or a "how"?
What makes me happy?
How do I become happy?

Is it one or the other, or both? Does it matter? Should we think about it? Probably, yes! Somewhere in the book, Rubin asks this question on her blog , "When is the right time to think about happiness? Before or after catastrophe strikes?" . Some of the high lights of the comments are in the book. One person's comment stood out for me.

money, you can't save for when you get laid off, after you get laid off; rather, you have to save while you have a job and the money is still coming in. Life is like that, you have to DO while you are able to think of what you want, what you like, what needs it will fill, how it will enhance your life, how it will help you to maintain you, so that you have some reserves when cruch time comes.

Rubin's approach in finding happiness is very "systematic". Hence the name "project" is appropriate, (I found this out after reading the first two chapters.) She has been honest. Honest, because she doesn't imply that her book is a one hat for all, example: those who look for a philosophical way of discussing, what is happiness, or how to be happy know what not to expect from the book right away.

Honesty is the trait that Rubin demonstrates frequently in her writing. She builds her stories around facts, her former profession, related to Law, is probably the reason she is diligent about not coming across as phony or pretentious. I liked that about her writing.

Rubin's message is: I have to be happy. It sounds selfish, but if I am not, I will make people in my life unhappy. To become happy could be as simple as taking a look at my day to day movements, existence and identifying areas for improvement. This is something I can relate to. Once I have less clutter in my life, or I am more on top of my to-do-list, or I am more in touch with people I love and care about; I am happier. If I am happier, I am more productive, become better at what I do, and the world becomes my oyster!