In January, I read the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I should say, I read more than 50% of the book because each chapter address a project for that month. Projects include kids, family, marriage, etc. so some of the chapters were not relevant to me and I skipped them. However, I gained a lot of insight from what I did read.
The best lesson that I took from the book was that when a child comes to me with a problem, I should stop giving a solution first.After reading the book, now I say, wow, that must have really hurt or I know that must have made you feel terrible. This new approach, one quick sentence, helps me connect to the child and validate how she is feeling. My previous approach was to solve the problem, negating the child’s feelings, which I hated as a child. I want the “grands” to know that their feelings matter. This approach has made our interactions more meaningful and creates closer ties.
Another takeaway was to work to hear what my partner has to say before I compose my response (yep, just like with the kids). Sometimes, there is no response required from me. I simply need to hear what he is saying and acknowledge it. Using this approach, recently I stopped to pause and in that time, my partner became a little more vulnerable and provided some heartfelt information. If I had forged ahead without the pause, I would have caused him to shut down. Score!
Rubin’s was very honest about the fact that no matter what “project” she was working on, there were always setbacks. Did she yell at her kids or snap at her husband during each project? Of course she did because we do not change overnight. The change was that she recognized her negative actions/reactions quickly, corrected in the moment, and made the interaction less negative by the end. She even acknowledged that a few times, she had no desire to be less negative and when she got angry, she kept going. There are times, that I recognize that I am heading to the negative and, I too, keep going but those events are rare. But, sometimes, you simply want to be mad for a moment and then, you redirect.
After reading the book and knowing how much I enjoyed it (enough to purchase a hard copy, albeit used), I started reading reviews. I was very surprised to find that people were not pleased with the book because they felt that the Gretchen Rubin’s problems were petty and not what real people deal with on a daily basis. Some even referred to the fact that she is rich and therefore has no grasp on “real problems”. I was a bit perplexed and I am not rich and I have a firm grasp on the problems that life brings.
Weekly, there is at least one instance where I wish I had communicated differently with my partner or the “grands”. I want nothing more than to react to people and situations in a claim, reasonable manner. I want to acknowledge that I am controlling and be able to back away, take my hands off, and let events take their course (sometimes). I believe that everyone wants this without regard for economic status and it can occur regardless of how many bills one has or the size of a paycheck.
Sure, many people are focused on earning a living, clothing their kids, and putting food on the table and I agree, these things are important. However, I cannot influence my paycheck on a daily basis but I can change my attitude and my way of communicating and influence my relationships in a positive way every single day and the Happiness Project has definitely helped. As a matter of fact, hardly a day goes by that some passage or idea from the book does not play into my daily interactions.
If you read this book, I might recommend that you approach it with no preconceived notions but with an open mind and a desire to learn something new and to become a better person by the end. I believe if you take this approach, you will truly find this book meaningful.
Have you ever worked to improve your happiness?