Saturday, March 22, 2014

What I’ve Learned from The Happiness Project: God Made Me to Enjoy Some Things More Than Others

Gretchen Rubin wrote The Happiness Project and has a blog that accompanies it.  The book deals with this question:  if so many of us are living privileged, pretty much needs-free lives, why aren’t we happy?  Why wasn’t she happy?
As a Christian, I personally believe true contentment and joy come from Christ, but Rubin still poses an interesting question, even for Christians:  why are there still believers running around without joy or happiness surrounding them?  What kind of loop have we fallen into?

I read this book probably about mid-way through the Jesus year when a friend loaned it to me, so it’s been a while.  However, my big takeaways were: happiness is a choice, then an action and don’t try to make yourself happy doing things that don’t make you happy.  This doesn’t mean live a life that revolves around selfish desires; it’s about knowing what you like so you can use your gifts in the right areas to serve others.  Rubin did this many times throughout her project, both serving others and loving it at the same time.  
Rubin spent time-much like  Crystal Paine who I blogged about earlier this week-prioritizing her life into what fit and what didn’t, and focusing on what she loved.  This takes some self-awareness because many of us are programmed to pretend to like things we see make others happy; we assume they should make us happy to.

This does a disservice to our individuality, to the way we were made.  I have certain gifts and I enjoy certain activities more than others.  My enjoyment is not particularly going to come from the same place someone else’s does.

My Personal Happy List

Ø  Reading

Ø  Writing

Ø  Discussing reading and writing

Ø  Music

Ø  Teaching

Ø  Exercising, because I like it.  I’m not motivated by the scale, my biceps, the size of my waist or competing.  I’m just in it for the endorphins.

Ø  Cooking and baking, when there are not already hungry people nipping at my heels begging for food that will not be ready for another hour. 

Doesn’t do it for me

Ø  Sports, except an occasional Rough Riders or Rangers game

Ø  Shopping or consumerism in general

Ø  Mani’s/pedis, unless these are done in a setting with friends where the main focus is socializing.

Ø  Big social settings where conversations are surface level and it feels like every encounter with another person is akin to a drive by. (I usually don’t do well talking in these situations because I get flustered and make weird, out-there comments.  I do this anyway, but rushed conversations will encourage me to be even weirder, wave my freak flag extra high.)

Applying my happy list to my life helped me see clear distinctions in what I enjoy and how to live my life to maximize what I like to do to help others.  When my neighbor has her son next month, I’m going to cook a meal for her.  As I set out to find more community, even in this season of chaos in our lives, I know I’d rather be in a group focused on service or reading books and Biblical writings than a group centered around shopping excursions and mani/pedi days.  My choices are not better than anyone else’s choices; they are just mine, and knowing that will help me find a group with common interests where I can invest myself.  Plus, I can utilize the hours in my day doing what I really like, not what I think I’m supposed to as a 30-something mommy and wife with kids.  It’s freeing.

Rubin has written more books, and I think I’m going to grab them.  She likes to write; I like to read.  Together, we make each other happy.

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