Quick Review + Top Tips from “The Happiness Project” for The Athletic Bookworms
An athletic take on “The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” by Gretchen Rubin
OK, I readThe Happiness Project, so did I get any happier? Not over this month, per se, but it definitely made me think. She broke her year out into months, picking broad spectrum goals for each one, i.e relationship, family, money, work, writing, exercise, and went about achieving different goals throughout the year. I loved her intro, where she talked about why she wanted to start her own yearlong happiness project: She has the idea in her head of the perfect moments of happiness — we all have one of these, mine tends to be beach-themed and barefoot runs and early sunrise coffee drinking and journaling is involved — but obviously, that’s not everyday life. So what is the way we can make ourselves happier in the life we’re in now?
This was one of Rubin’s earlier points in the book and probably my biggest takeaway, especially as an athlete. If you’re a racer, it’s SO easy to get caught up in the ‘I’ll be happy when I get through this next training block / hit this heavy lift / get this podium spot in a race” … but then we achieve them, and now what? Learning to love the actual process of getting to race day, lifting heavier, enjoying the day’s training, not just thinking of it in the context of a master plan… THAT is what we as athletes need to do. (I wrote more about process versus goal-getting here.) It’s called the Arrival Fallacy, and all it leads to is huge let-downs.
(Similarly, in her conclusion, she notes that ‘you hit a goal, you keep a resolution’) — this whole idea is so similar to the athletic ‘daily training environment’ as the key to athletic success. Every day, we do the work, keep up the good habits, make the right choices, and slowly, steadily, over time, we get to where we want to be. It’s utterly unsexy and undramatic in the moment, but when you actually get where you want to be and can look back and sort of fast-forward the process montage-style, it’s pretty damn cool.
I love Rubin’s books on habits, and this is sort of the book that started it all. (I plan on using her newest book, The Four Tendencies, as a Bookworm pick in the next few months as well). But The Happiness Project describes one person’s year-long attempt to discover what leads to true contentment. “Drawing at once on cutting-edge science, classical philosophy, and real-world applicability, Rubin has written an engaging, eminently relatable chronicle of transformation,” is how it’s billed and it generally doesn’t disappoint.
I like Rubin’s work because she combines pretty personal anecdotes with scientific backdrop, and esoteric musing with practical habit changing tips. It’s a good one for someone like me who generally craves books on organization. (“Competency porn” is how I once heard that genre described and I love it.) If you need a kick in the butt, this is a good motivational book to pick up, even if you don’t necessarily walk away with any huge takeaways. I didn’t learn any new hacks or habits, but I did get remotivated to visit monthly goals, think about resolutions and a good daily training environment and get more thoughtful about what happiness looks like to me now (ahem #’FordDachshund2019).