Saturday, December 10, 2011

words worth reading

With the end of the semester and exam week upon us, I have relieved stress by giving myself extra time doing something I love--read.  Over the past week I've finished a couple of books (The Hunger Games was amazing).  One of my new favorite books and "go-to feel good" books is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  It's a memoir about a year that she dedicated to setting goals to improve, tracking progress of, and consciously striving for happiness.  

"There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy." -Robert Louis Stevenson

I have wrestled with the meaning of true happiness over the past year, as I have dealt with significant life changes and decisions.  I have recently come to realize that there is no such thing as a projected, perfect life.  There aren't blueprints that I'm supposed to follow in my walk of life.  So often I think that our society emphasizes that success is defined by obtaining a good education, landing a well-paying job, marrying your soulmate, starting a family, etc.  While these are all wonderful pursuits, all of which I intend on obtaining, I think that there needs to be more of an emphasis on personal happiness in the world, especially for young adults.  We are faced with so many pressures, and there is an increasing frequency of depression in young adults.  In order to completely heal from such a disease, one must reprogram the way one interprets information and views external circumstances.  That has been a big focus in my life lately.  This book reaffirmed many of my existing beliefs, and it encouraged me to continue to pursue the things I love most.

In her writing, Rubin identifies a set of "commandments" and "secrets to adulthood" to help keep her on track.  Some of the most powerful mantras include "act the way I want to feel," "identify the problem," "what you do every day matters more that what you do once in a while," "if you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough," and "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."  These small, simple reminders help to reframe your thoughts in the ongoing stress of everyday life.  Multiple reviews of this memoir note that after reading about Rubin's experiences, you'll want to start your own happiness project.  Indeed, I did.  I am not as eloquent or well versed as Rubin, but I've attempted to compile a few heuristic phrases to refocus my thoughts:

  • Be cheerful
  • Trust the process
  • Live what you love
  • Be kind
  • Enjoy the ride
  • Give love
  • Live in the moment
  • Be the change
  • To be continued....

These are just a few of my guiding rules to happiness.  With the new year approaching, I fully intend on developing a plan of measurable resolutions so that I can conscientiously track my thoughts and actions.

Rubin's book is full of inspirational anecdotes and quotes, and I've shared some of my favorites below:

To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad and feeling right..."Feeling right..." was the feeling that I'm living the life I'm supposed to lead...It's about living the life that's right for you--in occupation, location, marital status, and so on.  It's also about virtue: doing your duty, living up to the expectations you set for yourself.

"Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing." -William Butler Yeats

The challenge, therefore, is to take pleasure in the "atmosphere of growth," in the gradual progress made toward a goal, in the present...Enjoy now.  If I can enjoy the present, I don't need to count on the happiness that is (or isn't) waiting for me in the future.

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy.  One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

Make footprints: "I was here."  Choose not to take things personally.  Be loving and love will find you.  Soak it in.  What would I do if I weren't scared?  If you can't get out of it, get into it.  Give without limits, give without expectations.  React to the situation.  If you're not now here, you're nowhere.

Gratitude brings freedom from envy.

"The least strained and most natural ways of the soul are the most beautiful; the best occupations are the least forced." -Michel de Montaigne  (yes! abandon agency jobs in a business/marketing/advertising firm to pursue the undying desire to help others.  go to school for higher education and student affairs.  that is where you belong!)

The things that go wrong often make the best memories.

Happiness doesn't always make you feel happy.  Activities that contribute to long-term happiness don't always make me feel good in the short term; in fact they're sometimes downright unpleasant. (taking standardized tests, teaching yourself to like exercise/running, forgiveness of wrongdoing...all are difficult and sometimes burdensome but contribute to overall happiness long-term)

"Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness." -Tolstoy

"The days are long, but the years are short," reminded me to stay in the moment, to appreciate the seasons, and to revel in this time of life.

This book will always be on my bookshelf to reference whenever I need a reminder of the important way to think of things.  Next to finish reading: Gladwell's The Tipping Point and Godin's Linchpin.  Happy reading!

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