7 Musings from The Happiness Project You Need to Read

Casey Wolfgang - Happiness Project

Hooked on “Happiness”

Happiness Project BookFrom the first chapter of Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project,” I was hooked. One of the core things I appreciated most about this kind of self-improvement novelization is that the author isn’t speaking about improving happiness levels while coming from a level of absolute misery.

She is someone like many of us; she’s working a job, tending to her relationship/marriage and her children and taking on activities inside and outside the home. Rubin is no unhappier than the average individual doing the same things, but she is aware that there are small, noticeable changes that can be made in multiple aspects of life that would allow for additional happiness.

Throughout my time reading her documented journey, I couldn’t help but write down musings and research-found quotes of her I loved, or found resonated with me, and am happy to share them with you too.

1. “In the determination of a person’s level of happiness, genetics accounts for about 50%; life circumstances, such as age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income, health, occupation, and religious affiliation, account for 10-20% and the remainder is a product of how a person thinks and acts.”

Imagine the potential change in perspective that can come from instilling this in your mind. Circumstances we often stress about the most only account for a 10-20% contribution toward our happiness level or lack of.

2. “I didn’t want to reject my life. I wanted to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen.”

In planning her Happiness Project, Rubin was met with hostility and misunderstanding from her friends, some of whom argued it was silly or unnecessary to take on happiness because it was not as if she lived a bad or mostly unhappy existence, acting as if she was ungrateful to some degrees. She didn’t want to drop everything and start over, she was simply aware there were small actions in day-to-day life that she could take to make things better, not that they “sucked” to begin with.

3. “With extrinsic motivation, people act to win external rewards or avoid external punishments; with intrinsic motivation, people act for their own satisfaction.”

While there are exceptions to every example, I know many of us have acted, or continue to act, a certain way. Why? To get that gold star, to be gifted that promised toy, visit or candy after something less enjoyable, or to simply avoid getting in trouble. Guilty. As. Charged. Over. Here.

4. “Studies show that if you reward people for doing an activity, they often stop doing it for fun.; being paid turns it into “work.” Parents, for example, are warned not to reward children for reading – they’re teaching kids to read for a reward, not for pleasure.

This is a point I could discuss for hours. Although one can also believe that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, there’s still a line between doing it for work and doing it because of pleasure, because of enjoyment, because you felt like it.

5. Rubin’s “8 Types of Clutter” (Summarized)

  • Nostalgic – Relics one clings to from their earlier life.
  • Conservation – Useful, but useless to the person holding onto it.
  • Bargain – Unnecessary, but was on sale.
  • Freebie – Gifts, hand-me-downs, giveaways.
  • Crutches – Use but know you shouldn’t.
  • Aspirational – Own, but only aspire to use.
  • Outgrown
  • Buyer’s Remorse

This has been the best breakdown of clutter I have read yet. As a result, it is steadily improving my ability, and motivation, to sort my own belongings.

6. What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while.

I say this to myself often. Let it sink in for a moment, and let me know how it resonated with you, if at all.

7. “I had to come to understand one critical fact about my happiness project: I couldn’t change anyone else.”

“As tempting as it was to try, I couldn’t lighten the atmosphere of our marriage by bullying Jamie into changing his ways. I could only work on myself.”

One more time for the people in the back. 


Did any of these musings resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below.

Readers and listeners can find The Happiness Project in paperback and audiobook format.

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