• Erin Zaranec

The Happiness Project vs. Pact

My second read of the year was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I grabbed this book from a Little Free Library awhile back and knew nothing about it - I just loved the cover. I'm glad I judged this book by its cover and added it to my shelves because it was a great way to continue my dedication to creativity and reflection.

Now, I don't want to seem like I'm ragging on this book - because I truly did love it and Rubin's writing. But, one of Rubin's main themes in the book was being true to yourself and, for me, I'm not sure Rubin's exact methods would be the right fit. I loved her monthly resolutions and think that following one main theme with mini-goals throughout the month is definitely do-able for me.

What I'm not sure I could follow (though I'd love to) is the habit tracking aspect of The Happiness Project. Knowing me, I'd stay on it really, really well for the first two months then slowly but surely let my habit tracker collect dust.

The one thing that I loved about the book was Rubin's Twelve Commandments she set for herself.

While reading this book, I also began listening to Elizabeth's Gilbert's Magic Lessons podcast. Gilbert gave one of her students a rousing assignment: have an affair with your creativity. Sneak away with it in your spare time, hell - use your spare 15 minutes to make out with it in the stairwell.

When Gilbert did a check in episode with this student, she said that the first step in having her creative affair was to think about who - if not her creativity - she'd been dating. What bad dates were taking her away from her affair? Between this and Rubin's resolutions - I was thinking. What have I been dating? What have I been investing my time into and are those the things I want to live by?

While I'm not even going to lie to myself about starting a habit tracker, I am going to print out my personal commandments and make pact with myself to live them out. I don't think I have it in me to do a full-blown Happiness Project, but a Happiness Pact I can do.

Be Erin - I borrowed Rubin's original commandment for herself and truly believe this should be everyone's guiding principal. I just want to be... me. Spending a Saturday in flea markets is always going to fun for me, attending a tailgate or a football game simply never will be. And that's okay.

Dance, don't dwell - If I let myself dwell on the negative - whether it be a mistake at work, a hole in my favorite sweater, the driver who gave me the finger, or a bills that were higher than I expected... I get stuck n that negativity. Instead of dwelling on the negative, I want to always just dance it out. And, yes, I honestly mean dancing. If I'm contemplating a big purchase, I find myself doing small shoulder shimmies in the store aisle. If work gets tough, it's pretty common for me to dance down the main aisle way at work. It's a fun little exercise that allows me to immediately break the tension, laugh at myself, and make others smile along the way.

Create and cultivate - Creating makes me so happy! I love creating these blog posts, embroidery kits, a new graphic at work, and more. I've been more focused on surrounding myself with people who feel the same and want to focus on cultivating my relationship with my own creativity, along with my relationship with other creatives.

Always say hello - I adapted Rubin's 'Be polite and fair' to my 'Always say hello.' I oftentimes have my to-do list at top-of-mind and, even though I hate to say it, it sometimes stops me from thinking of others. I'll go right to my cubical instead of saying hi to co-workers, or I'll immediately start searching the store instead of saying hi to the cashiers. This is my resolution to slow down, be polite, be kind, and get out of my own head.

Go through, not around - When things get tough or when I get overwhelmed, I immediately start to feel myself shutting down. I love feeling challenged, but hate feeling intense criticism.There are definitely times where I'll start looking for my way around a situation instead of my way through it. So, no more cutting corners. I will get better at living in discomfort and growing from it.

Share the specifics - Whether I want to admit it or not, I sometimes expect people to be mind readers. I'll make it obvious that I'm upset or sad or overwhelmed, but won't share the specifics of those feelings or what others can do to help alleviate my negative feelings. No more mind reading, baby, I'm going to (try!) to share the specifics with those who need them.

Do the dishes - I've noticed that an empty sink gives me a feeling of satisfaction that's hard to match. Do the dishes, clear the clutter, hang your jacket back up. If I scrub a pan immediately after cooking in it, it's always so much easier to clean than a pan I left in the sink for a few hours (or days...!) I bet problems work the same way, too. Time to put it into practice.

Live here and now - I am such a PLANNER. I want to know all the things and know them now. I need to stop flipping into the next week, month, or year (guilty!) of my planner. Live here and now.

Be your own best friend - The Magic Lessons podcast really fed this resolution to me. Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert were chatting when Brown mentioned how one of her biggest life lessons came from speaking to herself the same way she speaks to her friends. Encourage yourself, compliment yourself, see the side of you that your friends see and bask in that.

Keep scorekeeping for sports - So... I'm a bit of a scorekeeper (as my parents and boyfriend can attest) It's not uncommon for me to say something like "well I bought you soup when you were sick so can't you do (task) for me?" or "if my sister got help with XYZ, why can't I?" It's an ugly trait. I don't like it, but I do it. I am going to focus on making an effort to keep the scorekeeping to the sports folks.

Celebrate love - Focus on the positive, the lightness of a situation, the 15 minutes my friends use in their day to call me instead of relaxing, the fact that my mom will always make me a homemade meal if I stop by during the week. Don't let those moments be fleeting.

Invest in excitement before obligation - This one is HUGE for me. I understand that there's things we all have to do because, well, we have to. I can't just not to my laundry or pay my bills. But, I can control what events I attend, who I see on the weekends, what activities I participate in and more. I need to consciously invest energy, money, time, and effort into what excites me instead of things / events / people that I only feel obligated to.

To learn more about The Happiness Project, visit Rubin's site - which is full of great resources!

Read my previous blog post to see why I also loved this read as a follow up to Big Magic.


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