Well, I am only on month three of Gretchen Rubin’s extensively researched The Happiness Project, and love many of her insights.
Here are three which I particularly enjoyed:
1) W. B. Yeats writes, “Happiness is neither virtue, nor pleasure, nor this thing, nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.
She goes on to point out that the process of striving after goals—growth—brings more happiness than achieving them.
As we become wealthier or successful, we become used to new comforts, privileges, achievements and respect. It’s “the hedonic treadmill.” You get used to what you have, and want more.
An “atmosphere of growth” on the other hand, provides a more abiding satisfaction. “Tending your garden will give you fresh joy and surprise every spring.” Like the process of writing and thinking, and striving towards excellence in one’s creative work.
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In my daughters’ school, Oxford High School, they are given only one yardstick for which subjects to choose—what most interests them, what they love best. This can be annoying for parents who want them to pick subjects which will be of the most use to them.
Gretchen shows us why the school’s policy is sensible. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in Outliers, the most important element in mastery is the 10,000 hours of practice.
So, to quote Rubin, “Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice. Therefore, you are better off pursuing a profession that comes easily and that you love, because that’s where you’ll be more eager to practice. Passion is a critical factor in professional success. People who love their work bring an intensity and enthusiasm that’s impossible to match through sheer diligence.”
3) And then, there’s this paragraph which is particularly brilliant and useful. And interesting. Not sure I knew it.
She writes: “I’d always followed the adage, “Don’t let the sun do down on your anger,” which meant, in practical terms, that I scrupulously aired every annoyance as soon as possible to make sure I had my chance to vent my bad feelings before bedtime.
I was surprised to learn from my research, however that the well-known notion of anger catharsis is poppycock. There is no evidence for the belief that “letting off steam” is healthy or constructive. In fact, studies show that aggressively expressing anger doesn’t relieve anger, but amplifies it. On the other hand, not expressing anger often allows it to disappear without leaving ugly traces.”
It’s a very interesting book—well-researched, compendious, but written in an very easy, readable style.