While I was out of town and waiting around for appointments, I finished a great book. It's The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Although self-described as happy, the author spent a year examining what it means to be happy and trying to make herself even happier. Reading this book gave me many "ah-ha" moments.
One of the key things she talked about was her list of resolutions, the number one of which was "Be Gretchen." As obvious as that seems, I realized I, and many other people I'm sure, need to follow this principle. To "Be Cherie" means to do things that really make me happy, not things that I believe I should do or might eventually make me happy. An example given was music. As much as the author said she wanted to appreciate music more, but it just didn't make her happy. I do appreciate and enjoy music, but I'm just not obsessively into it. Seven years of violin lessons showed me that I wasn't a true musician. I like listening to my iPod, but I don't always remember the names of the artists or the songs. I do have my favorites, but even then, I don't always know the song titles or even know all the lyrics by heart. My hubby, on the other hand, really enjoys the minutia of music and is virtually a walking encyclopedia when it comes to music history. But, either way, it's okay, because we are being ourselves and doing what truly makes us happy.
One thing that occurred to me while reading this book was that the idea of concentrating on one's happiness is shallow and selfish. Rubin addresses this when she describes a conversation with someone who felt that very way when he learned what her project was about. He was concerned with all the problems in the world and felt it was wrong to focus on one's own happiness. Rubin questioned this by asking, when we help others, what is our goal? Ultimately, we want them to be happy. If we want happiness for others, surely we should want it for ourselves.
Seeking happiness does not necessarily mean accumulating things or going into debt. Often it's the small things that make a big difference. Throughout the book, Rubin discovered a myriad of free or inexpensive actions or items that made a big difference in her pursuit of happiness. It seems the key is to start one's own happiness project and learn to "be" oneself. Here's a link to the Happiness Project Toolbox to help get you started.