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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

In The Happiness Project (THP), Gretchen outlines 12 personal commandments. They are called commandments because they are overarching principles that guide her life. They are personal because they are unique to her. Everyone’s set of personal commandments would probably look a bit different, although some of Gretchen’s are definitely worth taking on as mine as well.

In her February 2012 post in The Huffington Post, Gretchen explains that

It took me several months to come up with this list, and it has been very useful for me to have them identified clearly in my mind. It’s a creative way of distilling core values.

Her 12 personal commandments are:

1. Be Gretchen.

2. Let it go.

3. Act the way I want to feel.

4. Do it now.

5. Be polite and be fair.

6. Enjoy the process.

7. Spend out. (This is probably the most enigmatic of my commandments.)

8. Identify the problem.

9. Lighten up.

10. Do what ought to be done.

11. No calculation.

12. There is only love.

I suggest reading the rest of her article for more explanation as to what these simple phrases mean. Also, she discusses how to contemplate your own beliefs to arrive at your own set of commandments.

This book has prompted some personal soul-searching on my part. I think one of my beliefs, while seeming a bit hackneyed is pretty powerful to me, and that is: this too shall pass. I have a horribly hard time getting swept up in strife or frustration when thinking that a solution can’t be found. I tend to ram my head against a wall, go mute and silent, or wail in my head on my daily commute. Are any of these reactions healthy or helpful? God, no. But yet I keep repeating them. I have to step back. I realize that most things work themselves out with time. Sure some problems are easier to tackle than others. For example, it will be a lot easier to decide when to clean out the hall closet than it will be to decide when to go back to school full time.

I don’t know what the point of life is. But if I had a clue it’s not to wallow in despair or helplessness.  Yes, the big decisions really are the major life changing decisions at times. Taking a leap is scary. Obviously, I read this book and I am thinking about what makes me happy in the context of also thinking about my job and possibly going back to school. How does one know what is right? It’s like asking a star how long it will radiate? We will never know. I have to remember that this too shall pass and that my anxiety can’t get the best of me.

I loved this last part of a column on anxiety from the New York Times, “A Desert Beyond Fear.” When will we let fear claim us, and when will we release ourselves from it?

When I wake up in the swirl of Armageddon, I have two choices: the first is to lie in bed convincing myself  that the media headlines loom near — I will soon lose my house, my husband, and what little money I have. I can probably keep the cat, but he and I will be sharing a food bowl. The other choice is the courageous choice: get out of bed, open the blinds, and look to the east where the Escalante River gorge cuts through the sunlit ridge.


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