Books: The Happiness Project

Another good read
Because I’m Happy… Did you hear Pharrell as you read that?

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has been my companion these last few days during a couple of flights around the Pacific Northwest. It’s an interesting book that I chose on impulse browsing at the airport in Portland a few weeks ago when returning from the World Domination Summit.

I’m not quite finished so can only speak up to November in Rubin’s year of finding more happy. The first part of her year was especially interesting to me because it revolved around my favorite topics of getting more sleep, more exercise, and becoming a better spouse/friend/family member. All lofty goals, and I’ve been failing constantly on the first two for a while now. Although I know I am happier when I exercise and am in better shape (thus able to fit into the 90% of my wardrobe that is currently a bit tight), I’ve been struggling to make exercise a priority. I did great when I had an expensive Equinox membership and a hot 30-year old personal trainer at $120 an hour. However, I currently prioritize savings over fitness so I need to find the will to use the multitude of fitness equipment currently at my disposal in my own house. Getting more sleep is an elusive life goal, and I’ve struggled getting the minimum required sleep lately. This means I need to manage my mind so I don’t lay in bed ruminating over life’s real or imagined dramas, stressing about work, feeling anxious about my performance, and generally letting that critical inner dialogue have it’s way with me rather than quieting it and falling into a restful sleep.

I was super inspired by Gretchen’s attempts to calm her temper and not nag, lash out or generally show irritation to those around her – particularly her husband. I am terribly guilty of this, and I am trying to be more mindful of how my own mood affects those around me. I was struck in the Think Better, Live Better session at World Domination Summit by a story of how a man was blowing up in anger while standing in line at a grocery store register. The lady in front of him had a baby that the cashier was gushing over rather than expeditiously ringing up the shopping. Instead of creating an ugly scene, the man managed to keep his temper and show some good graces towards the cashier when it was finally his turn. The cashier thanked him for his patience. It turned out that the customer was actually the cashier’s mother who was minding her baby and doing her grocery shopping to allow the cashier to be able to work and earn a living to support herself and her child. The cashier’s husband had been in the military and he was killed whilst deployed overseas. I am tearing up just re-telling that. The number of times I have fumed and scowled in disgust at the grocery store when I’ve had to wait that couple of extra minutes because another customer is HOLDING UP THE F***ING LINE!!!!! That reaction not only causes upset to me, but causes upset to everyone around me. Back to The Happiness Project, and Gretchen’s observation that “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” She is spot on and I try to stay mindful every time I feel that irritation and anger rising over some silly triviality. Sometimes I do better than others, but even a 50% improvement results in a better frame of mind for me and those around me.

My one criticism of this book is directed inwards rather than towards the book itself. Every happiness activity undertaken is so worthy, I was left feeling dreadfully inadequate about my day to day life. What that underscores is how much I need to keep reading material like The Happiness Project. Not only read it though, take time out of my day for personal reflection and action towards my goals. It’s not enough to have a running list in my head. That’s not actually accomplishing anything. That’s the classic adage of the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’m not saying I’m on the road to hell and I should probably tweak that into a more positive mantra! Perhaps “the road to success is paved with small actions”. That’s what I need to do. Today was a good day of actions as I got up and wrote two blog posts.

Books: New Slow City

I’ve read a couple of books in the last two months that have made a big difference to my life. The first was New Slow City: Living Simply in the World’s Fastest City by William Powers.

Slooooow
Slooooow

This particular friend accompanied me on my visit to Michigan back in June and it perfectly  matched the tone of my visit. William and his girlfriend Melissa spent a year in a micro apartment in New York, focusing on a shorter workweek and mindfully feeling the City. It felt like the Universe had deliberately put that book in my hands. Mindfulness, slowing everything down… Ideas we all seem to aspire to more and more these days. Despite the industry built up around these simple concepts, they seem further and further away from the average life.

I was particularly struck by William’s story of sampling succulent scallops at a neighborhood restaurant. He delayed gratification for a few weeks before finally allowing himself to savor every bite. Slowly. I have been known to regularly inhale plates of food but shortly after finishing this book I met a friend for dinner at a gorgeous restaurant in Santa Monica.

Dusky view from The Penthouse
Dusky view from The Penthouse

To pay homage to William’s wonderful book, I ordered scallops and did my best to appreciate every small bite. I admit the concept of slow food enhanced my whole enjoyment of the evening.

As with everything though, life overtakes if you’re not careful. My goal for this coming week is to slow everything down and see what happens.