• March 2015

March Happiness = Aim Higher

We’re two months into our discussion of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and this month we embark on her goal for March: Aim higher.


“In one of those life-isn’t-fair results, it turns out that the happy outperform the less happy,” Rubin reports.

“Happy people work more hours each week — and they work more in their free time, too. They tend to be more cooperative, less self-centered, and more willing to help other people — say, by sharing information or pitching in to help a colleague — and then, because they’ve helped others, others tend to help them.

“Also, they work better with others, because people prefer to be around happier people, who are also less likely to show the counterproductive behaviors of burnout, absenteeism, counterproductive and nonproductive work, work disputes, and retaliatory behavior than are less happy people.”

Here are some ways to try to aim higher:

  • Launch a blog. Since the brain is stimulated by surprise, successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction, Rubin explains. “And this is one of the many paradoxes of happiness: We seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness. What’s more, because novelty requires more work from the brain, dealing with novel situations evokes more intense emotional responses and makes the passage of time seem slower and richer.” How are you going to incorporate novelty and challenge into your happiness project? Maybe start a blog, as Rubin did — or perhaps take violin or salsa-dancing classes, or learn to fly a plane. It’s up to you!
  • Enjoy the fun of failure. While nudging yourself out of your comfort zone and moving into what Rubin calls the “stretch zone,” you might face a few fears — including the possibility that you will fail at the new task you are engaging in. To counteract this fear, Rubin suggests repeating a mantra such as, “I enjoy the fun of failure.” She insists that is it fun to fail because “it’s part of being ambitious; it’s part of being creative. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”
  • Ask for help. One of Rubin’s “Secrets of Adulthood,” is to embrace the idea that it’s okay to ask for help. Still, she admits to not being great at it. So she came up with a novel way to ask for help: She pulled together a strategy group to help her work through some of the things she was struggling with. In this case, it was two other writers who became her writing partners to discuss career and writing strategies. Only after they’d met a few times did she stumble on some career-building articles that suggested forming a “goals group.” Rubin muses: “Shoot, I thought I’d invented the idea.”
  • Work smart. Since she wanted to also boost her efficiency, Rubin started paying close attention to how she spent her days — only to find she was running pretty close to efficiency. So she changed the way she thought about productive time. “I’d believed that I couldn’t sit down and write productively unless I had at least three or four hours with no interruptions — and often that was hard to arrange.” She tested the assumption and found out she did better when she had less time to write, and 90 minutes turned out to be the optimally efficient length of time for her.
  • Enjoy now. “When I find myself focusing overmuch on the anticipated future happiness of arriving at a certain goal,” Rubin writes, “I remind myself to ‘enjoy now.’ If I can enjoy the present, I don’t need to count on the happiness that is (or isn’t) waiting for me in the future. The fun part doesn’t come later, now is the fun part.”

Stay tuned for more tips in April: Lighten up

Remember January’s resolution: Boost your energy

  • Go to sleep earlier
  • Exercise better
  • Toss, restore, and organize
  • Tackle a nagging task
  • Act more energetic

And February’s advice: Remember love

  • Quit nagging
  • Don’t expect praise or appreciation
  • Hug
  • Fight right
  • No dumping
  • Give proofs of love

Learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her happiness project in the December 2014 issue of Be Inkandescent magazine.