The Happiness Project Read Along — Wednesday Discussion, January 22
Welcome to the third discussion session for The Happiness Project Read Along! Here are the first two:
This week we’re talking about Chapters 7, 8, and 9. Join us in the comments or post on your blog and add it to the link list below.
1. Of the three topics covered in chapters 7, 8, and 9 (Money, Eternity, and Passion), which area would you like to improve the most in 2014? Why? Would some of the techniques that worked for Gretchen work for your situation?
I related to Gretchen’s quandaries about knowing when spending money will make me happier and when it won’t. My Guidebook process for working on projects always nets interesting results when I ask myself these two questions:
- What if I had all the money in the world?
- What if I had no money?
I don’t have all the money in the world, but I do have more than “no money” to devote to any project that is interesting enough that I pulled out the Guidebook. It always surprises me that my first instincts for any project match what I would do if I had no money. I often get some idea from the “all the money in the world” answer that helps me figure out how to spend a little money to make me happier by making the project flow better. For example, I’m not going to take a month-long writing retreat at a spa like I might if I had all the money in the world, but I can buy bath salts and schedule a writing retreat day at home that ends with a spa-like hot bath while reading a writing book.
2. What idea from chapters 7, 8, and 9 of The Happiness Project could you use today that would likely make you happier?
As evidenced above, I’m what Gretchen would describe as an underbuyer. So, I like Gretchen’s idea of Indulge in a Modest Splurge, especially with her advice about choosing wisely:
What makes me happy is to spend money on things I value—and it takes self-knowledge and discipline to discover what I really want, instead of parroting the desires of other people. P. 175, 176
Being around book people so much, I constantly have to remind myself that I don’t actually like owning many physical books. I’m happy to let the library store my books for me. You might think that e-books would be perfect for me, but I had a hard time getting into those, too. Until…I figured out that I love having a fun, fluffy e-book on my phone to read at odd moments. So I’m getting better about making sure that I always have one as a modest splurge.
3. What idea from chapters 7, 8, and 9 of The Happiness Project are you pretty sure wouldn’t make you happier at all, even if it seems to work for Gretchen?
Reading memoirs of catastrophe. Gretchen uses them as a kind of memento mori to help her appreciate the good things in life. When I’m actually dealing with catastrophe, a memoir or two can be helpful. When I’m not, I much prefer to elevate my thinking in more positive-looking ways like considering a happiness project or reading a funny account of someone trying all the modern advice for good health (Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs).
4. I suspect all of us share Gretchen’s passion for books. How do books make you happy? Are there things you could do to get more happiness from your passion for books?
Books make me happiest when I’m careful and thoughtful about my reading (care and thought may be the whole secret of The Happiness Project). I scheduled my reading for January to make sure that I read all the books I wanted to read for the New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge plus a couple more for other reasons. I’m surprised by how happy that made me. I’ve loved knowing that I was on schedule most of the month and anticipating the books that I’ll be reading soon. This could have back-fired, especially if I over-scheduled myself. But it worked!
5. The last question is borrowed from The Happiness Project Reading Guide at HarperCollins. One of Gretchen’s resolutions is to “Imitate a spiritual master.” Do you have a spiritual master? Who is it? Gretchen was surprised to realize that St. Therese of Lisieux was her master. Do you know why you identify with your spiritual master?
Julia Child serves this role for me, which was a big surprise when I read My Life in France a couple of years ago. I consider her the patron saint of late bloomers. Gretchen Rubin, in fact, wrote about Julia Child that same week on her blog and considered Child “the patron saint of enthusiasts.” That works, too.
Since then, I’ve read Minette’s Feast by Susanna Reich, Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr, and (most useful for the “imitate a spiritual master” advice) Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo.
Are you reading The Happiness Project? What would you like to talk about? If you want an advance copy of the discussion questions for next week, let me know. I’ll email them on Saturday for our next discussion post, a week from today.
Join our Twitter Chat tonight. This will be our last chat because #WSchat will be busy with a different event next week (and I thought the New Year theme might be going a bit long by the last week in January). Most of our discussion will be on resolutions, goals, and projects and the books that support them, but we’ll have a question at the end for those of us reading The Happiness Project. We’ll be chatting at 9PM Eastern / 8 Central / 7 Mountain / 6 Pacific / 5 Alaskan / 4 Hawaiian. The hashtag is #WSchat.
I love your method for coming up with a middle ground how to figure out when spending will make you happier. It’s definitely been on my mind as well, I’ve been using it with the decluttering process as well, ‘Will keeping this buoy my happiness or will it just remain down here in the dark?’
I’ve also found myself becoming a little too overzealous in thinking of what spending is making me happy and I have to remember that even though purchasing something won’t bring happiness to me, when I’m with my husband it might make him happier, so it’s sometimes better letting it go, smiling and agreeing with him. (I’m talking a shower caddy, not a 65″ plasma TV.)
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I think it’s a great idea to have some kind of “spiritual” master. I have several: Frida Kahlo, Julia Child, Georgia O’Keefe, Anne Lamott. . . (It’s no coincidence that Karen Karbo has written a book on most of them.)
Joy, it’s interesting that we agree on not reading memoirs about tragedy. Quite honestly, I found Gretchen’s approach to “learning” about others’ pain a bit shallow (see my post). I love how you’ve addressed the money issues here. The fact that I gave that chapter short shrift in my post is a pretty good indication that I need to focus on those issues.
I’m not sure I would have picked up The Happiness Project if it weren’t for your challenge, but I’m glad to be reading it.
On another note: my second book for the month was supposed to be Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing. Instead, I’m reading a wonderful little book about writing memoir by Marion Roach Smith–The Memoir Project–that Lori Sailiata recommended. (It was easy to take on the plane this past weekend!) I’ll report on Smith’s book at some point; it’s a worthwhile read, especially for those who aspire to write memoir but for any writer, really.
The Memoir Project was one of my picks, too! I’m about half-way through.
I liked Drop Dead Healthy, too, and I like your idea of having a fun read on your phone for whenever you have a spare few minutes. I have read several of what Gretchen calls memoirs of catastrophe and I see them more as she does, maybe: Someone else survived a tragedy, tragedies do happen much as we wish they didn’t, I will learn from this writer’s experience to deal with my own personal tragedy when I need to.
So interesting to hear what others are thinking! Thank you for hosting this read-along!
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