Gretchen Rubin has found the secret to happiness. OK, that may be overselling it a bit, but she's made it her literal business to get closer to it through The Happiness Project. Initially a namesake best-selling book, it's since morphed into a series of books (the latest: Happier At Home), a blog, a rapt online community, and an ongoing movement to unify science, psychology, and culture in the pursuit of deeper contentment. Of course, with such an amorphous destination, she's learned the truism behind the cliché that it's "more about the journey" -- but maybe don't use the J-word word around Rubin.
"Some people want to talk about a journey," Rubin says. "Well, that’s not an idea that resonates with me -- I love the idea of a project. That's something that whets my appetite."
Nervous supporters worried that her prescription for happiness might intimidate readers at the starting line; some equated the idea of a "project" with onerous homework. But Rubin, a Yale Law School graduate and former editor of the Yale Law Journal, opened her process to public dialogue and sought to engineer her methodology to apply to any personality type. That dialogue continues to this day on The Happiness Project.
"There’s no one right way to do it, because people are very different," she says. "People have different vocabularies. I love making resolutions, and having lists, and charts -- and for some people that would drive them crazy. But for some people it is about a journey -- so you have to find the approach that works for you, the metaphor that works for you."
We talked with Rubin over the phone about The Happiness Project, and how personal moves toward a happier life can lead to a better, healthier planet for everybody.
Q. What inspired this initial journey to tackle something as all-encompassing as happiness? How did you boil down tackling such a huge-sounding project?
A. I was stuck on a city bus in the pouring rain, and I thought, "What do I want from life, anyway? I want to be happy!" It hit me like a flash. So I went to the library and got this giant stack of books about happiness to figure out what I could do. It seemed very confusing in the beginning, because there’s a million different pieces, and everything’s tangled up with everything else. It was very intellectually challenging to figure out, where do I start and how do I do it in a systematic way. So I drilled down into things like home, possessions, body, neighborhood. Every month I focused on a different aspect of life and figured out what concrete resolutions I could do to make my experience of life happier.