I highly recommend The Happiness Project as a person who does not believe in the traditional self-help books. I think they’re full of really generic ideas since they have to appeal to the masses. This book is different. It is practical and realistic.
Similar to Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which is also a favorite of mine, the book is about a chronicle of a woman trying to be happier within a year. Not everyone can afford trips around the world or be offered to do it for work like Elizabeth. In Gretchen’s own words, she set out to change her life without “really” changing her life. Using philosophies and advice from famed authors, historical figures, friends, and more, Gretchen examined how we can aim to accomplish every day happiness in an empirical manner, complete with charts and lists of resolutions.
I won’t ruin the book for you but here are the key takeaways that echo with me (some are direct quotes while others are paraphrasing):
- What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while
- Enjoy the process, and be in the present.
- You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.
- It takes work to be happy, but it’s totally worth the effort.
- You’re the sole person most influential to your level of happiness.
Some people may think that trying to make yourself happier is not a very noble goal, and Gretchen addresses this issue, too. Happiness is an marvelous cycle and it’s highly contagious. Two examples: One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. AND the reverse is also true- the best way to make those around you happy is to be happy yourself. In addition, happier people help others more whether through volunteering or making donations, or something else.
No I’m not depressed or anything, but can’t we all be even happier? A piano master still practices every day even after she wins awards. Lastly, you shouldn’t wait for when terrible things happen to learn about trying to be happier. Knowing what makes you happy and how to do it is like insurance for when things get bad.
Anyway, now back to CATS! I’ve always really loved cats even though I’ve never owned one, unless you count taking in a stray cat for a few days. I think they’re graceful creatures who you just don’t mess with because they will give you what you deserve in the blink of an eye. Side true story: I got punched in the eye by a cat before to a point that my contact lens was torn…but I still love my felines!
I also really like to pretend like I’m a cat. My cat sounds are so good that they not only fool humans; cats often meow back to me in confusion as if to say “Excuse me?” Once I have a few drinks in me, I often start to nuzzle, nudge, and playfully paw at my friends. I can’t purr though. That is one of my regrets in life.
Tonight I attended the SF SPCA volunteer info session. About 100 people showed up to my pleasant surprise. Unlike what I imagined, we didn’t get to learn anything hands-on yet, and it made me realize just how large this organization is. Basically they gave an overview of all the different programs they have. They have a position for everyone: those who already own pets, those who don’t, inside the shelter, out on the field, in the office, etc… If you even just thought about volunteering at an animal shelter before, you should really look into it because they need all sorts of help.
Big surprise, I signed up to be a cat volunteer. The real big kicker was that they want all volunteers to devote a minimum of 3 hours per week for 6 months. When I heard that, my enthusiasm immediately cooled down.
3 hours every week for half a year?!
But then I thought about it more: I really do want to become a great cat owner sometime in the future, and I’m sure that actually having a cat requires more than that level of time commitment anyway. Certainly this is the best way to learn how to properly raise a cat with all the in-depth training SPCA offers. And really, 3 hours is just a really long movie or 6 episodes of TV, and I’ve definitely watched both in a week before.
I repositioned my thinking (which is something you learn from The Happiness Project): instead of sucking my free time away, volunteering will increase my happiness tremendously and force me to eliminate many time-suck activities, like putting a pile of clothes in an online shopping cart and then not end up not buying anything
So this will be my own much shorter and more one-dimensional happiness project: to see if I can stick through just 72 hours worth of cat volunteering and write about this journey. This blog post will be really funny if they don’t accept my application and I can’t even volunteer, stopping my happiness project right there…. NOT.