I finally got around to reading The Happiness Project. I'd been resisting it after I had read a few unsavory reviews, and began noticing the recent over-marketing of happiness. In my opinion, happiness is very much defined by its occasional absence, and I'd been trying to reject the notion that it is important to be happy all the time, and instead pursue the idea of presence.
Anyway, I stumbled across it in the library and decided to give it a shot. I almost gave up on it a few chapters in, when I decided dear Gretchen was much too focused on fluffy things ("And just like that, I thought of a solution. File boxes."), and was being passive aggressive instead of genuinely letting go ("I took a moment; then, careful to use a light tone, I remarked, 'I wish you were wearing something a little nicer.'").
But...I stuck with it. And I'm glad I did. Maybe it's because Gretchen was on this journey of personal growth, but I found her insights more and more valuable as the book progressed. I was able to leave behind my nitpicks and take away the positive from her experiences. (I think she'd approve of that part.)
One of the pieces I really loved actually came from one of her blog readers, who commented that she encourages her clients to think about people they idolize and identify the characteristics they admire about them. She continued:
Then I tell them this (very Jungian, but very useful to know): whatever it is that they admire in these individuals...is something that is nascent in themselves, but that they have not yet brought into being.
That...is the real reason why they admire it in the others. Once they have begun to bring these characteristics forth in themselves, they will begin to admire something different in others, in order to continue the cycle of growth into inner freedom and happiness.
I loved this idea, especially after I wrote a post about a few women that I admire so wholeheartedly. I took that very blog post, and reflected on what it is that I find so inspiring about the women I mentioned. For me, the list came down to five ways of being:
Without putting too much pressure on myself, I wanted to stay aware of those ideas, and encourage them in myself. So I wrote each word on a slip of paper, and taped it to a wall in my house. Conveniently, we have five main rooms in our apartment, so I matched each one to the place it seemed most appropriate, as a reminder of the ways I'd like to be.
bedroom - self-accepting
The bedroom is the place where I stand in front of a mirror before leaving the apartment, scrutinizing my outfit, hair, face. It's an easy place to feel inadequate, and it's also the place where late night self-doubt creeps in. In practice, I want my bedroom to feel like a sanctuary for self-acceptance.
office - authentic
The office is where I do all the things that relate to performance: blogging, emailing, working. In all these endeavors, I often want to feel perfect, am seeking approval, or am inspired by the lives of other people. Though none of those things are entirely negative, being authentic is a priority that surpasses them all...being authentic allows us to relax, directs us to our true path, and ultimately feels more rewarding. And I am always a huge fan of people that make me feel comfortable because they are comfortable.
kitchen - kind
Besides being a great opportunity for alliteration, this match made sense, because the kitchen is a place where I am often irritated. Joe and I both love cooking (and eat a lot), so we are constantly bumping into each other in our small space. I'm often hunting for surface area, or grumbling about the dirty dishes. Since the kitchen is a place I love so much, it should also be a space where I am welcoming and understanding.
bathroom - lighthearted
Because poop. And also, as Joe pointed out, a great place to sing in the shower.
living room - positive
When Joe and I talk about our days or ask each other for advice or discuss all the problems of the world, we are usually sitting in our living room. It's easy to get discouraged when conversation gets serious, so this is a nice reminder that there is always a silver lining, and I'm happy to be the person who finds it.
Who inspires you and what would your list of characteristics be?