For the past two weeks or so, I have been reading a book that I have wanted to read for the longest time! It is The Happiness Project by the author Gretchen Rubin.
This book has been the biggest source of inspiration for me lately. I have been reflecting quite a bit about my life (yes, I happen to find myself reflecting a lot, sometimes about random stuff) and I decided that I want to live my life in a more intentional manner. The days and years go by so quickly that we can find ourselves nearing the end of our lives without having accomplished any of the goals and dreams that we had. To me, this is pretty scary…I find myself procrastinating a lot when it comes to goals and dreams that are not ‘urgent’ such as traveling, reading a book I am interested in, or pursuing a hobby that I have always wanted to try. I say to myself ‘‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ and this ‘tomorrow’ simply never comes.
It is pretty sad and scary (at least to me) that most of us, including myself, go through life on autopilot, never stopping to question whether we are truly happy, whether we are truly fulfilled, whether we are pursuing goals that make us truly excited and dreams that fill our souls with fire and passion.
I found The Happiness Project to be a particularly unique book because Gretchen, the author, takes us through one year of her life where she dedicated every month from January to December to a specific area of life that she chose to focus on. Reading this book has gotten me to think about what brings me joy, satisfaction, and engagement in life. I took the time to journal and write notes about hobbies and activities that I have always wanted to pursue, but always made excuses for not pursuing because I am always ‘so busy’. I am sure you all can relate to this as well, which is why I highly recommend reading this book if you need the inspiration to start your own happiness project. You might also want to use the ideas mentioned in the book while modifying them to make them suit your own life and journey.
For this blog post, I want to share with you a very specific tip that I learned from reading ‘The Happiness Project’. At the beginning of the book, Gretchen shared ‘Twelve Commandments’ which represent general principles that helped her keep her resolutions and goals for each month. The first commandment on her list was ‘Be Gretchen’. I found this commandment to be particularly inspiring and interesting. “Be Merna”, I told myself…How hard can it be? Right?
Nope. WRONG! Being ourselves isn’t an easy process by any chance, which is why I wanted to dedicate a full blog post to it.
How many times have you found yourself doing activities that you pretended to like, only because other people enjoy them? How many times have you caught yourself being judgmental about something you have said, a thought that you had or an emotion you felt? I will be the first to answer and I will say “TOO MANY TIMES”.
Here is what I have learned: It is okay to not enjoy activities or hobbies other people enjoy. It is okay to admit when something isn’t for you, even if it is advertised as ‘good for you’. That does not mean you should stay closed-minded and prohibit yourself from trying new things. It means accepting who you are and doing things in a way that works for YOU.
For example, I have been trying to practice mindfulness meditation for the longest time. I have tried to dedicate time every day for me to sit and ‘meditate’ since I am very much aware of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for physical and mental health. However, I found that sitting still to meditate does not really work for me. I simply do not enjoy it. End of story. So, instead of forcing myself to do it just so I can please my ego and cross it off my list (Yup, I have done that before), I started practicing mindfulness in ways that work for ME. For example, I started practicing mindfulness walking or mindfully coloring in my coloring book, as a way to keep me focused on the present moment. I have also embraced the fact that I do not enjoy horror movies, no matter how much fun others have when they watch them. The same principle can be applied to every area in life. For example, when it comes to physical activity, you might dislike going to the gym. No problem! Just pick a form of physical activity that YOU enjoy, such as dancing, rock climbing, sports or Zumba classes. What’s the point in forcing yourself to do something you simply do not like when you can spend your time doing things you like?
I will discuss the twelve commandments that Gretchen shared in the book and I will share my own version of the twelve commandments in a future post.
So, there you go my dear ones. Give yourself permission to just be yourself. It is the best thing you can do for yourself and for the world. If you can’t be yourself, who can? The answer is: NO ONE CAN. You are unique in every way. Your existence is a miracle. You are a reflection of the divine that has never existed before and will never exist again. Do not waste your time and your life pretending to be someone you are not, you will miss out on being the person you are and the world will miss out on having you! The world needs the happy, authentic you, not the pretend, fake version of you.