Got Happiness? Maybe It’s Time to Start a Personal Happiness Project

Friday, December 17, 2010 9:29

By Ellen Brown

Do you believe in the pursuit of happiness? Or do you believe that happiness will always be beyond your reach, if you search it out?

While I personally believe that happiness is an attitude, rather than a destination, I think there are steps we can take everyday to feel happier. Of course, these steps will be different for each of us, because we are all so different, and what makes me happy may make you miserable, and vice versa.

I’ve been interested in the topic of happiness for some time now, and earlier this year, I was captivated by The Happiness Project by bestselling author Gretchen Rubin. The book chronicles the year-long journey of Rubin, as she tested out the advice of such happiness experts, philosophers and spiritual leaders as positive psychology guru Martin Seligman, Oprah, Samuel Johnson, and the Dalai Lama, who have suggested everything from keeping a gratitude journal to being in the moment, to daily meditation to simplifying your life and so much more. In the end, Rubin came to believe that you truly can boost your happiness, but doing so takes time and determination and experimentation. She also learned that happiness is a very individual pursuit. So just because something such as meditation makes others happy, it doesn’t guarantee that that certain something will bring YOU happiness.

I loved that Rubin admitted from the get-go that she was pretty happy, in general, but believed she should be happier, given the fortunate circumstances of her life. I also loved the fact that she didn’t embark on a year-long adventure set apart from the worldly pleasures of her life: she stayed right where she was in New York City, with her husband and her two young children. Because she wanted to learn to be happier right where she was and wanted to boost her happiness threshold before she was faced one day with the sort of adversity we’ll all inevitably face in life, whether it’s the death of a loved one or a friend with a terminal illness or something far more daunting.

At the end of her book and stay-at home-adventure, Rubin challenges all of us to start our very own Happiness Projects, and that’s exactly what I plan to do on January 1, with the help of Rubin’s handy Happiness Project Toolbox website:  Her free “toolbox” offers eight simple tools to help you construct your own project and begin boosting your happiness today. My personal Happiness Project is going to be my happy alternative to New Year’s Resolutions, which have rarely, if ever, worked for me.

The truth is that I’d planned to start my Happiness Project earlier this year, but the project got put on hold when my Mom became ill in January, and slowly declined, finally dying in July. As you might imagine, it was a tremendously emotional time, and throughout the year, I often wondered if it would have been helpful to have had a Happiness Project in place before my Mom’s decline. Though I’ll never, of course, know, my hunch is that taking conscious steps to boost my happiness, beforehand, could have served as a healthy buffer during what was one of the most painful and miraculous and transformational times in my life.

Since reading The Happiness Project, I’ve recommended the book to many of my coaching clients, who are dealing with difficult transitions such as job loss, chronic illnesses, or the death of a loved one. I’ve also suggested that they consider starting their own Happiness Projects, because more than ever, I’m convinced that finding a way to bring more enjoyment into our lives can have huge benefits. I truly believe that happiness and inner peace are worth pursuing whether you’re on top of the world, or you’re facing the Tsunami of your life.

I’d love to hear what you have to say about the pursuit of happiness. And if you’ve already started a Happiness Project or are considering launching one, I’d appreciate hearing about your experience. Please leave a comment, here on Stepping Stones.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH. Visit her website at

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4 Responses to “Got Happiness? Maybe It’s Time to Start a Personal Happiness Project”

  1. Kim Vazquez says:

    December 17th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    I absolutely love this idea!

    I used to believe that happiness was based upon conditions, but learned the hard way that it’s not. I wouldn’t trade that lesson because it involved me finding joy during hard times and chaos, a lesson I treasure. I love the idea of doing a happiness project over making a resolution. Very nice Ellen. Thanks!

  2. Tania says:

    December 18th, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I will definitely be following your project. I plan on starting my own in January as well.

    Good luck.
    And I am so sorry to hear about you losing your mother. I understand that pain as I lost both my dads (dad and step) a few years back. HUGS

  3. Ellen Brown says:

    December 18th, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Hi Kim,

    Yes, that was a tough lesson for me to learn, as well. But so, so important. Happiness is definitely an “inside job.” Thank you for your kind words!

  4. Ellen Brown says:

    December 18th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Hi Tania,

    Thank you for your condolences. I really appreciate it! Just to be clear, though, Gretchen Rubin was the one who wrote the book. But I love the idea of having a Happiness Project. Please let me know how your project is going, once you start it!


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