Happiness is an ambiguous term. How can we truly define what this word means without taking into account all of the various components in our lives? For example, if we are healthy, debt-free, and generally like our jobs, does this mean we have achieved supreme happiness? I don’t know. I would think so, but then again, maybe we are missing the essential core that leads to sheer contentment.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels Gretchen Rubin takes this question to task in her latest release called, but of course…THE HAPPINESS PROJECT. Over a year’s time, she implemented her unique plan to track her own level of happiness by using innovative strategies and simple gauges to determine if she was living what Oprah would call “her best life.” Without a doubt, if you are looking for ways to enrich your life, this book is for you!
As part of this interview, Harper Collins Publishers has donated five copies for you, my lucky readers, to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end. As you continue on your journey towards health and happiness in 2010, I thank you for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.
Jen: The path to publication is oftentimes as fascinating as the project itself. So that my readers may have a better understanding of the woman behind the words, please tell us a little bit about your educational and professional background.
Gretchen: I went to Yale undergrad and then attended Yale Law School, but it was when I was clerking for Sandra Day O’Connor that I realized I wanted to be a writer.
Jen: Being editor–in–chief of the Yale Law Journal whet your appetite for a possible career in publishing. While serving in this position, what was the most challenging task that came across your desk? And, what steps did you take in order to be successful?
Gretchen: The biggest challenge in working for the Yale Law Journal was managing a large group of very independent people, and in order to be successful I worked as hard as I could!
Jen: In 1995 as a recent law school graduate, you had the amazing opportunity to clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Please describe for us the selection process. And, what was the toughest hurdle you had to clear in order to obtain this position?
Gretchen: The selection process was extensive. You submit transcripts and recommendations, and if you make it through the first cut, you get an interview. The interview was the hardest part — the toughest hurdle to clear — for that position.
Jen: After leaving that position, you served as chief adviser to the Federal Communications Commission. Also, you lectured at both the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management. How did these experiences positively contribute to your decision to actively pursue a career in publishing?
Gretchen: They showed me that as much fun as I was having in these other jobs in law, I really wanted to be a writer.
Jen: Tacking onto my last question, describe for us your “Ah! Ha!” moment which ultimately changed your life.
Gretchen: Walking around the Capitol grounds during lunch hour while I was clerking, I suddenly realized that I wanted to be a writer. At that time, I was writing a book in my free time, and I realized I could make writing a career instead of treating it as a hobby. The book I was working at that time eventually was published as my book, Power Fame Money Sex: A User’s Guide.
Jen: In terms of your publishing career, you have written bestselling books on Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy. What were the most fascinating tidbits of information you discovered while researching these two great historical figures?
Gretchen: I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to just a few items! I picked these two figures because they’re overwhelmingly fascinating and surprising. There are hundreds of fascinating tidbits!
Jen: Your latest endeavor is quite appropriate for this time of year of resolutions and new beginnings. Please describe for us the catalyst that propelled you to embark on THE HAPPINESS PROJECT.
Gretchen: I had an epiphany on a rainy afternoon, on a crowded city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” I realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.“ In that moment, I decided to dedicate a year to my happiness project.
Jen: You start off the project by listing your twelve commandments. How did you go about choosing them? And, what relevance do they have to the implementation of the project?
Gretchen: I arrived at them after a lot of research and thinking. They were the guiding principles that pervaded my happiness project beyond the individual resolutions that I tried to follow.
Jen: The project took place over a year. Please describe it for us.
Gretchen: Quite simply, I set a theme for each month, with a set of specific resolutions to carry out.
Jen: I had to chuckle when I read about your frustration with keeping a gratitude journal. My experience mirrored yours. I gave up, too! What are some realistic expectations that one can achieve by pursuing this endeavor?
Gretchen: Boosting gratitude for your ordinary life will make you happier. If a gratitude journal doesn’t work for you, find other ways. Every time I sit down at the computer, I take a moment to appreciate my ordinary life.
Jen: As a reviewer, I was impressed with your willingness to confront criticism when you received a not–so–flattering review and then turned it into a teachable moment to make yourself better. How is a person’s willingness to confront adversity a stepping stone towards reaching happiness?
Gretchen: You’re right. It’s not much fun but it’s important to do. Facing up to the challenges that life offers is an important part of striving toward happiness.
Jen: What was your greatest self-discovery from completing this project?
Gretchen: One of my most important realizations was that I can only build a happy life on the foundation of my own nature. For that reason, my resolution to “Be Gretchen” is the most important one I identified.
Jen: Let’s switch gears and talk about your superb website. Please share with us the resources you have available that enable anyone to start a happiness project.
Gretchen: My website has a guide of sorts to start your own happiness project: http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/start-.html.
I’ve also started a “Happiness Project Toolbox” where you can launch your own Happiness Project: http://www.happinessprojecttoolbox.com/.
Jen: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to stop by and chat with my readers. I look forward to seeing you on the
road to happiness in 2010.
Now that you have read about Gretchen, I hope you are inspired to begin your own happiness project for 2010. I encourage you to stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy of THE HAPPINESS PROJECT today!
Better yet, how would you like to win your very own copy? Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail me at email@example.com with the correct answer to the following trivia question and it’s yours!
What is the title of Gretchen’s first book?
In February, I will be bringing to you my interview with David Dosa, M.D., author of the extraordinary true-life story MAKING ROUNDS WITH OSCAR. You won’t want to miss it.
Until next time…Jen