I finally realized that not only am I working on my own Happiness Project, I am also a crusader for EVERYONE to have a happiness project! Join in, do your own! Everyone’s project will look different, everyone’s project will be fascinating.
For instance, several months ago, I heard that A. J. Jacobs was working on a new book, The Year of Living Biblically. That sure sounded like he was doing a happiness project, albeit a quirky one.
I knew A. J. Jacobs was a fantastic writer, because I’d LOVED his last book, The Know-It-All. In fact, it made my list of “Books that Made Me Laugh Out Loud.” (So far, this list has stayed very short, please send any recommendations.)
My reaction to The Year of Living Biblically is a good example of how I put a happiness-project strategy to work.
This was the situation: I knew that A. J. Jacobs was working on his book. I knew he was a great writer. I knew it sounded like a happiness project.
As a result, I felt competitive, anxious, mean-spirited. I felt like he’d encroached on “my” territory. I wanted his book to be bad, so my book would seem better. It wasn’t a happy feeling.
Then I reminded myself of one of my Twelve Commandments (see left column): Act the way I want to feel. How did I want to feel? I wanted to feel magnanimous, generous, admiring. I wanted A. J. Jacobs to feel like an ally, not a competitor.
So, out of the blue, I sent him an email and told him how much I loved The Know-It-All. I mentioned that, like him, I lived in New York City and would love to get coffee if he wanted to.
He emailed me back – a very nice email. We met for coffee. We talked shop about writing books about self-experimentation. He gave me an advance copy of The Year of Living Biblically. He invited me to his book party.
Guess what? Now I do, in fact, feel magnanimous, generous, and admiring. I have a known friend instead of an imaginary enemy.
His book comes out on October 9, and I’m sure it will be a HUGE success, and I’m happy about that. His book is hilarious, it’s thoughtful, it’s provocative, it’s enlightening. He does a masterful job of combining goofy elements, like photos of his beard growing progressively wild, with transcendent subjects like the nature of spirituality and religious history.
His happiness project is very relevant to mine, even though our two approaches are quite different; this is probably true of every happiness project. We learn about ourselves by learning about other people.
But about that email — that’s one thing that never ceases to amaze me about my happiness project – it really DOES work. When I take the steps I know I should take, it does result in more happiness.
And what if A. J. Jacobs hadn’t answered me? It wouldn’t have mattered that much. Just having sent that email made me feel better. Because I’d acted in a friendly way, I felt friendly. And happier.
Considering doing your own happiness project? Join the Happiness Project group on Facebook to swap ideas, strategies, and experiences. For instance, maybe you want to write your own Commandments.