Check Out My Happiness Manifesto — Brand New.

For a long time, I’ve been meaning to write a Happiness Manifesto – a short statement that sums up what I think are the most important principles about happiness.

I love other manifestos I’ve seen. One of my favorites is Bob Sutton’s “Fifteen Things I Believe,” on his fantastic Work Matters blog:

1. Sometimes the best management is no management at all — first do no harm!
2. Indifference is as important as passion.
3. In organizational life, you can have influence over others or you can have freedom from others, but you can’t have both at the same time.
4. Saying smart things and giving smart answers are important. Learning to listen to others and to ask smart questions is more important.
5. Learn how to fight as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong: It helps you develop strong opinions that are weakly held.
6. You get what you expect from people. This is especially true when it comes to selfish behavior; unvarnished self-interest is a learned social norm, not an unwavering feature of human behavior.
7. Getting a little power can turn you into an insensitive self-centered jerk.
8. Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only can make you feel bad about yourself, chances are that you will eventually start acting like them.
9. The best test of a person’s character is how he or she treats those with less power.
10. The best single question for testing an organization’s character is: What happens when people make mistakes?
11. The best people and organizations have the attitude of wisdom: The courage to act on what they know right now and the humility to change course when they find better evidence.
12. The quest for management magic and breakthrough ideas is overrated; being a master of the obvious is underrated.
13. Err on the side of optimism and positive energy in all things.
14. It is good to ask yourself, do I have enough? Do you really need more money, power, prestige, or stuff?
15. Jim Maloney is right: Work is an overrated activity.

Another interesting variation on a manifesto is on Madame X’s My Open Wallet. On this blog, where an anonymous New Yorker “tells the world how much she saves, earns, and spends,” she lists “My Rules” in the right-hand column. Here are the first four of her nineteen rules:

Rule 1. Credit card use
-Use a credit card for every expense you can possibly charge.
-Use a card that gives you frequent flyer miles or some other benefit that you’ll actually take advantage of.
-Only charge as much as you can pay off in full every month– don’t carry a balance.

Rule 2. Online access
-Use online access for all your banking, investment and credit card accounts

Rule 3. Found money
-If you find money on the street, don’t be ashamed to pick it up!

Rule 4. Shopping

Another intriguing manifesto is the Manifesto of Style over at Carrie and Danielle. (Danielle is now blogging at White Hot Truth.)

1. Communicate who you are in all you do.
2. Style is multidimensional.
3. Style matters.
4. Authenticity is energizing, economical, and efficient.
5. Accentuate the positive.
6. People are like snowflakes—uniquely beautiful because of the details.
7. Pay attention to what attracts you.
8. Working from the outside in can create deep transformation.
9. Feel free to change.
10. True style is not dependent on wealth, and wealth does not necessarily create taste.
11. Cheap is expensive in the long run.
12. Use your best every day.
13. Choose from your heart, and your life will fill up with things you love.
14. Beauty transforms.
15. It’s always a good time to be yourself.
16. Only love is free—everything else costs.
17. Creativity + restraint = beauty.
18.Contrast makes things interesting.
19. Living is sensual.
20. Make more choices—moment to moment, day to day.

One reason I love manifestos is that it’s fun to decide where I disagree (for example, in the Style Manifesto, I disagree with #1!) or where I see an idea of my own, expressed differently (this manifesto’s #12 is related to my own Seventh Commandment, Spend Out, and its #7 is related to one of my Secrets of Adulthood, “You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on my own manifesto. I don’t think I have it quite right, but it’s getting there. What important ideas have I left out? Could anything be phrased more felicitously? I welcome any suggestions. Also, I’d love to read other manifestos. Please post links to any good ones.

Here is my Happiness Manifesto:

• To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, and an atmosphere of growth.
• One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
• The days are long, but the years are short.
• You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
• Your body matters.
• Happiness is other people.
• Think about yourself so you can forget yourself.
• “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.” — G. K. Chesterton
• What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa.
• Best is good, better is best.
• Outer order contributes to inner calm.
• Happiness comes not from having more, not from having less, but from wanting what you have.
• You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.
• You manage what you measure.
• “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

*Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Aspiring Gracist

    Can you elaborate on (or give links to) what you mean by the following two items in your Happiness Manifesto: “Best is good, better is best.” “You manage what you measure.” Thanks!

  • Jaso

    I did mind after reading about yours years ago.

    Be Jaso
    Don’t get into a pissing contest with a skunk
    20% rule. 96 minutes to 120 minutes of good work a day.
    Act as I want to feel
    Be Fearless
    Just Do It!
    A day at a time, a task at a time
    Good enough. Let go of perfect.
    Do what you feel in your heart to be right – you might be wrong anyway
    Don’t expose myself to criticism from people I don’t respect.
    Progress not perfection. PROGRESSIONIST.
    Trust Yourself
    Take Risks
    Step Back
    Quit Guilt
    Say No!

  • I have one suggestion. To have manifesto as long as one can repeat it when woken up in the middle of the night.
    Because one leads to another and one derives from something.
    Finding the roots is hard.
    Great examples are company missions. Right ones are straight one, just a couple of sentences.

    Great post, thank you Gretchen

  • Gillian

    Work Manifesto – #10 – Test for an organization’s character – What happens when people make mistakes? This one resonated with me because of an experience I had. I worked in IT. One of the most sensitive areas in IT is the payroll – you do not mess up payroll!!! I had written the program that took the biweekly payroll file, reformatted it, and sent it to the bank for direct deposit. The program worked fine for months. Then I arrived at work one morning (my usual 10 minutes late) to find my boss waiting for me to tell me that the payroll deposit had failed! I hadn’t changed anything in months. The only difference this time was that a new payroll clerk was running the job for the first time without supervision so I immediately thought that might be the problem (but didn’t say so). It turned out to be my mistake – a very tiny mistake that would only manifest itself under very limited circumstances and they had occurred that day. I fixed it quickly and the payroll was run properly. I felt terrible. The Director of Finance (my boss’s boss) had spent a good part of his morning talking to the bank and arranging for a late deposit as well as informing employees that their pay would be late. Not what he needed. When the dust settled, I apologized profusely to my boss. He very nicely said that it was an honest mistake, that I should not worry about it and I should go and have a cup of tea. Then I went to his boss and again apologized profusely. He was equally accepting and understanding then looked me directly in the eye and said that “no-one here ever has cause to question the quality of your work”. I was amazed. This was one of the best examples of good management I have ever encountered – an otherwise good employee had made a small but highly consequential error but there was no blame or guilt cast. Rather than feeling like a heel, I came out of the experience feeling that I worked for a great organization, and especially for 2 great bosses.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great example.

  • Dear Gretchen, Just a few lines to congratulate you on your blog and to thank you for sharing your ideas and thoughts. I´ve just read the complilation of manifestos (including your Happiness Manifesto) and find them brilliant. Thanks a lot and best wishes, Winni

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that you found them useful.