As I’ve worked on my happiness project, I’ve been struck by the paradoxes I keep confronting. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is “The opposite of a great truth is also true” – and I’ve certainly found that to be true in the area of happiness.
I try to embrace these contradictions:
1. Accept myself, but expect more of myself. This tension is at the core of any happiness project.
2. Take myself less seriously—and take myself more seriously.
3. Push myself to use my time efficiently, yet also make time to play, to wander, to read at whim, to fail.
4. Strive to be emotionally self-sufficient so I can connect better with other people. Only recently have I begun to understand the importance of this idea.
5. Keep an empty shelf, and keep a junk drawer.
6. Think about myself so I can forget myself.
7. Remember that control and mastery are key elements of happiness; and so are novelty and challenge.
8. Work can be play, and play can be work. As George Orwell observed, “But what is work and what is not work? Is it work to dig, to carpenter, to plant trees, to fell trees, to ride, to fish, to hunt, to feed chickens, to play the piano, to take photographs, to build a house, to cook, to sew, to trim hats, to mend motor bicycles? All of these things are work to somebody, and all of them are play to somebody.”
9. The days are long, but the years are short. (Watch the video here.)
Often, the search for happiness means embracing both sides of the paradox.
Take, for example, #1 above. W. H. Auden articulates beautifully this tension: “Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.”
What are the accidental limitations, and what the necessary limitations? The first, and most important of my Twelve Personal Commandments is to Be Gretchen, and this question is one of the most significant to consider.
* One of my very favorite resolutions is to Kiss more, hug more, touch more, and Benedict Carey wrote a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the importance of touch: Evidence that little touches do mean so much.
* It’s Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
-- Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
-- Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)
-- Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 39,000 people get it)
-- Buy the book
-- Join the 2010 Happiness Challenge to make 2010 a happier year
-- Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
-- Watch the one-minute book video
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.