I've always been a big fan of Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project and I was thrilled when I first learned she was coming out with a new book (see my review of her last book, The Happiness Project, here). I was even more thrilled when I received an advanced copy for review!
Gretchen's last book was a great overview of her year-long happiness project, but her latest book, Happier at Home, narrows in on a specific topic: home. Gretchen writes, "Because I realized that of the many elements that influnced my happiness, my home -- in all its aspects -- was the most important, I decided to take some time to concentrate my efforts there.
The book is an account of the various strategies Gretchen used to make her home happier. Gretchen devotes a chapter to each of the following elements of home: Possessions, Marriage, Parenthood, Interior Design, Time, Body, Family, Neighborhood, and (my personal favorite) Now. No matter what the word "home"means to you (and I would imagine that it's much different for all of us), Gretchen's book provides insights and ideas that could make any home a more enjoyable place to be.
Though I enjoyed reading each chapter -- and getting a peak into Gretchen's home life, so different from my own! -- I had a few favorite sections. The one I discuss below -- "Make the Positive Argument" -- is the one that really stuck with me. Like many of Gretchen's insights, it provided a new (and positive!) perspective for looking at my life. Her words of wisdom opened my eyes to a new way of seeing things -- and isn't that what every great book should do?
Gretchen's Wisdom : Make the Positive Argument
"When a person takes a position, he or she looks for evidence to support it and then stops, satisfied. This mental process gives the illusion that a position is objective and well justified. However, a person can often make the very opposite argument... If I tell myself 'I'm a shy person,' I marshal examples of my shyness; if I tell myself 'I'm an outgoing person,' I remember the times when I was outgoing."
At first glance, I thought to myself, You can't just make a positive argument for something that's not true. That's just pretending. But then I realized it's not about pretending something is different than what it is; it's about looking at the other side of the argument and see if, perhaps, the opposite, positive side might actually be true. The more I thought about this (and I did think about it quite a bit, this paragraph lingering days after I'd put down the book), the more it made sense -- and the more I realized I needed to put it into practice in my own life. I used Gretchen's own example as a starting point. I always say to myself (and others), "Oh, I'm so antisocial." Or "I'm not a people person." While I did believe those those words when I was saying them, I decided to take a different approach and say to myself, "I'm very social." My first instinct was to think, No I'm not! but when I paused for a moment and tried to make the positive argument, I found that the statement "I'm very social" could be quite true. I spend time with my friends multiple times each week. I engage in social media on a daily basis. I am in constant contact with friends and relatives via email and text. I interact with many people in person on a daily basis. Looking at the positive argument made me realize that I am, in fact, much more social than my typical "I'm antisocial" statement gives me credit for.
While I can also make the argument that I'm antisocial (I don't like to go to social gatherings or parties. I tend to prefer interacting only with one person at a time. I really enjoy time alone.), I see now that it's not so black-and-white. No matter what the argument is (positive or negative), there's often more layers than just a blanket statement -- and Gretchen's "make the positive argument" section really made me see that.
Next time you find yourself labeling something (especially yourself!) in a negative way, consider what Gretchen advised and look for the positive argument. Just as I did, you'll probably discover that your negative statement doesn't hold as much weight as you might have thought.
Want more great insights from Gretchen about home, happiness, and creating a more positive life? Pre-order you copy of Happier at Home.
And while you're waiting for your book to arrive, check out Gretchen's The Happiness Project, a site with great tips for living a happier life.