Tag Archives: benjamin franklin

The Happiness Project and Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues

30 Oct

Recently I joined a book club.  I love reading but don’t read quality material enough and find myself out of touch with what books are being written these days that are worth reading. So as an attempt to keep myself from spending too much money on Amazon, buying books that I wind up only reading partially and then moving on to the next, I decided to join a book club. What better way to motivate myself to actually finish a book and have the opportunity to (hopefully) make friends in the process?

The book that will be discussed in the first meeting I get to attend is “The Happiness Project: or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closet, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” by Gretchen Rubin.

I love this book so far.

For those who have not heard of this (now that we don’t have Oprah to dictate what is a Rah-Rah-I-Am-Woman-Feel-Good book), Gretchen Rubin was happily married to the love of her life, with two healthy daughters, plenty of friends, and a really awesome career who came to the realization one day that she was taking her life for granted.  And so the Happiness Project was born. The Happiness Project was her year-long attempt to get organized, prioritize what is really important, and strengthen her relationships.

The premise of this book is highly relateble.  It’s so easy to put off tasks you know you need to do, get irritated at the person in traffic who cuts you off, allow yourself to give in to momentary annoyances and snap at people close to you. But what does it really solve? These are all things that add to stress, and that is something that everyone in this day and age has way too much of to begin with. Why not do everything we can to minimize it?

Rubin begins her project with copious amounts of research before she actually begins her project. One of the sources that she seems to draw inspiration from are Benjamin Franklins’s List of 13 Virtues. She wound up making her own list of ways she wanted to improve, and encourages her readers to do the same. I vaguely remembered hearing about these from a course in college but decided to look them up, and found them to be pretty inspirational myself.

What I find so interesting about all of this is that Rubin is not suffering from depression. She’s not unhappy. In fact, she is happy. she makes a point of recounting conversations with her sister, an acquaintance, and a few conversations with her husband about this. It’s not that she’s dissatisfied with her life – quite the opposite. She’s just such an over achiever that she asks herself “how can I get more out of this?” That is not a direct quote, by the way.

As Americans, we want more bang for our buck. We want bigger portions, faster cars, better quality clothes. Why shouldn’t we apply this same thought process to wanting the most satisfaction from life that we can possibly get? Each person only gets one, so really we owe it to ourselves to make it the happiest we possibly can.

While reading this book, I have been inspired to make my own happiness project (which is actually what Rubin wants to inspire others to do). So I’ve decided to devote one week to each of Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues and will be posting about them.

So, I will begin tonight.

WEEK 1: Temperance

“Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”

Rubin says that this is the first on the list, because the idea behind it was that once this was conquered, the rest would naturally be easier to handle.

I find this to be one that is important to me because I have struggled with my weight for most of my life. Most of the time, I’ve been within a healthy weight range, but have always been on the heavier side. So this week I’m making a conscious effort to follow this virtue.