• December 2014

Happiness Rules

Are you happy? Not the “great hair day” or “I’m in my skinny jeans” kind of happy. Not “the new shipment of my new book finally arrived” kind of joy, either. We’re interested in the deep, gut-level happiness you feel when you are living the life you dream of.

That’s the kind of happiness that Gretchen Rubin aspired to find when she penned The Happiness Project: Or, why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun.

“I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations,” she writes. “One day, I’d stop twisting my hair, and wearing running shoes all the time, and eating exactly the same food every day. I’d remember my friends’ birthdays, I’d learn Photoshop, I wouldn’t let my daughter watch TV during breakfast. I’d read Shakespeare. I’d spend more time laughing and having fun, I’d be more polite, I’d visit museums more often, I wouldn’t be scared to drive.”

Then, one April morning, she had a sudden realization. “I was in danger of wasting my life. As I stared out the rain-spattered window of a city bus, I saw that the years were slipping by. ‘What do I want from life, anyway?’ I asked myself. ‘Well, I want to be happy.’”

At that moment, she grasped two things: “I wasn’t as happy as I could be, and my life wasn’t going to change unless I made it change.”

And so Rubin made a promise to herself. For the next 12 months, she embarked on a project she called “The Happiness Project.” It’s a powerful process. One that Rubin has given us permission to share with our readers over the next year. In January, for instance, you’ll learn to boost your energy. In June, you’ll make time for friends. By making small changes each month in 12 areas, at this time next year, you’ll be happier—and your closets will be cleaner, too.

On Jan. 1, 2015, be on the lookout for your first assignment. For now, scroll down to read our Q&A with Rubin. For even more insights, listen to our podcast interview on Inkandescent Radio.

What makes us happy at The Inkandescent Group? For starters, it’s the new office we opened last month at 1719 W. Main Street in Richmond, VA. We are working with the talented students and faculty in the PR, video, and arts program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and several of those students are our newest Inkandescent Interns. The next time you are in town, stop by and visit our new digs!

Also in this issue:

  • Which countries have the happiest people? Why do people in isolated Bhutan measure Gross National Happiness? And is happiness really good for your health? Don’t miss these interesting research studies. Check out the latest happiness research.
  • If you are a student with a loan, how do you feel about being in debt to the federal government for the foreseeable future? That’s the question college junior Eurah Lee tackles in her first episode of the new Millennials Radio Show.

And that’s just for starters. We hope that this issue inspires you to find what makes you truly happy—and puts you on the path to accomplish your goals.

We leave you with this parting thought from Benjamin Franklin, whose Autobiography inspired Rubin. Franklin insisted: “Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.”

Here’s to finding your inner bliss! Happy holidays from the entire Inkandescent team. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, Be Inkandescent magazine

Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project: Prepare to Smile

COVER STORY: DECEMBER 2014

SING IN THE MORNING. CLEAN YOUR CLOSETS. FIGHT RIGHT. READ ARISTOTLE.

Author Gretchen Rubin Challenges Us to Be Happier in 12 Months

By Hope Katz Gibbs, Publisher
Be Inkandescent

Gretchen Rubin was a young lawyer clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized that what she really wanted to be was a writer.

Since then, she has written several books, including the bestselling “Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill,” and her uber-popular “The Happiness Project: Or, why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun.”

Best-selling author Dan Pink said of the book, “This is a rare book that will make you both smile and think—often on the same page.”

We couldn’t agree more, so it was a pleasure to interview Rubin from her home office in New York City and find out about the project she devised that has made strides and changed lives—her own and others’.

Scroll down for our Q&A. Click here to listen to our podcast interview.


Be Inkandescent: So let’s get down to business! In your book, “The Happiness Project,” you talk about having an epiphany one rainy afternoon on a city bus. Tell us about that moment.

Gretchen Rubin: It was pouring rain, and I was on a city bus that was moving very slowly. I looked out the window and thought, “What do I want in life anyway?” In the rush of life, you rarely take the opportunity to step back and ask yourself big, transcendent questions. And when I did, I thought, “Well, I want to be happy.” I realized I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether I was happy, or if I could be happier.

In a flash I decided I should have a “happier project” —that was the phrase that occurred to me. The next day I went to the library, got a huge stack of books, and started researching happiness. I wanted to know what everybody knows about what can make you happy, or how to make yourself happier, and I wanted to try everything to see if it really works.

At first the project was just going to be for me. I was finishing writing a biography of John F. Kennedy, and happiness research was just something I was doing for fun for myself. But the research is so rich and fascinating that I found myself spending more and more time on it, and finally I thought, “Maybe this should be my next book.” The book asks: Can you make yourself happier? And if so, how can you make yourself happier? It’s really compelling.

Be Inkandescent: In the 12 months that followed, adventures ensued. What inspired your list—from boosting your energy in January, to getting serious about play in May?

Gretchen Rubin: I figured that a year was long enough for real change to happen, and short enough that it felt manageable. Since there are 12 months of the year, I decided to figure out what elements in my life contribute most to my happiness—and focus on some of them each month.

Be Inkandescent: Some of your choices are a little out of the norm.

Gretchen Rubin: That’s right. For example, a lot of people would include adventure in their happiness project. I know that I am not a very adventurous person, so that is not something that would make me happy.

I decided to start my happiness project with energy, because I figured if I had more energy, then everything else that followed would seem easier, which I think is very much the case with all of us. When we are feeling overwhelmed and drained, it is very hard to take the time to do things, even when you know those things are going to make you happier.

I also wanted to focus on different aspects of my life that make me happy—such as my marriage, work, play, and parenthood (I have two daughters). Just figuring out the list was a very helpful intellectual exercise.

Try it. If you were going to pick 12 things in your life that you want to work on, what would they be?

Be Inkandescent: Talk about your desire to be a better parent.

Gretchen Rubin: This was really important to me. I realized that I was losing my temper very quickly; apparently I make a terrifyingly mean face.

I wanted to be more tender, more attentive, and sillier. A lot of the resolutions I made were around that—to try to be different and to make a different atmosphere in our home. I think my resolutions about parenthood really made a big difference, to me and to my family. When I lighten up, they lighten up, too.

Be Inkandescent: Was there any particular month you really found to be happy, and another you didn’t?

Gretchen Rubin: That’s an interesting question. I think all of the months were challenging, because I was picking things I wanted to change, or things I wanted to do differently. But it’s tough to say sometimes whether some things were easy or hard.

For example, going to bed on time. Is that hard or is that easy? After all, what is so hard about going to bed on time? But in practice, it is kind of hard—not that it’s difficult to do; it’s that you have to make up your mind to do it and stick to it.

Some things were easy and very fun, like my choice to kiss my husband every morning and every night. That is very easy, and very nice.

The bottom line is that being happy boils down to the decision to expect more from yourself, figuring out the fine line between the natural limitations of your nature, and the places that you should expect more.

Be Inkandescent: What does it mean to be happy?

Gretchen Rubin: I started my career in law, and I have happy memories of spending an entire semester arguing about the definition of contract. If anything, defining and understanding happiness is even more elusive. There are actually 15 academic definitions of happiness, and you can spend a lot of time arguing about contentment versus bliss. I feel that for most people, it’s not that helpful to worry so much about what happiness is. It’s actually easier to think about being happier.

Does money buy happiness? And what do the brain and body do when you’re happy? Read all about it.

New Year's Resolution: Start Your Own Happiness Project

“Each person’s happiness project will be unique, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit from starting one,” writes Gretchen Rubin in her book, “The Happiness Project.”

  • Start small: Put your keys away in the same place every night.
  • Think big: Repair relationships with your family.

Most importantly, decide what resolutions to make by answering the following questions:

  • What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?
  • What makes you feel bad? What are the sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life?
  • Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change your job, city, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?
  • Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what elements of your life do you find progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?

Once you’ve made your resolutions, find a strategy to assess your progress and hold yourself accountable.

  • Record and score your resolutions.
  • Keep a one-sentence journal on any topic you like.
  • Identify your personal commandments: Share your happiness hacks, your Secrets of Adulthood, and any kind of list that keeps you on track.
  • Create an inspiration board of your favorite books, quotes, movies, or images.
  • Want to start a group for people also doing happiness projects? Send Rubin an email.


9 Tips to Make Keeping Your Resolutions Easier

  1. Write it down … and be specific. Not “make more friends,” but “start a movie group, “remember birthdays,” “say hello,” “make plans.”
  2. Review your resolution constantly. If your resolution is buzzing through your head, it’s easier to stick to it.
  3. Hold yourself accountable. Tell people about your resolution, join or form a like-minded group, score yourself on a chart.
  4. Think BIG! Maybe you need a big change, a big adventure—a trip, a break-up, a new job.
  5. Think SMALL! Don’t assume that only radical change can make a difference. Cleaning your fridge can give you a real boost.
  6. Break your main resolution into manageable tasks.
  7. Keep your resolution every day. Weirdly, it’s often easier to do something every day (exercise, post to a blog, deal with the mail) than every few days.
  8. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Instead of training for a marathon, aim for a daily 20-minute walk. Instead of cleaning the basement, tackle one closet.
  9. Consider dropping a resolution if you keep breaking it. Don’t let an unfulfilled resolution to lose 20 pounds or give up TV block you.

Learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her happiness project at gretchenrubin.com.

Change is a math formula. Change happens when the cost of the status quo is greater than the risk of change.”

– Alan Webber, author, "Rules of Thumb"

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”

– Marcel Proust

Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!”

– Madam C.J. Walker

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

– Henry Miller

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

– Thomas Edison

The dove descending breaks the air / With flame of inkandescent terror.”

– T.S. Eliott

Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.”

– Thomas Dunn

When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.
 Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

– Ella Fitzgerald

Don’t wait for someone else to lead you to your right life; that privilege—and responsibility—is yours alone.”

– Martha Beck

The best reason to start an organization is to create a product or service to make the world a better place.”

– Guy Kawasaki

To follow, without halt, one aim: There’s the secret of success.”

– Anna Pavlova

Letting go of expectations is a ticket to peace. It allows us to ride over every crisis—small or large—like a beach ball on water.”

– Martha Beck

Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science; it’s about trading.”

– Anita Roddick, founder, The Body Shop

The awakening to the mystery of life is a revolutionary event; in it an old world is destroyed so that a new and better one may take its place.”

– J.J. Van Der Leeuw, The Conquest of Illusion

You must have chaos within you, to create a dancing star.”

– Frederic Nietzsche

If you want to be busy, keep trying to be perfect. If you want to be happy, focus on making a difference.”

– Lisa Earle McLeod

Anything not worth doing well is not worth doing.”

– Warren Buffett

Who cares if my glass is half empty or half full; I still have something to drink.”

– Optimism rules

Traveling is one way of lengthening life, at least in appearance.”

– Benjamin Franklin

We never know how high we are
 till we are called to rise;
 And then, if we are true to plan,
 Our statures touch the skies.”

– Emily Dickinson

4oz tequila + 1oz TripleSec + 2oz lime juice + 1oz simple syrup (sugar=water), 1 cup crushed ice. Shake + dance around the kitchen.

– Avenida Margarita

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas Edison

You don’t love someone because of their looks or their clothes or their car. You love them because they sing a song only your heart can understand.”

– L.J. Smith

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in your room.”

– A wisdomism

If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more.
 If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

– Oprah Winfrey

Success is about finding a livelihood that brings joy, self-sufficiency, and a sense of contributing.”

– Anita Roddick

Almost anyone can start a community, but it takes real talent and commitment to get people to show up and keep coming back.”

– Andy Sernovitz

They who give have all things. They who withhold have nothing.”

– Hindu Proverb

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly,
 what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Destiny is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

– William Jennings Bryan

Treat the attainment of happiness in the same way an entrepreneur would approach building a business — with a vision, plan, goals, and a systematic approach.”

– Ted Leonsis

The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”

– Bruce Lee

Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

– Annie Dillard

If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.”

– Joseph Addison

Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

– Brian Tracy

Look at everything as though you were
seeing it either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”

– Betty Smith

Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”

– Albert Einstein

We are perfectionists. We are hungry to work all the time. We are entertained by every aspect of business and we never want to stop working.”

– Suzy Welch

If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”

– Anna Quindlen

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

– Mark Twain

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.”

– Steve Jobs

We are not meant to resolve all contradictions, but to live with them and rise above them.”

– William Blake

A man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.”

– Chinese Proverb

We are all of us born with a letter inside us, and that only if we are true to ourselves, may we be allowed to read it before we die.”

– Douglas Coupland

Persist and persevere, and you will find most things that are attainable, possible.”

– Lord Chesterfield

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

– John Quincy Adams

A lot of people have ideas, but few decide to do something about them now. Not next week. But today.”

– Nolan Bushnell, founder, Atari

Our deepest wishes are whispers of our authentic selves. We must learn to respect them. We must learn to listen.”

– Sarah Ban Breathnach

To find what you seek in the road of life, leave no stone unturned.”

– Edward Bulwer Lytton

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