‘The Happiness Project’ and ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’

Last week, I finished reading ‘The Happiness Project’ and also coincidentally picked up ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ from Redbox. It is funny how life inadvertently gives you signs.

‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin is basically a book about Gretchen, who lives in New York and one day, decides that, although her life is not necessarily un-happy, it is not happy either. So, she researches ways ‘experts’ say you can make your life happier, she chunks each method month by month, and then chronicles about what she did and whether or not it made her happier. Her year begins by clearing the clutter out of her house, continues by working on her marriage and trying to stop nagging her husband, spending more time with her children, starting her day off earlier and singing in the shower, involving herself in new activities such as starting a book club, trying an art class, and laughter yoga, mending some long lost friendships.

Being the cynic that I am, I think Gretchen has some privileges that other people may not necessarily that allow her happiness project to cultivate. For example, she seems to do so many things: go to dinner parties, go to the library, go to yoga class, go to art class, go to the park with the kids, go to see the in-laws–that I often wonder (a) how she could afford all of those things and (b) what other things in her life were being replaced because of, such as her kids? There really is so much time in the day. However, irregardless, what I thought was practical about the project was that Gretchen does not do anything too groundbreaking or awe-spiring in her search for happiness. Instead, she finds small ways to make changes to her everyday life. I took a couple ideas from her book. Some of them do not necessarily relate to me, because I do not have children, or really a husband at that matter, but I did go to the store and purchase a sketch book to re-kindle my love for creativity and art.

Ultimately, her Happiness Project is geared towards “Being Gretchen”, which means discovering herself, what she likes to do, what she doesn’t like to do, and what she will never like to do; along with a lifestyle change, it’s a search for identity.

‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ entertains these same concepts of happiness and identity. Overall, I thought the movie held some really creative and beautiful screen shots, and I loved the creativity with the quotes that scrolled across the bus signs and airplane message boards. And, also being the cynic that I am, I did not think it followed the short story very well.

Walter Mitty is this guy who lives a mundane life; everyday, he does the same thing over and over again. He is not married, he doesn’t engage in any extracurricular activities, and his job is to basically file film for his boss who does really exciting things. Then one day, Walter decides to do something spontaneous–he gets on a flight, travels to Iceland and Greenland, adds a few adventures to his dating profile, in search of his boss. His eyes suddenly become open to the limitless possibilities of the world.

And yes, much like Gretchen Rubin, Walter Mitty also discovers he is in a bit of an identity crisis. Although they may not have been perceptive at the time that they were going through identity crisis’, both characters are forced to re-evaluate their lives, their decisions, and to determine what they ultimately want in the end. I think we need to do this more often because otherwise, we get pulled into mundane rituals. I personally would calculate going through at least three major identity crisis’ in my life–times in which I had to also re-evaluate–and all have ended in something really spectacular.

In addition, both of these stories also remind us that happiness is a CHOICE. We can choose to be happy, or we can choose to be miserable.

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