Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Paradox of Planning

I've always known that one of the reasons that it is near impossible for me to make plans and decisions is that knowing what's going to happen, to me, ruins everything. It's so much more fun to be surprised. To be able to fully experience life just happening is my greatest ambition. But most people don't seem to see it that way - they seem to thrive on routine yet strive to accomplish a lot. The self-improvement industry certainly appears to be targeting this quality like mad at least, judging by the astounding number of guides and devices on the market that offer up a means of incorporating more and more activities into our already jam-packed schedules, without disrupting one's routine. To me this is paradoxical, because if you relegate an activity to your routine, then its no more of an accomplishment then say, brushing your teeth, and then everything becomes banal, and the banality of life is something I need to avoid.

So when I started reading The Happiness Project for my non-fiction book club, I just started rolling my eyes. I was thinking a more apt title would be The Banality Project, because the author seemed to be just cutting up her life up into little pieces so she could accomplish more and thus, be happier. Snore. But to my surprise, I kept reading the book, and I kept liking it more and more. I know its not because I would want to do any of the things that she did to get happy. So why did I like it? I think it's because she was so focused on changing herself so she could be prepared to be happy when circumstances challenged her to not be. I like that a lot. So much to my chagrin, this achiever, made me realize that another reason I don't like to plan is because I like to surprise myself, rather than just being surprised. So thanks Gretchen Rubin. Now I have some advice for you - take a day off please.


  1. I really have to read the Happiness Project because I do have an obsession for self-help books (self-help and those popcorn research books--I just LOVE them) but I heard that Gretchen is rather wealthy and, although I know money does not make you happy, I feel that having time to contemplate, money to travel, not to have to worry about surviving puts her in a different emotional space than most of us.

  2. The only thing in the book that made me feel that way was the fact that she had a personal trainer. Otherwise, not so different from us -- making breakdfast for the kids, griping at her husband,etc. She does point out in the book that having money allows you to pay more attention to "transcendent matters." BTW, What's a "popcorn" reserach book?

  3. Popcorn research are books written by real researchers for the general public. Books like Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by two professors at University of Chicago...and The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't--I think was written by a Harvard professor... Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want--another good one by two researchers from Carnegie Mellon.