If you are hankering after a life epiphany it appears that you could do worse than getting on a bus in the rain.
Gretchen Rubin was sitting in a bus one day when she had the sudden realisation when staring out of a window that she was in danger of wasting her life. Danny Wallace was sitting on a bus similarly feeling like his life was passing him by.
In reponse, Rubin decided there and then to dedicate a year to the pursuit of happiness in her Happiness Project. Wallace took the advice of the man sat next to him who told him simply to “say yes” more. He duly did and said yes to everything with dramatic, largely positive repercussions (although query whether his attempts to tickle the moon fall into this category). [Note: It appears from detailed reading that they were not on the same bus. If they had been I’d have had to wonder whether it was some sort of magic bus like The Knight Bus in Harry Potter or a bus which made each passenger take stock of their lives].
I, like a number of people I know, can find myself occasionally and for no particular reason getting myself into a funk. It’s not depression by a long stretch but rather an ennui more often than not created as a by-product of the need to constantly improve. Rubin refers to it as “midlife malaise”. Wallace described it as “spending more time sitting about in his pants.” I’m pretty sure this is much of a muchness. If you are in a bit of a funk (and, to be honest, a lot of us probably will be when returning to work after the long weekend), help is at hand and, good news, from what I can deduce it’s not a particular bus that you must sit on and what’s more you don’t even have to get on a bus (which I was exceedingly relieved to realise given that I take the train and the tube).
Stopping short of spending your days on a bus loop you can read their pursuit of happiness and their distilled advice in their books; 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 and Yes Man.
I first read these books years ago and since then I have dipped in and out of them and re-read the numerous times. They never cease to inspire, uplift me and give me that little kick that I sometimes need to pick myself up by the scruff of the neck and get on with making the improvements and changes I want to make.
Rubin in The Happiness Project dedicates each month of the year to a different category which she has pinpointed as an area that she thinks could increase her happiness, for example, Boost Energy. Then she breaks down each category into action points. For example, Boost Energy is broken down into (i) go to sleep earlier, (ii) exercise better, (iii) toss, restore, organise, (iv) tackle a nagging task and (v) act more energetic. She targets each of these points for a month and then The following month she adds in a new category whilst maintaining the previous categories creating a snowball effect.
What I like about this philosophy is that there is no great shake up. She’s not changing job, abandoning her life, moving to a new country or completely shifting her focus. By her own admission she is a homebird. Her techniques are simple, straight forward and easy to implement. It is simply her seeking to improve her everyday lifestyle and she does in a large number of ways. She challenges herself, pushes her boundaries, grows and becomes happier. She does also start driving more. Perhaps one epiphany is enough.
Yes Man may be my favourite book. It is not a self-help book as such. It’s much more of a story, a chronology of how he came to say yes more and the results. It’s immensely funny, well written and it is a testament to how being open to opportunities, even though they may not seem like an opportunity at the time, can profoundly and positively change your life.
There are numerous messages in the books but the ones that most resonate with me are:
♥ change won’t happen until you make a change (i.e. you have to create it yourself, it won’t just fall out of the sky and into your lap);
♥ be open to change – a positive mental attitude will get you a lot further than you think;
♥a series of small, seemingly inconsequential changes can create a BIG difference ; and
♥ do say yes more; and
♥ if you want to do something, really do just do it, there’s no time like the present.
You can also check out Gretchen Rubin’s website and blog (a result of her year’s project) for ideas and inspiration and her follow up book Happier At Home. If you’ve got any books in a similar vein that you think is like please do let me know. I’m also a big fan of Marie Kondo (she really requires a whole post) and I’ve just started The Miracle Morning.
I hope you find this post helpful in inspiring you. I’m off to sock it to Tuesday. There’s a lot to do today and there really is no time like the present.