Kindle Highlights from 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 by Gretchen Rubin
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W. H. Auden articulated this tension beautifully: “Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.”
Robert Browning: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
Friedrich Nietzsche explained it well: “The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”
Andrew Carnegie: “Show me a contented man, and I’ll show you a failure.”
Experts say that denying bad feelings intensifies them; acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return.
“Every house needs a few junk drawers where you can find unexpected things. It’s good to have a bit of chaos someplace, with some things that don’t really belong anywhere but that you want to keep. You never know when stuff like that will come in handy, plus it’s just nice to know it’s there.”
Andy Warhol observed, “Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.”
Epicurus agreed, albeit in slightly more poetic phraseology: “Of all the things that wisdom provides for living one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.”
Voltaire: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
I learned another reason not to say critical things about other people: “spontaneous trait transference.” Studies show that because of this psychological phenomenon, people unintentionally transfer to me the traits I ascribe to other people. So if I tell Jean that Pat is arrogant, unconsciously Jean associates that quality with me. On the other hand, if I say that Pat is brilliant or hilarious, I’m linked to those qualities. What I say about other people sticks to me—even when I talk to someone who already knows me. So I do well to say only good things.
Start where you are.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux wrote, “When one loves, one does not calculate.”
In AD 524, while in prison awaiting execution, the philosopher Boethius wrote, “Contemplate the extent and stability of the heavens, and then at last cease to admire worthless things.”
“There are times in the lives of most of us,” observed William Edward Hartpole Lecky, “when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though that yesterday had passed over us unappreciated and unenjoyed.”
“There is, indeed,” wrote Samuel Johnson, “something inexpressibly pleasing in the annual renovation of the world, and the new display of the treasures of nature.”
Knowing what you admire in others is a wonderful mirror into your deepest, as yet unborn, self.
It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.
Samuel Johnson’s observation of Alexander Pope: “Pope’s scorn of the Great is too often repeated to be real; no man thinks much of that which he despises.”
As Publilius Syrus observed, “No man is happy who does not think himself so.” If you think you’re happy, you are. That’s why Thérèse said, “I take care to appear happy and especially to be so.”
A common eighteenth-century epitaph reads: Remember, friends, as you pass by, As you are now so once was I. As I am now, so you must be. Prepare yourself to follow me.
Gertrude Stein: I like a room with a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it.
T. S. Eliot: Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”/Let us go and make our visit.
“Nothing,” wrote Tolstoy, “can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”
we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. As I’d learned in February, within a marriage, it takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act.
rumination—dwelling on slights, unpleasant encounters, and sad events—leads to bad feelings. In fact, one reason that women are more susceptible to depression than men may be their greater tendency to ruminate; men are more likely to distract themselves with an activity. Studies show that distraction is a powerful mood-altering device,
Do good, feel good; feel good, do good.
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photo: naxos, greece, spring 2010
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