Gretchen Rubin does not have a one-size-fits-all key to happiness. But she does have the tools to help others figure out what they need to be happy. How? She's come up with a "Happiness Toolbox," that helps you separate the wheat from the chaff in your life so that you can focus on the things that make you truly happy in life — not the things that you think will make you happy, or the things that your mother tells you will make you happy — the things that will make you truly happy.

Rubin had the idea to start a happiness project one rainy afternoon, when she was staring out the window of a city bus. "What do I want from life, anyway?" she asked herself. "Well ... I want to be happy." But she never thought about what made her happy, or how she might be happier.

In that moment, she realized two things: she wasn't as happy as she could be, and her life wasn't going to change unless she made it happen. "I need to think about this," she thought. And think she did. Her project, aptly named The Happiness Project, documents the year she spent "test-driving" all of the available happiness adages, from current scientific studies, to lessons from popular culture, to the writings on the topic by Aristotle, Thoreau and even Oprah. What did she learn in her studies? One of the key concepts from her research is that everyone's happiness project will be different, and there's no right or wrong way or be happy.

In her blog post, Eight Excellent Tips for Living that My Parents Gave Me, Rubin outlines the advice her parents have given her over the years that has not only stuck with her, but has helped make her a happier person. Here are some of the key kernels she learned from her folks.

From her Mom:

  • Stay calm.
  • The things that go wrong often make the best memories.
  • You like to have a few things that you really like, instead of lots of choices.
  • Be grateful, because you worked hard for what you got, and you deserved it, but others also worked hard, and people don’t always get what they deserve.
And from her Dad: 
  • If you’re willing to take the blame, people will give you the responsibility.
  • Energy.
  • Enjoy the process.
  • All you have to do is put on your running shoes and let the front door shut behind you.
The Happiness Project isn't an end-all, be-all key to happiness. But it is a great resource for folks who want to think about what really matters in life. And that, in and of itself, makes me happy.

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