Ah, the New Year. That infamous time of the year when your gym suddenly is full again, there’s more people lurking in the produce section, and there’s unrealistic expectations piled everywhere you look. Or you could be one of those who “resolve not to make resolutions” (and then pretend that they are the first person to proclaim such a cliche). I’ve been both of those people.

This New Year I wasn’t expecting to resolve myself to do anything differently, but then I found a copy of The Happiness Project whilst browsing at Coles.  Don’t ask me how I ended up in the self-help section.  But, there I was, and there I was picking up a copy of this book.  I’ve been reading it over the last week, and I’m already starting to see my world differently (which is always the first sign of a good book!).

The author of the book, Gretchen Rubin, dedicates herself to researching and practicing different ways to find happiness in her life over a period of 12 months. So far I’ve read January and February, or the “Boost Energy” and “Love” resolutions she tackled.  What I love about this book (so far) is that she’s all about taking the SMALL STEPS necessary to secure happiness. Too often I’ve wanted to take on my own “happiness project” and failed (miserably), if only because I tried to do too much, too quick.

I’m not going to do that to myself, again.  As I’m reading through the book, I’m looking for these small steps I can take in my own life, to help me find happiness.  Maybe over the course of the year I’ll write about the steps I’m taking.

So far, the one step that’s really stood out to me is Rubin’s twelfth “commandment”: “There is only love.”  Here’s a quick YouTube video where she talks about the role of love and happiness:

Now, when I first read this mantra of “there is only love,” I think my eyes rolled.  At first, it just sounds — well, fluffy. Deepak Chopra-ish. Not something a rational person like me could appreciate, right?

But then I started to think about it.

The example in the book is of a woman who took a job working for a notoriously negative employer.  She knew, going into the position, that her boss would be difficult to work with. So, rather than armoring up to bear the tough environment, she told herself to think, “There is only love.” From the book:

From that moment on, she refused to think critical thoughts about John Doe; she never complained about him behind his back; she wouldn’t even listen to other people criticize him.

“Don’t your coworkers think you’re a goody-goody?” I asked.

“Oh no,” she said. “They all wish they could do the same thing, too. He drives them crazy, but I can honestly say I like John.”

— p. 40, The Happiness Project

This idea of “there is only love” has really stuck with me. All too often I’m able to read people, and interpret their interpersonal communication. While it’s sometimes a bonus to be able to have such an ability, more often than not it leaves me feeling devastated — especially when I can tell that people don’t particularly like who I am.

I can’t help it, I’m a people-pleaser.  What sucks is that I’m the kind of person who you either really LOVE or really HATE — there’s not much middle ground when it comes to people’s impressions of me.  Lately it seems like I’ve had to deal with more of the latter, and if I’m not careful, it can really get me down (read: not happy).

So, rather than interpreting someone’s actions toward me as automatically being critical or negative, why not think to myself: “there is only love.”  Those 4 little words remind me that there’s bigger issues at work here. Maybe this person doesn’t understand my approach?  Maybe this person is herself very UNhappy, and finds me a good target to aim for?  Maybe that car didn’t see me before cutting me off? Maybe I’m not as good at reading intentions in communication, and I’m taking things too personally?

All of these “maybes” are legitimate, and I know I need to consider them before jumping on the conclusions wagon. So, one of my “resolutions” I’ve set for myself to start practicing saying “there is only love” more often.  I think it will help me to see my relationships differently — and I’m already feeling lighter, not having to worry so much about what others may think about me.

Another reminder of why I need to be a happier mama.