The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: Book Review

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

When I first picked up The Happiness Project, I didn’t know Gretchen Rubin, but I was intrigued by its title and cover. I had high hopes for this happiness book, but ultimately, I gave this book a mediocre 5.5 out of 10 score, meaning that it was a good book, but not exceptional.

I guess one of the biggest reasons for this score was the fact that Gretchen Rubin isn’t a happiness coach. She was clerking for the Supreme Court and had written many other books on subjects unrelated to the study of happiness, such as biographies, self-help books, and now a book about happiness. 

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin - image taken from her instagram
Image taken from Gretchen Rubin’s Instagram page.

This behavior isn’t completely surprising to me, since happiness is important to everyone and virtually everything can be correlated with happiness, so sooner or later virtually everyone dips their paws in the cookie jar trying to start their Project Happiness. They write about this and that, but ultimately rarely find the ultimate answer to the question: what is happiness

And this is exactly what Gretchen Rubin does. She realizes that despite her objectively great life (great marriage, children, and career), she wasn’t subjectively as happy as she ideally wanted to be. This led her on a 1-year research, documenting what she tried, and how successful it was, which she referred to as her “happiness project.” At the start of her book, she even calculates her approximate happiness level using an Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire, receiving a 3.92 out of 5 score. 

Objective Well-Being and Subjective Unhappiness

Yes, Gretchen Rubin admitted to being happy, but she also admitted to not being as happy as she ideally wanted to be, which is quite a common feeling, isn’t it? I mean, many people are trying to be happier, but despite their considerable effort, they just end up going in circles, never quite reaching the finishing line, no matter how much they try. 

This was unfortunately also the conclusion of The Happiness Project, as by the end of the book, Gretchen Rubin is still looking for happiness, not really updating her Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire score.

And, as always, I don’t mean to be mean, as the reason I point it out is because I’m hinting at a larger problem. Many people search for happiness all their lives, but they never quite get the answer to it, becoming frustrated and calling happiness “evasive.” 

Almost everyone calls happiness “evasive” except Optimal Happiness. This is because, personally speaking, around my mid-20s I had a similar problem to Gretchen Rubin, in that my objectively good life made me burned out and depressed. This led me to embark on my own Project Happiness. However, my end result was different from Gretchen Rubin’s, as I actually found the answer to the ultimate question of optimal well-being.

How To Be As Happy As I Can Be?

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

This answer was asking: “How to be as happy as I can be?” instead of: “How to be happier?”, which frames the question in a completely different light, making people refrain from looking at all possible solutions for happiness (as it is done in The Happiness Project), as they are virtually infinite, since virtually everything correlates with happiness, which is also one of the first lessons we learn at Optimal Happiness. 

As such, if everything correlates with happiness, then what’s important is to understand what correlates with happiness the most, meaning that we start considering what set of actions will make us the happiest. I rarely hear this way of framing the search for happiness, and The Happiness Project falls into the same trap, which is why ultimately Gretchen Rubin is still looking for happiness by the end of her book.

I’m not saying that listing different possible solutions for happiness is all that bad, as Gretchen Rubin makes many good suggestions. However, again, how long are we going to listen to “good suggestions” before we say that we don’t want to be “happier” and instead we want to be the happiest we can be in a lasting way? 

Overall, personally, The Happiness Project is a great book, but to me, it exemplifies today’s problem with the search for happiness. Firstly, it shows that despite living in one of the wealthiest and most developed societies the world has ever seen, we are still dissatisfied with our current state of wellbeing, even if our lives are pretty good, objectively speaking. Additionally, despite many good points presented in The Happiness Project and a great piece written by Gretchen Rubin, people are still largely lost about what they need to do to become as happy as they can be. So what is the solution?

So What Is Happiness?

Unfortunately, the answer to “what is happiness?” isn’t easy, but at the same time, it isn’t hard. There are several points that we need to address before we reach our happiest potential, and there are too many to list in this blog post. However, at the same time, they are not infinite. 

As such, Optimal Happiness proposes a full course on how to reach your happiest potential for life, making us exit the rat race and end the search for “elusive happiness.” So, if you are tired of looking for happiness and you just want to be happy, then contact us, and we will show you the full Optimal Happiness formula.

The Happiness Project and Its 5.5/10 Rating

Gretchen Rubin giving an interview about her book The Happiness Project.

The following 10-point rating questionnaire was created to compare different happiness books, as not all books are on the same level. In fact, despite The Happiness Project’s 5.5 score, it is still one of the 38 best happiness books, while many others simply didn’t make the cut. And this is how we calculated this score:

Is it the science and art of happiness? Yes (Qualified)
Happiness is a God? No (Qualified)
Is it a happiness author? No (0 point)
Is it random happiness advice? Yes (0,5 point)
Is it a comprehensive happiness formula? No (0 points)
Is there a unique contribution? No (0 point)
Happiness is evasive? Yes (1 point)
Does it answer the 4 key questions of happiness: 
What is happiness? Yes (1 point)
Why happiness? Yes (1 point)
How to be happier? Yes (1 point)
How to be the happiest we can be? No (0 points)
Is it easy to read? Yes (1 point)

Finally, if you read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, please let us know if you agree with our analysis of this book. What other books do you want us to review? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Stay happy!

Roman Russo: Author of Optimal Happiness

Roman Russo: Author of Optimal Happiness

Roman Russo wasn't always happy and struggled with his own negative emotions, anxieties, and depression, until one day he pledged to resolve this part of life, whatever it took. The journey took 6 years, but it was worth it. Today, Roman considers himself to be one of the happiest people alive, part of the 1% of the happiest elite, and he now teaches others a working and universal happiness formula to reach a similar goal. He offers his best advice on Optimal Happiness social media, newsletter, blog, and books, and teaches a complete and unconditional happiness formula in his online courses.

Leave a Reply

“The problem is that of optimization,” states Roman Russo, author of Optimal Happiness: The Fastest & Surest Way To Reach Your Happiest Potential. There is plenty of advice on how to be happier or less sad, but no one is speaking about how to become the happiest we can be. And this is the difference that makes all the difference. By not looking at our maximum potential for happiness, we fall short of achieving it. After all, we all have hundreds of ideas on how to be happier or less sad, but most people still feel like they are not living their best lives. As such, Optimal Happiness explores the question of how to be the happiest we can be, regardless of who we are, where we are from, and what our life circumstances are. It proposes a complete and unconditional formula for happiness and explains how you too can become happy today and forever, inviting you to join the 1% happiness elite and become one of the happiest people alive.

Recent Posts

Follow on Facebook

Or Follow Us On

Happiness Newsletter

Win our exclusive happiness coaching session when subscribing to our transformational Happiness Newsletter.​​


    You May also like