Monday, September 10, 2012

The Happiness Project

Did you know that most people consider themselves very happy or at least pretty happy? Did you know that on a scale of 1-5, most people would rate their level of happiness around 4? I know statistics can lie, but I happen to believe these.

That leads to today's mystical question. Can a person be happier with some kind of intention? Can it be done through behavior modification? How about through changing thought patterns? I absolutely believe it. I know where I am now. I know where I was twenty years ago; ten years ago; five and so on.

I didn't plan a happiness project, although given my natural inclination to learn everything about something before I do it, I would have. I just didn't think of it.

One of my character flaws is to blame myself for nearly everything. My boss is in a bad mood, so it must be my fault. My kid isn't happy today, so it must be my fault. A bird died in China, so it must be my fault. The next step in this pattern is to determine how it's my fault and to fix it. It's a miserable existence born out of some misguided ethic.

So I changed the pattern to something more truthful. When my boss is in a bad mood it has nothing to do with me. He's in a bad mood because he burnt his toast; got into traffic on the way in to work; had a fight with his wife; forgot his lunch; lost his house key; got yelled at by his boss. There are at least one hundred other reasons for his mood in which I'm not the central character.

Changing that auto-response was intentional and painful. And it took a lot of time, but I did it. Is it all the way gone? No. But I recognize when its creepy tendrils grab at me.

That was my biggest "happiness project" although I had, and continue to have others. I've been successful at most of them. I can create my own mood and reality if I want to.

If you don't have twenty years to work on being happier, then there's this book. I always have a book. My brother will tell you I always have a song. That's true, too.

The book is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She has a blog on it. Her newest book, entitled Happier at Home was just released last week. Both talk about ways to get happier in a more systematic way than I've gone about it. But they'll work, too.

Here's a book trailer on The Happiness Project. But don't buy the book unless you're going to do it because your project will be different from mine and hers because you're you.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fallout Alley Youth Zone - a FAYZ

When I was in college, one of my literature professors said all books and movies were Westerns regardless of the genre. In other words, all plots are good versus evil no matter who the characters are. Through the years I've learned this is true. Every writing course I've taken confirms it.

Today my blog introduces you to a young adult dystopian series of novels. GONE, by Michael Grant, is a contemporary twist on Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Add in some science fiction, a tad of fantasy and an autistic little boy and you have yourself a unique plot.

The premise of the story is simple. One day everyone aged fifteen and older disappears. A barrier goes up around Perdido Beach, California and the remaining kids have to figure out how to recreate society. Some of the children possess special powers. Others kids remain normal. Two brothers, separated at birth, square off. Then there's the gaiaphage, or "world eater" that wants to take over, which triangulates the conflict.

The new world is called the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone).

I have tried to put down this series of six books, but I can't. It's fascinating to see how Michael Grant takes these kids through the reestablishment of some kind of order while also trying to survive. What defines leadership? Does capitalism reoccur? Does government? Will people work for free if starving is the alternative? Who takes care of the babies?

The books do need to be read in order since one serves as the foundation for the next. The order is: Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague and Fear. Light, the last, won't be released until April 2013.

If you like dystopian literature, I think you'll like these books.

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