I’ve had a lot of people ask me what my first book, The Happiness Gap is about and how it came to be, so I’ve put together this piece that outlines the chapters, and a little about how it all came together.
The Happiness Gap
A conversation with the author (me) on a casual walk about some of the choices and challenges faced in life and how to get through them.
It is the product of a number of years of life experiences, conversations, challenges and all of the good stuff in between.
I took some time out of ‘life’ as it were to get all of the ideas and words swirling around on paper to put this book together and did the entire thing as it stands on my own. From conception to layout, to the cover photo and design, it all came from the one mind.
I was very nervous leading up to getting to the point of release but the one thing that kept me going was the intent behind the book, that being to offer readers a casual conversation about life and some ways to navigate through some of the tricky days.
So often these days we are told that the goal in everything that we do in this life, is to be happy. It is all about being happy. But what is happy? How do you know if you are? Is it ok to be happy in a world that seems to be full of sadness? Should you feel guilty for being happy when so many are not?
Or are they happy? But we just perceive them as not being so.
See, that is just the thing. Try as we might to walk a mile in another’s shoes, we never will.
Things will happen to us during our lives that will make us ask questions we never knew existed, and we will never really know what it is like to spend time in another beings mind.
Many of us spend a lot of our time in the gap. The gap between where we are, and where we see ourselves being, that childhood dream that we hold onto day and night, just hoping that someone or something will come along and make it ok.
Well, I’m here to tell you that it is ok just how it is; it just takes a bit of getting used to.
I’m going to go walk you through some thoughts that I had on my journey to this point, and that you may or may not be having too.
Talking these out will hopefully alleviate some of those nagging thoughts and feelings you are having while you are in the gap of where you are, and where you think you should be.
By the end, I hope that you realise that the gap does not exist, because neither where you are, nor where you wish to be does either, only the present moment ever exists.
We are going to go for a walk. I don’t know how long we will walk for, or where we are going, or if it is going to rain, or if it is going to be a nice day, but let’s go anyway. I will probably do a lot of talking and will tell you a lot about my life and my stories, but there will also be plenty of silence and reflection along the way.
CHAPTER 1: I’m stuck in the middle
There are two things guaranteed in this life, our birth, and our death. Everything in between is just this thing we have called time.
There are many cliché quotes about how it is what we do in between these events that shape our character. This may be true, but to me, it is how we truly feel along the way that is most important and trust me, it is not always going to be smooth sailing, nor will it feel good all of the time.
CHAPTER 2: I’ve just begun my journey to awakening
Many books and YouTube videos will tell you that it will be over in 30 days, it won’t. You will be awakening for many more years to come, and once you are, there is no going back to sleep.
It starts as a curious feeling, a restless one perhaps. Things don’t seem to make sense like they used to, you have many more questions than ever before, and there seem to be no answers.
CHAPTER 3: I have never felt anxious, but my chest is going to explode
This starts with a personal story about my first experience with anxiety and panic attacks and how I learned to get through them. From a panic attack mid-air on a flight to an anxiety-induced heart episode that saw me taken to hospital and monitored for a suspected heart attack.
CHAPTER 4: I feel like I have lost my mind
“If you go mad, you won’t even know, because you are mad”.
This is so simple that it is almost too simple. I can only apply my own interpretation to this in that where we feel like we may be dancing with some dangerous thoughts, the fact that we have an awareness that we are is a good sign.
CHAPTER 5: Listening to what people aren’t saying
Being able to communicate with others and allow others to communicate with us is vital for our survival. Most of us learn to read and write at a young age in order to facilitate communication, but how often do we stop and listen to what people aren’t saying?
Love and connection is a primal urge, and a primal need, and is so often overlooked in the world as we know it. We don’t need our ears to listen to the feeling we get in our stomach when something feels good, or when something feels bad, or feels just a little strange.
CHAPTER 6: I don’t want to leave the house
So don’t, get comfortable there, this is where you will do your best work. You are not depressed, you are not going mad, and there is nothing wrong with you.
If your symptoms do persist, and you have developed a serious fear of going outside, please see your doctor, or nearest health professional.
But if it has not got to that point, then I have totally been there. I have always loved being at home, no matter where I have lived, since leaving the nest and moving to the big city from the country.
CHAPTER 7: I have so much to say, yet nothing to say
The time will not always be right, or always be seen as appropriate, but what is appropriate anyway? When is the right time? You will speak when you have something to say, for the rest of the time, you will spend it in thought, enjoy your time there.
I wrote this chapter heading and this opening short paragraph in a flash of genius when it came to me. This is a thought that I often have, and perhaps words that I often say, or do I not say them?
CHAPTER 8: I’m starting to dislike people
Good, you don’t have to like everyone. But don’t dislike everyone either.
CHAPTER 9: Has the world gone mad?
Sort of, but the world, as you are, is also trying to find itself, and remember, the world is you, there are just so many of you.
CHAPTER 10: I don’t think I am depressed; I just don’t feel like I belong anywhere right now
This chapter touches on that lurking feeling that many of us develop during the course of our awakening where we struggle to find joy in things we once did. I am cautious not to take away from anyone’s feelings, nor undermine genuine mental health diagnosis’ but talk more with the reader about the moment where life as it once was just seems to be missing something.
CHAPTER 11: I feel like I live here, but I am not from here
Occasionally we are blessed with the chance to view the world and our own world from a third person point of view. We get a glimpse of objectivity in the goings on in our minds, our days, and the chance to reflect on how we go here. This chapter fleshes that out and provokes thought in the reader.
CHAPTER 12: I forgot who I was in a relationship
A loss of identity following a relationship breakdown can send a person into a spin. Losing who one is in any relationship, not just the intimate ones can feel like a lack of control over what many have had control of for a long time. This chapter talks through what happens here and how to get that control back, and regain the most important relationship we will ever have, that being the one we have with ourselves.
CHAPTER 13: The circle will continue to get smaller
We accumulate a lot of people in our lives in our early years, some come into our lives and stay forever, some come into our lives for a short while but teach us so much. The value of all is so high, this chapter affirms this to those who question why the ones we want to stay leave, and sometimes why the ones we want to leave stay.
CHAPTER 14: I feel like I’ve wasted my life
Nothing is ever wasted, I cannot emphasize this enough, however, when things don’t feel good and nothing seems to be working out the way we wanted it to, it is easy to default back to this line of thinking. This chapter is about re-framing thoughts and attitudes and realizing that there are lessons all around us, just waiting for us to take notice of them.
CHAPTER 15: I want someone to tell me it’s all going to be ok
It’s perfectly normal to want someone to swoop in and tell us that everything is going to be ok. Unfortunately, until we decide for ourselves that everything is fine that way it is, sure, there can always be a few tweaks, then no one other will ever give us the feeling that everything is ok, they will only provide a short distraction.
CHAPTER 16: I feel like I feel things more than others
This book is aimed at the feelers, the ones who feel things more than others. Often when someone feels a lot of things, it can become quite overwhelming until self-care and protection are learned. This chapter talks this out and reassures the reader that it is ok to be like this, and how to make the best of it.
CHAPTER 17: I feel like I see things that others don’t
In a world where our futures can quite often feel like they are mapped out and set in stone, those that are awake see the world for what it really is. Is it not rosy all of the time, there are going to be hard days, life is a series of challenges more often than not, this chapter affirms that there are many conversations going on between the words.
CHAPTER 18: I feel like there is something no one is talking about
Again, following on from the previous chapter, it is the look between the eyes, the unspoken word, the feeling in the gut. There is what is being said with the words, and there is what is meant by the heart and soul.
CHAPTER 19: I feel alone
Realizing that there is so much more to life and the world than we once thought can be a daunting time. It can feel quite isolating at times when the mind starts to wander and ask some of the more philosophical questions. This chapter talks about learning to adjust to this newfound feeling of awakening, which can initially feel like being all alone in the world.
CHAPTER 20: So what if I just work a day job, that’s ok, right?
When I talked to people prior to reading this book, many would straight away blame their job in one way or another for their unhappiness. I did this too for a long time. Money is how we get by at this point in time; so providing you can get it, get it, and figure out everything else in the downtime.
CHAPTER 21: Tell me I am doing the right thing
Here I start off with some simple words, “you are”. That as long as one is not harming another, be that physically, emotionally or spiritually, then do what you must to stay focused and on track.
CHAPTER 22: What if something bad happens?
There is always that fear of something bad happening when we start anything new in life. The fear of failure can take hold of a person and stop the magic from happening. Chances are that things will go wrong, but the more likely thing is that we will get through it, it just might be a bit trickier than we planned.
CHAPTER 23: Is there anyone out there that will love me?
Feeling lost and alone can lead to this line of thinking in that sometimes we can feel like we ourselves are so complex and misunderstood, that another could never love us for who we truly are. This chapter talks about how that one loving another for who they truly are, and accepting this love, is the only type of love that really matters.
CHAPTER 24: Unplug for a while – be a human again
In the connected world that we live in, sometimes it can make a huge difference to just unplug and be. There is a definite over-saturation of information in our days, which can lead to all kinds of scattered thinking. Unplug, reset, re-group and go from there.
CHAPTER 26: A bucket list
We don’t get a long time on this planet, but we do get time. A bucket list can be a useful tool in paving out a way forward, and for exploring who we are and what we wish to achieve while we can.
CHAPTER 27: How can you have direction if you can’t be still?
A growing sense of unhappiness and a feeling of going around and around in circles and have one bouncing from one thing to the next without having really thought it out. When life starts to feel a little off, sort of like we are not quite on the right station, this is the trigger to try to get still, and just be, then from there, do only what one feels they must do next.
CHAPTER 28: This life is your movie
If you were to play our your life like your favourite movie, what would that look like? It is all too easy to get caught up in our own heads and by our own views of the world that we can forget to consider another’s viewpoint. We can spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to others when the fact is that there are many who are comparing themselves to us. Taking time to look at all angles during periods of reflecting is a great skill to develop, and is important in maintaining a balanced view of ourselves, others, and the world around us.
CHAPTER 29: Don’t let the world get in the way of your dreams
This is a breakthrough chapter of the book, in that the discussion leading up to this one has been looking at all aspects of one’s behaviours individually and to isolate where we may feel like things have gone ‘wrong’. Don’t let what you believe others to be thinking towards or about you get in the way of your dreams while you are here I this lifetime and on this planet, we get one shot, this is your time.
THIS IS WHERE WE FINISH: One last quick story and I will let you go
The book ends with a light-hearted story from when I was quite young in primary school and ties all the chapters and the theme of the book together.
An assignment for a publishing company
Earlier in the year, I was asked as a part of an application to have my book considered by a publishing company to source 5-10 books that my book as similar to, but how it differed, so I’ve included this below also.
“Readers often love books that are similar to ones they already love. Similarly, publishers often publish books similar to ones they’ve already published. In this section, list 5-10 of the most relevant competing books to yours. Add the title, subtitle, publisher, publication year, a description, and how your book is different from each competing book”.
Title: The Happiness Trap
Subtitle: Stop Struggling, Start Living.
A Description: Are you, like millions of Americans, caught in the happiness trap? Russ Harris explains that the way most of us go about trying to find happiness ends up making us miserable, driving the epidemics of stress, anxiety, and depression. This empowering book presents the insights and techniques of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) a revolutionary new psychotherapy based on cutting-edge research in behavioural psychology. By clarifying your values and developing mindfulness (a technique for living fully in the present moment), ACT helps you escape the happiness trap and find true satisfaction in life.
The techniques presented in The Happiness Trap will help readers to:
• Reduce stress and worry
• Handle painful feelings and thoughts more effectively
• Break self-defeating habits
• Overcome insecurity and self-doubt
• Create a rich, full, and meaningful life
How my book is different: My book speaks of happiness not being a trap, but rather being with us and around us all of the time, but life perhaps takes our attention off of where we are at any given moment. It is not a set of instructions, or community, or worksheets, it is a casual conversation with the author on a walk on a nice day.
Title: Way Of The Peaceful Warrior
Subtitle: A Book That Changes Live
Publisher: HJ Kramer
Publication Year: 1980
A Description: Way of the Peaceful Warrior is based on the story of Dan Millman, a world champion athlete, who journeys into realms of romance and magic, light and darkness, body, mind, and spirit. Guided by a powerful old warrior named Socrates and tempted by an elusive, playful woman named Joy, Dan is led toward a final confrontation that will deliver or destroy him. Readers join Dan as he learns to live as a peaceful warrior. This international bestseller conveys piercing truths and humorous wisdom, speaking directly to the universal quest for happiness.
How my book is different: My book is not centred around any one aspect of my life or the life of any other where as I feel Way Of The Peaceful Warrior is. It is about the competitive side to life that can be the undoing for some as they place so much emphasis on just one thing, and when that is taken away, lack purpose. My book is not targeted at or about any one facet of life, but rather an overview of the many facets of life.
Title: The Four Agreements
Subtitle: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom
Publication Year: 2011
A Description: THE FOUR AGREEMENTS BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are tired as opposed to well-rested. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
How my book is different: While my book is inspired by The Four Agreements in that I read this book once a year for my own ‘reset’, The Four Agreements centre around just that, four simple agreements that one chooses to make and to live by. The chapters in my book centre around real life conversations that I have had with people for a number of years now and seek to answer these in a passive tone, free of judgement, and from one who seeks to never answer all of life’s questions, but perhaps provoke more thought to facilitate a hunger for learning.
Title: A Return To Love
Subtitle: Reflections On The Principles Of A Course In Miracles
Publication Year: 1992
A Description: Williamson reveals how we each can become a miracle worker by accepting God and by the expression of love in our daily lives. Whether psychic pain is in the area of relationships, career, or health, she shows us how love is a potent force, the key to inner peace, and how by practicing love we can make our own lives more fulfilling while creating a more peaceful and loving world for our children.
How my book is different: Again, as with The Four Agreements, A Return To Love centres on A Course In Miracles, that the author refers to as being a required course. My book does no such thing, it draws on common themes spoken by many, based perhaps more on The Maslow Hierarchy than anything, but more conversational and less of a preaching approach.
Title: The Happiness Project
Subtitle: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.
Publisher: Revised Edition by Harper Paperbacks
Publication Year: 2015 (first published in 2009, unable to find source information for this).
A Description: One rainy afternoon, while riding a city bus, Gretchen Rubin asked herself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” She answered, “I want to be happy”—yet she spent no time thinking about her happiness. In a flash, she decided to dedicate a year to a happiness project. The result? One of the most thoughtful and engaging works on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject. The Happiness Project synthesizes the wisdom of the ages with current scientific research, as Rubin brings readers along on her year to greater happiness.
How my book is different: My book tells no one to do anything specific. It speaks not of cleaning your wardrobe to make you happy, nor singing in the morning. It takes an honest approach to life and leaves no stone unturned with regards to the complexities faced often, but also the softer gentler side to life.
So there we have it, a bit about what you can expect from reading it and how it came to be!
Thanks for reading,
If you would like to purchase a copy, you can do so here.