Plan a Happy Life – Stephanie Fleming

“Stop asking for permission to be happy. Create your own happiness!”

Tagline: “Define your passion, nurture your creativity, and take hold of your dreams.”

Stephanie Fleming is half of the family team behind a ‘Happy Planner’, Me and My Big Ideas (Mambi), and this book is – as well as a little tiny bit of an advertisement for their product 😉 – a self-help guide to the ethos of their company, the Happy Life Movement. Don’t worry, it’s not as hippy new age-y as it sounds, but rather a fairly down to earth discussion of how to identify and then live a happier version of your life.

Creativity is perhaps the biggest theme of the book, unsurprisingly when the author links living creatively to being happy. I think I agree. I read a great quote recently about creativity – dancing, singing, painting, whatever – being basic human behaviours, that have somehow been lost in the ‘rebranding’ of them as skills to develop. So yeah, I agree that we are all fundamentally creative and should celebrate this as much as we can.

The advice is not unfamiliar: try something new, allow yourself the learning of failure, don’t chase ‘perfect’. It can also be small, daily kind of things, not just converting the shed into an artist’s studio!

Further chapters deal with things like dismissing the inner critic, and not waiting for the ‘thing’ that will make you happy (you know: “When I reach size x… buy a house… find twu wuv” ;)); seeking inspiration for being joyful; a section on wellness, in several forms and across topics from physical and mental, to intellectual and career; setting boundaries and finding balance. Chapters end with a “Think on this” point to muse, then a “Give it a try” suggested activity, for example, creating your own vision board.

The ‘method’, such as it is, is defined as ‘The Four Ps’: Purpose, Planning, Positivity, and Persistence, all of which are discussed in a lot more detail in the second section of the book, sandwiched between the topics mentioned above. It’s not a bad approach at all, but while I thought there was a lot of value in it, it didn’t quite speak to me the way I thought it would. I’m getting back into using a Bullet Journal (oops, probably a competitor of MaMBI ;)) precisely because it mixes organisation and creativity, while staying flexible. I hoped this book would inspire me further in that direction, but it felt a little bit on the shallow side – perhaps if you’re totally new to this then it’ll resonate more.

Overall, then, a decent enough book but didn’t quite grab me somehow. I don’t disagree with anything, it just didn’t make me feel ‘oh!’ at any point. Oddly, I was left wondering if a bigger ‘advertisement’ ie discussion of their journals would have been more concrete and more useful, rather than another – decent enough, but nothing terribly new – discussion of the topics covered.

NetGalley eARC: 224 pages / 12 chapters
First published: 2020
Series: none
Read from 18th March – 2nd April 2021

My rating: 6/10

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