*This post contains affiliate links. Not to worry, this is still a REAL DEAL REVIEW, but I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.
In August 2020, Stephanie Fleming, creator of The Happy Planner, published her highly anticipated book, Plan A Happy Life. As you may know, The Happy Planner is my primary planning system. When I started using their products, I was also drawn to the vision and the visionaries behind them. I follow Stephanie Fleming on Instagram and have always enjoyed the inspiration she shares.
When Plan A Happy Life was first announced, I was intrigued by the concept, but I did not plan on purchasing it. I’m not a big fan of self-help books at all. As a matter of fact, I can count on my hand how many I have read cover to cover. This one is refreshingly different.
Plan A Happy Life seeks to help readers “define your passion, nurture your creativity, and take hold of your dreams.” In a time of great uncertainty and change, this book is geared less toward what you SHOULD be and more toward discovering who you really are – what makes your soul shine.
Plan A Happy Life Book Structure
Plan A Happy Life is available in hardcover and digital versions. The book may seem daunting at 224 pages, but the physical presence is a petite 6.25 x 8.25 frame with reasonably sized print. The design carries the fun, informal colors and feel associated with The Happy Planner.
Plan A Happy Life is divided into four sections: “Defining Happy”, “The Four P’s”, “Nurturing Happiness,” and Living Happy. The chapters within a combination of food for thought, personal stories from the author, and reflective exercises. Special editions of the book also include mind maps at the end to cultivate a real and honest visual representation of your path to happiness. As opposed to being “preachy,” this book is designed to turn the reader from a casual spectator to a transformed participator – in their own lives. In this structure, the book takes us on a holistic journey through ourselves, working through what makes you happy, how to get there, and how to maintain it.
Part I of Plan A Happy Life, “Defining Happy” is the most intense, in my opinion. Chapter 1 starts by tapping into the creativity that lies within everyone. It asks the most basic questions about the surface things that make you smile, like your favorite music and authors. However, Chapters 2 and 3 dives a bit deeper into self-reflection on how we view ourselves.
I’ll be completely honest: I had the most difficult time with the exercises in these chapters. I laid them out in my journal and avoided them for a couple of months. Often, I struggle with who I am becoming vs. who I’d like to be, and where my life is going vs. where I’d like to be. I have always been a big dreamer. When I was younger, questions like, “who do you want to be,” and “what do you want to do” were easy to answer. As I grow older and my life changes, I tend to circumvent and change these questions to “what CAN I be” and “what CAN I do.” This book was so timely in challenging this mindset and my motivation for living.
Tip: If you really want to get the most out of this book, take your time working through Chapters 2 and 3.
The Four P’s
PURPOSE +Stephanie Fleming, author of Plan A Happy Life
PLANNING + POSITIVITY +
PERSISTENCE = A Happy Life
A goal without a plan is just a dream, right? Part II of Plan A Happy Life follows up the soul-searching of Part I with a charge to make your dreams a reality. Chapters 4-7 take a more practical approach to establish your happiness, but there is still a down-to-earth lightheartedness that makes the content engaging. Chapter 4 harnesses the power of purpose-driven goalsetting. Chapter 5 follows up with the steps to turn these goals into manageable plans.
Although the book and the brand tend to lend themselves to an image of hearts and stars and rainbows, there is an acknowledgment of the ups and downs that come with life. Chapter 6 deals with the reality that the feeling of happiness is not present 100% of the time and that positivity is a choice. Chapter 7 takes a very balanced approach to persistence, addressing such barriers as procrastination while speaking to the pitfalls of the “hustle culture” that is so prevalent right now.
Now, the Happy Planner brand is a frontrunner in the decorative planning and papercrafting world, but Part II has a refreshing emphasis on functional planning and goals. It is very cognizant of the broad spectrum of today’s women and our growing need to manage many moving parts.
So you’ve defined your passion and made a practical plan to achieve it. Now what? The seeds have been planted and Part III offers an approach to watering them. Chapter 8 builds upon the choice to be positive and helps us to nurture lasting joy. It also turns the focus from solely internal to spreading joy into the world. Chapter 9 takes an in-depth assessment of our wellness – our state of being – and charges us to commit to ourselves, mind, body, and soul.
Most of us have an area or two that we neglect, either consciously or unconsciously. Part III forced me to take inventory of the areas in my life that deserve more attention and employ the skills I learned in Part III to address them tangibly.
The fourth and final part of Plan A Happy Life feels like a graduation of sorts. Chapters 10-12 prepare us to integrate all the practices from the first three parts of the book into real life. Part IV provides tools to help us set boundaries to protect the happiness we plan to cultivate This section also emphasizes being present and celebrating life’s moments. Amidst the pandemic, it has been hard for most people to celebrate in the traditional way or think about an uncertain future. These chapters challenged me to find new ways to create and keep memories and give myself a bucket of things to look forward to.
Plan A Happy Life Book Club
One wonderful feature offered with this book is the Plan A Happy Life Book Club resources. The book club brings a meaningful sense of connection – valuable during the pandemic. It also adds guidance and enrichment to the material. The book club divides the reading into four weeks, each tackling one part of the book. Each week offers video commentary from Fleming, Level-Up Questions for further introspection, and a hands-on exercise or creative challenge. (There are also recordings of the fall Instagram live videos available if you’d like to get commentary from others. I actually presented this selection to my book club in January, using some of the book club material to drive the discussion. The questions and exercises created a wonderful bonding experience.
The book club, whether done alone or with others provides for a wonderfully immersive experience. My only snag is, as mentioned above, is that a week is too short for some of the sections. If you’re following along, just be aware of that as you move through the material.
Tips For Reading Plan A Happy Life
- Break out the pen and paper (at the very least). Whether you do this manually or digitally, you really will want to participate in the exercise and record them to refer back to. The exercises aren’t just a “one and done” type of deal. You’ll actually be building a practical tool kit for your happy life.
- Pace yourself. Some of the sections, notably Chapters 2,3, and 9, call for honest soul-searching. This book is more guidance than prescription. Each chapter and section builds upon the work YOU do.
- Remember: It’s a workbook. It’s not like a lecture with homework at the end; it’s more like a hands-on workshop. I first sat down to read this expecting text at the beginning of each chapter and exercises at the end. Instead, the activity is interwoven. This book is meant for you to work WHILE you read.
Plan A Happy Life has the perfect balance of weightless optimism and pragmatic gravity. The book does offer a much-needed dose of positivity without being tone-deaf or pollyanna-ish. The tone of the writing is calm and inviting, handling deep subject matter with care and finesse. This book will appeal to die-hard planners by offering many opportunities for creativity. My mind works best when my hands are moving, thus the exercises made the reading more palatable than an ordinary text-only read. It will also appeal to non-planners by offering real advice and real solutions.
My only drawback is that some may find the layout a bit overwhelming. The exercises and quick tips are interspersed throughout the chapters and within the material, as opposed to neatly placed at the end. I did not mind this, but some may prefer a more tidy flow. If you go into the reading knowing that it’s really a workbook, you’ll be fine.
Plan A Happy Life recognizes that its core audience is women are becoming more “awake” and aware of their multi-dimensionality and plays to this. Whether you are a burgeoning businesswoman or Chief Officer of your home, this book offers a wealth of inspiration and tools to help you define happiness, balance, and success, however it looks to YOU.
Final Verdict: HIGH AND MIGHTY
I enjoyed this book so much that I will be gifting copies to others. Also, I can see myself revisiting this book periodically to do the exercises at various seasons in life. I highly recommend it.
Plan A Happy Life is available for purchase here on Amazon. Have you read Plan A Happy Life? Let us know what your thoughts!