Blog Posts by Gretchen Rubin

  • Is Pay the Most Important Thing About Work to You? to Others?

    paycheckAssay: Over the weekend, I re-read a fascinating book, Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes.

    I was thrilled to find discussion of some research that I'd thought about often, but had never been able to find again; I didn't take notes on it and couldn't remember where I'd seen it.

    Eureka! There it was.

    It's very interesting research about how people value money and pay.

    Now, it's clear that when people don't have enough money to meet their basic needs, or when they're worried that they're going to lose a job, they're very focused on how much money they're paid. Money is like health: we tend to think about it most when we don't have it.

    And it's also clear that people are very concerned with being paid fairly. For instance, if someone else is getting paid more to do the same job, that breeds unhappiness.

    However-and this is the interesting part-once those conditions are met, money starts to

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  • “When I Compare Myself with Others, My Happiness Takes a Shot in the Back”

    kellehampton

    Happiness interview: Kelle Hampton.

    Writer and photographer Kelle Hampton has a longtime blog, Enjoying the Small Things, where she writes about the simple things, with gorgeous photos alongside.

    She just published her first book, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, about the first year of her daughter Nella's life. When Nella was born, they discovered that she has Down syndrome, and Bloom recounts Kelle's changing perspectives and expectations. The book is riveting, and is also accompanied with hundreds of beautiful photographs.

    Kelle writes a lot about happiness, so I was eager to interview her and hear more about her thoughts on the subject.

    Gretchen: What's a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Kelle: Bubble baths.

    What's something you know now about happiness that you didn't know when you were 18 years old?

    I know now that I am 100% responsible for my own happiness. It is a state of mind that is cultivated by my own choices

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  • Do You Fall into This Happiness Trap? the False Choice

    fork-in-the-roadIt's very easy to fall into the happiness trap of false choices-of thinking you can either do X or Y, and that's the choice you have to make.

    False choices are tempting for a couple of reasons. First, instead of facing a bewildering array of options, you limit yourself to a few simple possibilities. Also, the way you set up the options often makes it obvious that one choice is the high-minded and reasonable choice, and one is not.

    But although false choices can be comforting, they can leave you feeling trapped, and they can blind you to other choices you might make.

    "I'd rather have a few true friends instead of tons of shallow friends."
    You don't have to choose between a "real" few and "superficial" many. I have intimate friends and casual friends. I have work friends whom I never see outside a professional context. I have childhood friends whom I see only once every ten years. I have several friends whose spouses I've never met. I have online friends whom I've

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  • Do You Love Paradoxes? Embrace Happiness Paradoxes

    reflectionsoapbubbleI've always loved paradoxes and koans, and was very struck by an observation by physicist Niels Bohr: "There are trivial truths and great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true."

    This is very true in the area of happiness, and in particular, I've noticed it with my resolutions. In many cases, my most important resolutions come paired with the opposite resolutions, and yet both are important to my happiness.

    This tension was beautifully illustrated in a novel I love, Vikram Chandra's mesmerizing Sacred Games. "Sartaj was thinking about how uncanny an animal this life was, that you had to seize it and let go of it at the same time, that you had to enjoy but also plan, live every minute and die every moment."

    Of everything I've ever written, I think this short paradox-The days are long, but the years are short-resonates most with people. (Watch the one-minute video here.)

    I want to Be Gretchen and accept

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  • A Perfect Evening Involves Dorky Friends and Ridiculous Hijinks

    Liza-Palmer-233x300Happiness interview: Liza Palmer.

    Liza Palmer is a bestselling writer with a new novel, More Like Her. One element of the novel is our assumption that we understand the realities of other people's lives-but really, we often don't. The theme of happiness, and how to create a happy life, is a frequent theme in her novels, and I was curious to hear what she had to say about happiness in her own life.

    Gretchen: What's a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Liza: I actually keep a running list on an old spa pamphlet in my desk drawer of concrete and specific things that make me happy. So often I over-think things that it helps to look at this list and realize, oh that's right-all is not lost: Roi des Earl Grey from Mariage Freres exists. Sometimes it's all we can do to turn our moods around and thinking we have to figure everything out can feel overwhelming. Sometimes it's just about calling a friend and taking a drive with a great playlist.LizaList

    What's

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  • 2012 7 Tips I Use to Spark My Creativity

    crayons-21I've read a lot of advice about how to spark creativity. Everyone's creativity takes a different form, however, so the advice that works varies from person to person.

    For example, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be efficient and productive. One of my struggles, therefore, is to allow myself to spend time on activities that don't pay off in some direct way. Creativity often involves play, digression, exploration, experimentation, and failed attempts; it doesn't always look productive.

    As ludicrous as it may sound, I have to force myself to wander, and schedule time for goofing off.

    Here are some creativity-boosting strategies that work for me:

    1. Take notes. I have a compulsion to take notes as I read. I write down quotations and bits of information that catch my interest. In fact, all my book projects have really been ways to justify taking the notes that I most wanted to take.

    I used to fight the urge to take notes that weren't related to a specific

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  • I Want to Make Time for Fun

    Each week, I post a video about some Pigeon of Discontent raised by a reader. Because, as much as we try to find the Bluebird of Happiness, we're also plagued by the Pigeons of Discontent.

    This week's Pigeon of Discontent, suggested by a reader, is: "I want to make time for fun."

    If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…

    Have fun that's actually fun-for you.

    Quiz: How fun is your workplace? Your home?

    5 myths about fighting the blues.

    How about you? Have you found any strategies for making sure that you make time for fun, for leisure, for goofing off? It's important, I think; otherwise we start to feel depleted and harassed.

    You can post your own Pigeon of Discontent at any time; also, from time to time, I'll make a special call for suggestions.

    You can check out the archives of videos here.

    Also ...

    • I enjoy the site Pinterest, which allows you to pin the images that interest you onto a board (get it? "pinterest").

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  • What I Learned About Myself from Steve Martin

    steve_martin_B1Last week, I read Steve Martin's memoir of his time learning and doing stand-up comedy, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. I loved it.

    It's a terrific example of one of my favorite kinds of books: someone coming into his or her vocation. I love reading about why people become interested in particular subjects or skills, and how they master them.

    Just in the last year, I've read several outstanding books of this type, such as E. O. Wilson's Naturalist, Bob Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One, Rosanne Cash's Composed, Patti Smith's Just Kids, and Eugene Delacroix's Journal.

    Do you have any suggestions? I just can't get enough of this kind of thing. Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn't matter if I'm interested in the underlying subject. I'm not much interested in music, for example, but I loved reading about the experiences of these musicians. And I'm definitely not much interested in ants.

    Odd sidenote: you never know when you're going to get an insight into yourself and your

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  • Guess: What's the Most Popular Resolution for Happiness?

    unmade-bedWhen people tell me they've done their own happiness projects, I always ask, "What resolutions did you try? What worked for you?"

    One answer comes up more than any other. I'm not saying that this is the most significant thing you could do to boost your happiness, but it does seem to be a thing that people actually do-and that boosts their happiness.

    This most popular resolution? To make your bed.

    Now, it's true that some people thrive on a little chaos. They find a disorderly room to be comfy and casual. When one of my friends was growing up, her mother made such a big deal of keeping the house clean that now my friend has gone far in the opposite direction. Very far. Most people, however, even if they may find it tough to keep things tidy, prefer to live in orderly surroundings.

    It's a Secret of Adulthood: for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.

    If you love a calm environment, making the bed is one of the quickest, easiest steps to cultivate a sense

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  • 7 Tips for Good Behavior–from the 16th Century

    silverwareOne thing is true about happiness: there are very few new truths out there. The greatest minds in history have turned their attention to the subject, so while it's often challenging to put that wisdom into actual practice, it's pretty clear what kinds of actions are likely to yield a happier life.

    Likewise, "tips lists" have been around for a long time. I get a big kick out of uncovering tips lists from the past: Sydney Smith's tips for cheering yourself up from 1820, Francis Bacon's tips for how to be happy from 1625, Lord Chesterfield's tips for pleasing in society from 1774.

    In De Civilitate Morum Puerilium Libellus: A Handbook on Good Manners for Children, Erasmus gave seven tips about how to behave yourself around other people. He wrote this list around 1500 A.D., and his advice has a long shelf life.

    According to Erasmus, you should not…
    1. gossip
    2. tell unkind stories
    3. boast
    4. indulge in self-display
    5. seek to defeat others in

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