Blog Posts by Gretchen Rubin

  • Happiness Becomes More and More About Being Content in Our Current Circumstances

    HeidiGrantHalvorsonHappiness interview: Heidi Grant Halvorson.

    For a long time, I've been fascinated by Heidi Grant Halvorson's work: she studies the science of motivation.

    She has a new book out: Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence. It's about how to understand yourself and others better, so you can use that information to motivate yourself and the people around you. It's grounded in science, and very practical as well.

    Motivation is an issue that comes up frequently when you're trying to make your life happier. How do you stick to the resolutions that you've decided to make? I was very curious to hear how Heidi would answer these questions about happiness.

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

    Heidi: I like to take little breaks throughout the day to find something to laugh about - fortunately, the internet has made this very easy for me to do. I'll be in the middle of writing and begin to feel tired or

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  • Are You Ever Paralyzed Because Two of Your Values Are in Conflict?

    seesawI spend a lot of time thinking about questions such as, "How do we change?" "Why is it so hard to make ourselves do things that we want to do?" ( for instance, why is it so hard to make myself go to bed?) and "How can we stick to our resolutions?"

    I realize now that a big challenge is clarity. Often, if there's something that I want to do, but somehow can't get myself to do, it's because I don't have clarity. This lack of clarity often arises from a feeling of ambivalence-I want to do something, but I don't want to do it; or I want one thing, but I also want something else that conflicts with it.

    Here's a conflict: It's nice when my older daughter is around while she does her homework; on the other hand, it's good for her to be in her room without the distractions of family noise. So do I nudge her to go to her room, or do I let her stay in the kitchen? I can never decide.

    These days, when I'm trying to get myself to pursue some course of action, I work hard to make sure

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  • My Imagination and My Reality Don’t Match Up

    paintbrushwithcolorsRecently, I had a very strong yet puzzling emotional experience, and I realized that I've felt before. I wish there were some wonderful term for this (perhaps there is, in German or Japanese).

    I was reading a description of someone, and it said, "He lives with his wife and children on the Upper East Side of Manhattan." As I read this line, I had a fleeting yet complete vision of what that life would be like-the life of a person living with his family on the Upper East Side.

    But in the next moment, I realized, "Wait, that's my life, I live in that neighborhood myself, with my family!" Yet the reality of my experience doesn't at all match my vision of what that "life" would be like. And oddly, my imaginary version seems richer and more real, in a way, than my actual experience.

    I realized I can provoke this feeling, just by putting my own experience into words. If I think, "She went to an all-girl school in the Midwest," I have an idea of what that was like-but I did go to

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  • If Blueness Threatens I Look for the Humor in Any Situation

    TRISH-MCEVOYHappiness interview: Trish McEvoy.

    I've long been an admirer of Trish McEvoy - both for her beautiful products and for her entrepreneurial acumen in establishing her cosmetics company and her brand. So I was thrilled to hear that she was a fan of my writing.

    I was very eager to hear what she had to say on the subject of happiness in her own life, and immediately asked for an interview.

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

    Trish: Getting ready for the day always makes me happy. From applying my making to picking out what I want to wear to how I will style my hair, I love the girly part of my day.

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

    When I was 18 I didn't understand the impact of one's relationship and situation management on happiness. Experience has taught me that how I react to something can affect drastically different outcomes that either add to or take away from

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  • Consider the Three Levels of Fun: Challenging, Accommodating, and Relaxing Fun

    basketballHere's a mystery. We spend a huge amount of time with TV. Watching TV is probably the world's most popular pastime and is the greatest use of time, after sleeping and work. In the United States, people spend more than four hours a day watching TV. Watching great television can be an enormous source of pleasure. Yet, often, channel surfing becomes a default activity that doesn't add a lot to our happiness-yet we persist in watching, nevertheless.

    So how does TV fit into happiness? To answer that question, I had to break "fun" into three types:

    1. challenging fun
    2. accommodating fun
    3. relaxing fun

    Challenging fun is the most rewarding, and the most demanding.

    Learning to play golf is challenging fun. First you have to learn the equipment, the rules, the vocabulary, the motions. You're frustrated. You have to do some errands. It takes a lot of time to get any kind of mastery. But slowly it becomes more fun. You're outside, you're with friends, you're gaining

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  • Are You a Tortoise or a Hare? About Work

    TortoiseHareAre you a tortoise or a hare?

    I love paradoxes, parables, koans, aphorisms, fables, and teaching stories of all kinds. Lately I've been thinking of the Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare.

    In the familiar fable by Aesop, the tortoise and the hare run a race. The hare is so confident that he'll win that he takes a nap, and while he's asleep, the tortoise's regular, plodding pace allows him, the slower competitor, to cross the finish line first.

    I'm not using "tortoise" and "hare" exactly as Aesop did, but it's a handy frame of reference. Here is my question: Are you a tortoise or a hare when you approach a large task?

    A Tortoise prefers to work more days, for fewer hours-three hours a day for seven days. Slow and steady.

    A Hare prefers to work fewer days, for more hours-seven hours a day for three days. Bursts of effort.

    There's no right or wrong way, but just whatever system works better for you.

    I myself am a Tortoise. I like working every day, but I

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  • HilaryReylHappiness interview: Hilary Reyl.

    The brilliant (and gorgeous, not that it matters) Hilary Reyl has been a friend of mine since college, and I'm thrilled that her fabulous debut novel, Lessons in French, has just hit the shelves.

    It's a coming-of-age story, and all such stories touch deeply on happiness. It draws somewhat on Hilary's own adventures in France - and from her love of all things French (for instance, her husband is French).

    If you'd like to read what USA Today had to say, click here-also an Oprah pick as one of "7 dreamy novels set in the most romantic city in the world."

    I wanted to ask Hilary some questions that focus directly on happiness.

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

    Hilary: Reading. Every time I give myself over to a book, I wonder why I don't do it more.

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

    This question is the crux of my novel,

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  • Do You Agree About These Motivations of the Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, and Obliger?

    lawsAssay: With all modesty, I do think my Four Categories of Personality may be one of my finest contributions to the study of human nature. Right up there with my abstainer/moderator split and under-buyer/over-buyer distinction.

    In a nutshell, under this scheme, people fall into one of four categories-Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, Obliger-depending on how they respond to external rules and internal rules.

    Upholders respond to both inner and outer rules; Questioners question all rules, but can follow rules they endorse (effectively making all rules into inner rules); Rebels resist all rules; Obligers respond to outer rules but not to inner rules. To read more, go here.

    I'm still refining this idea, and I'd be very interested to hear people's thoughts on my further analysis.

    One important question is: what is the main desire or motivation driving the people in the four categories? Here's what I currently believe. Does it ring true to you?

    Upholders wake up and think,

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  • ChristineKohAshaDornfestHappiness interview: Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest.

    Two friends of mine have just come out with a terrific book, Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less. It's particularly thrilling for me to hold this book in my hands, because I remember talking to them about it when it was still just the beginning of an idea they were playing with. And here it is, out in the world.

    It's a great guide for anyone who wants to have a happy home life, by keeping things simple, calm, and in tune with family values.

    Asha is the force behind the terrific site Parent Hacks - "forehead-smackingly smart tips that help you simplify family life, save money, and have fun." Christine is the founder and editor of Boston Mamas - "a lifestyle portal for families in Boston and beyond."

    I wanted to ask them both about their thoughts on happiness.

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

    Christine: Running or some kind of physical

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  • Try These 6 Quick Story Exercises to Spark Your Creativity

    writing-storyAt the recommendation of a friend, I read Blake Snyder's Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You'll Ever Need. She told me that while she wasn't writing a screenplay, the book was extremely helpful for writing any kind of story.

    She's right, it's a fascinating look at storytelling, and it also includes some terrific exercises to foster creativity. This kind of playful thinking is fun. It's fun to mess around with ideas, to have new thoughts, to come up with a great idea. It might even inspire you to write a screenplay or start a novel.

    Blatant self-promotion: in The Happiness Project, I talk about my experience of writing a novel in a month, inspired by the book, No Plot? No Problem!, written by Chris Baty, also the founder of National Novel Writing Month. Yes, I wrote a novel as long as The Great Gatsby in thirty days. (Actually, I've written three very bad novels, all safely locked in a desk drawer.)

    Sometimes creativity exercises are a bit boring -

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Pagination

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