What’s Your Six-Word Secret of Happiness?

Since I started my happiness project, I’ve found that when I distill an idea into a short, memorable phrase, I do a better job of remembering and following it. For that reason, I work hard to capture my ideas succinctly. Examples:

  • The days are long, but the years are short.
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  • Happy people make people happy — but you can’t make someone be happy.
  • Accept myself, and expect more from myself.
  • Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.
  • Flawed can be more perfect than perfection.
  • Be selfless, if only for selfish reasons.
  • Make people happier by acknowledging that they’re not feeling happy.
  • Succeed by failing.
  • Be serious about play.

Along these lines, I’m teaming up with Smith Magazine, home of the fabulous Six Word Memoir. Now you can Share your six words on the secrets to happiness. How would you sum up what you’ve learned about happiness in six words (or less)? It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking exercise. I just checked out the site (again), and some recent additions include:

  • Worrying does not change a thing.
  • The cool side of the pillow.
  • Life is my canvas. I create.
  • Patronize only Mom and Pop establishments.
  • Justice, mercy, humility. Oh, and booze.
  • Plagiarize Shakespeare. Write yourself a sonnet.
  • Simple happiness growing complicated every day.
  • Be completely, absolutely, positively, totally unsure.
  • Tea, chocolate and a good book.

Lytton Strachey observed, “Perhaps the best test of a man’s intelligence is his capacity for making a summary.” The discipline of using six words helps make ideas stand out more starkly. Also, this kind of exercise is a terrific way to end the year and to head into 2011. It’s a creative, fresh way to think about yourself, your nature, and what’s important to you.

Check it out, and add your own secrets, here. I can’t wait to read more.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

* If you’re looking for ways to track and keep your resolutions, check out my companion website, the Happiness Project Toolbox. Eight free tools to help you start and track your own happiness project.

  • Do what you must and they’ll adjust.

  • Jennifer Cinder

    Gretchen, thank you for all the new posts these last few days! I discovered your blog a month ago or so, and I just started reading your book two days ago. I have to tell you I was laughing so much reading the introduction and the first chapter of your book. I relate to so many of the feelings you expressed there as well as the efforts you made to accept and improve your life. This six-word exercise was perfect for me today. I’ve been overwhelmed lately with all my ideas on how I want to make changes in my life. I now have a six-word secret to happiness and it is ‘Free your mind. Indulge your world.” I hope it will remind me to be brave and mindful and to move from the planning stage to the living stage of this process. Thank you again – for your advice and for being an inspiration! 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m thrilled to hear that my work resonates with you. I love your six-word

      • Isobel

        Here’s mine: “the love is all in you”. For those moments when you feel lost or lonely, it’s my key to happiness.

  • LivewithFlair

    I can choose to find beauty anywhere. My six words! I loved reading what others wrote above. I did write a 2 word resolution: Be Soap http://livewithflair.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-new-years-resolution-be-soap.html

  • Peninith1

    “Translate seductive ideas into concrete details” . . . that’s my six words for 2011. I chose ‘details’ as my word for the year after your post the other week . . . and synchronicity struck this week when my favorite funky horoscope column from Rob Brezny challenged me to focus on finding ways to make my seductive ideas become real in (no kidding) concrete detail. I MUST be on the right track!

  • Appreciate life’s simple pleasures.

  • I love finding this blog… the humor, the inspiration and the creativity. Creativity is important to me as I am a writer and a teacher. I’ve found such happiness in creating but it is only recently that I have seen the depth of connection between creativity and happiness. And it has nothing to do with getting my books published or getting a great review. Rather happiness and creativity seem to rise up out of the same well. And it’s not just creativity in the arts, but sourcing live through the rhythms and movements of the creative process itself. And so, I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately and have starting blogging about it quite a bit. If anyone is interested in happiness and creativity, I’d love to have you read some of what I’ve posted and share your experiences on my blog, The Divine Imagination: Inward Bound: http://creativesoulworks.blogspot.com/

    Thanks so much for all the inspiration and the unique style. It’s great!
    Have an abundant, joyous and creative year.

  • I love your saying, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” As a recovering perfectionist, I think about that all the time. I love seeing the examples of others’ six word happiness mantras, too….still working on mine. At any rate, Happy New Year!

  • CB

    Be kind, reframe, do it now.

    This is an amalgamation of the past month’s posts and it will help to make my world happier for 2011.

  • Remote Worker

    It’s my way or the highway

    Happy New Years! Thanks for all the inspiration in 2010.


  • Bryce A

    “A rising tide floats all boats.”
    – That’s been a mantra of mine for the better part of 2010.
    Happy New Year! A toast to a happier 2011 for all.

  • Rock and roll will never die.

  • Be willing to let life unfold.

  • Endeavor to change challenges into opportunities

  • Hard work is the only answer.

  • surfdr

    Wherever you go, there you are.

  • A phrase I’ve been using is “Floating on the wings of earthly angels.” It’s the title of one of my blog posts, but I think what makes me happy, sometimes, is seeing in my life, and others, how people can just “show up” when one is going through hard times. It doesn’t even take a hard time, it can take a celebration, too. Ok, so maybe that’s 7 words, not 6. This project, this blog, the whole concept that happiness is a journey, the actual pursuit of it is something that makes me happy. This community is fantastic.

    • breathejustbreathe

      I agree, there is such a feeling of wonder when an earthly angel appears right at a time when things so impossibly bleak. Early last week I was really having an in-the-abyss kind of day, and a friend out of the blue decided that I needed a new bicycle and against my protests took me to the bike shop and bought me one (appropriately white). Not only did her action lift me emotionally, her gift will allow me to soar along bike paths.

  • Debbie

    LOVE your book; LOVE your newletters; LOVE your quotes!!!
    My six word resolution for 2011 is: Learn to Dance in the Rain ~ based on a framed quote I read on the back of a bathroom door awhile ago!
    I’m trying very hard to live in the moment, be more mindful, do less worrying, etc. etc. etc. I think those 6 words say it all for me…

  • Cate

    Practice compassion for myself and others.

  • Stay hungry, stay foolish, stay you.

  • Wholeness, not perfection, ignites my happiness.

  • EmiL3e

    Unexpected visit from an old friend.

  • Enjoy life. Make a real difference!

  • Caty

    Happiness – a colorful gift box full of surprises. Boring days are not those remembered. So, making time for the surprise factor can trigger very happy moments.

    I love the idea of creating short sentences to summarize important ideas. If you want to read about happiness or even write your own opinion about it, you can sneak peak @
    http://73words.com/ .