Secret of Adulthood: What I Do Every Day Matters More Than What I Do Once in a While.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

Agree or disagree?

For me, I find, this is really true. If something’s important to me, I try to figure out a way to make it part of my ordinary routine.


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    Hi Gretchen, I’ve had a lot of fun with the ideas in your book and actually did a monthly resolution for a year. These were ambitious like your “write a novel” month (learn Spanish! Knit a dress) but fun to attempt and actually started me off on some cool projects. As for this, I totally agree and appreciate the reminder. Daily attention to anything automatically increases its importance and influence on your life. Two things we started doing every day a few years ago were dinner together every night and saying grace. Commitment to these two things has had a huge impact on our family life, much more so than any vacation could. Keep the insights coming! We’re all trying to make our lives happier along with you.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so thrilled to hear that my work resonates with you and your family! That’s very nice to hear. Good luck with YOUR happiness project!

  • peninith1

    Yes, here’s where having routines becomes very powerful. You choose what you want to do, make it an every day action or activity, and develop a pattern of life that leads where you want your life to go. It’s important occasionally to ‘go off the path’ in order to ward off boredom and rigidity, but everyday attention to chosen things brings about amazing results.
    Now, how do I make eating properly something that I do every day!? That’s the one pigeon of discontent in my arsenal of daily choices. If I could choose consistently to adjust that, I would lose a major source of unhappiness.

  • Elisa

    Hi Gretchen! I’m a big fan of your books. Just wanted to thank you for your work and your blog, and for letting me discover the existance of 14 books of OZ (I live in Italy and we have translated only ONE, so I had to buy these on Amazon!). Also, thumbs up for your book club idea! 🙂
    A huge hug to you and your family!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for your kind words! And oh, the Oz books. What a treat. Just seeing mine on the shelf makes me happy.

  • Chris

    I disagree. Usually I agree with your postulates on secrets for adulthood, but this one rubbed me the wrong way and I had to think for a bit about why. I think that I’ve put together my thoughts well enough to share…

    I find that the things that I do every day might add to my contentment, but it’s the extraordinary things that I am involved with (either do directly, witness or play some small role in) only occasionally that make me happy. It’s those mile markers that give me faith that I am becoming a better version of myself or give me hope for future repeats of similarly impacting events.

    Perhaps it’s only splitting hairs between contentedness and happiness, but I find the former to be passive and subject to atrophy and eventually resentment while I find the latter active and a function of investment, renewal and regeneration.

    As always, thank you for giving me a mile marker by sharing your beliefs to give me an opportunity to consider and tune my own.

    • gretchenrubin

      Very thought-provoking. Your points remind me of another Secret of Adulthood: the opposite of a profound truth is also true. Just the opposite of this Secret of Adulthood is also true!

    • peninith1

      I have found that if I don’t have the routines (and the contentment) the creativity and boost from the extraordinary things can’t be fully enjoyed because there’s just too much chaos. It IS a balancing act, but I find that having routines is a critical foundation for me–then I can reap the joys and benefits of going off the path.

      • I definitely find this to be the case.
        Living well daily provides me with contentment and satisfaction that builds over time. There’s definitely a cumulative effect here that is really powerful.
        But living well daily also gives me the confidence and freedom to do something different, special, off the beaten path, every so often. And those moments are special and meaningful as well.
        I think there are elements of both “experiential” happiness as well as “reflective” happiness at play with this question. And I think that cultivating both are important.

  • I agree, particularly when one has a goal in mind. For me, working on a second novel in the very beginning stages can be unsettling. It is so easy to procrastinate with something more “urgent”. So for me, writing every day, whether it is my blog, novel, or a story contest, keeps the muse fed. ‘Once in a while’ would be very frustrating.

  • I so absolutely agree. I just recently reflected on this to my husband about the area of rest; so many people I know fill their schedule every day, and then try to “rest” by taking a weekend off. But I don’t think it works like that. Either you rest regularly, or you won’t “be” rested.

    Thanks for saying so!

    • gretchenrubin

      A great observation. Some things can’t be banked.

  • Yes, small
    steps everyday often gets you all the way, is the only way?

    But, let’s
    not be hard on ourselves, I think it’s better to do something once in a while
    than not at all, at least if it’s good for you.

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s a good point. Better sometimes than never, for many things.

  • Oh my gosh. Gretchen, I’m in awe that you read my blog. Thank you for the plug! I read your first book this summer, and it made a huge impression on me. In particular, I am working on nurturing stronger friendships — using similar strategies to yours. You know, it’s working like a charm — with a super duper happiness pay off. Did I read in your book: Actions become Habits… Habits become Character… Character becomes Destiny. Same idea as your Secret of Adulthood featured today.

  • Ashok K. Gupta

    Well, yes and no, because what one does every day is very important to one and some other people who might depend on it. Like milkman bringing milk every morning, paper boy throwing paper on the door steps and mom wakes up early and makes breakfast and prepares lunch to take to school- all these things are very very important.

    But, it’s like stroke of genius doesn’t hit every day. One day out of blue you help a kid, just on the right day and right time and he or she gets motivated by just one incident makes something about his/ her life. It is just like offering your hand to a drowning person-which saves his life. How often one can claim that they have done that, even if you work as a lifeguard- not every day.

    • gretchenrubin

      Very true. Secret of Adulthood: The opposite of a profound truth is also true!