A Very Big Question. What’s Your Answer?

Here’s a question for you.

2013 is almost here (how did that happen, by the way?). If, by the end of 2013, you could magically change one aspect of your life, what would you change? What single thing would add the most to your happiness?

You know my next question.

With that aim in mind, can you come up with concrete, manageable steps that would help you accomplish it?

As I’ve worked on my happiness projects, I’ve been surprised to discover how easy it is to be unhappy with some aspect of my life, but somehow never try to do anything about it. And many times, once I tried to do something about it, it wasn’t even very hard to improve it.

  • I would choose to change my “shyness” around strangers. There are so many wonderful and sometimes lonely people out there to meet and share a few moments with.

  • I would be more systematic in my daily routines. Action step: I will post the daily writing/exercise/meditation/networking schedule the way I want it to go the rest of this year. It will be on one of those giant post-it notes in my office. I will thank you, Gretchen, every time I look at it, and I will wish you happiness! Hope to be ready to rock and roll in 2013.

    • gretchenrubin

      Good luck!

  • Maureen

    I would like to be someone that thinks a bit more positive or optimistically. I want to stop worrying so much.

  • Megan Gordon

    My work situation. I’ve been at the same job (no advancement here) for nearly 10 years and it is not longer challenging nor fulfilling. To make matters worse, it’s becoming an increasingly toxic environment. By the end of 2013, I would love to be free of it and happily writing on a freelance basis.
    My husband will be able to retire in August and find a new job outside the public sector. His pension will more than cover my current income, so I should be able to make the transition quite painlessly. Leading up to that I will be putting things in place so I can hit the ground running.

  • peninith1

    No question. It’s the excess weight that depresses me about my appearance, choice of clothes, and makes it more awkward for me to move every darn day. And it’s not good for my health.. So easy to know what’s the number one thing that would make my life the MOST better every day. Many tries. Some temporary success. Better information and tools–so, why am I not already working on this? That — starting, keeping on, and maintaining a success — seems to be the hard part.

    • UNO

      tact, class, way you carry yourself, said it for a year with loving how you did it, only one red flag to me within that entire year, the night you showed up to get me and had to go make change, lol, c’mon already, can’t wait to hear our song!!

  • Francisco Vega

    Making hard decisions, I´ve been thinking about starting my own business, I have a lot of work donde, yet I´m still in working in an office. I need to be able to take the decisions and try to do it now that I don´t have any responsabilities…

  • JellyBean

    If we could really use magic, I would change the climate of where I live to be more like where I grew up 🙂
    I want to be able to wear shorts and sandals for at least 9 months per year instead of 3 months. In summer I feel so FREE!!! So ALIVE!!!
    Not sure how to accomplish this… Can’t move back where I grew up because it’s a political mess. Married to someone who doesn’t want to leave this province. A conundrum indeed.

    • disqus_EsWApwfuuN

      Bikram yoga? I’ve moved from the tropics to the rainy northern regions and it is bridging the gap. That 90 minutes of warm lasts a few days :).

  • I would love to change my career. I feel like my current job is monotonous and not challenging. It is very hard to find new jobs in my field. I also just feel uninspired by the field I chose and went to graduate school for. I really need to explore doing something involving nutrition, wellness and/or fitness. It’s frustrating though because I haven’t found a way to become educated in those fields that doesn’t involve a lot of money. The single thing that would add to my happiness would be to quit my current job and start a new one or find the perfect way to transition to a brand new career.

    • gretchenrubin

      You might be interested in Michael Melcher’s book, “The Creative Lawyer.” It’s written for lawyers, but really applies to anyone who is trying to switch from one career to another. Lots of ideas about how to do that in a strategic, gradual way, so that you lay the groundwork for success in the new field.

  • I would love to find a way to spend more time with my husband and more joy in my job. Actionable step: take on fewer work projects for 2013.

  • I would magically eliminate my student debt, but I can’t think of anything I can do towards that, other’n what I’ve been doing, which is to pay off what I owe each month. (There isn’t really any extra cash around that I could be sending in to chip away at the balance.)

  • JillHolly

    I would cure my tinnitus. The end of this year will be the second anniversary of its onset. I’m not as miserable as I was the first year, which was completely miserable but it still makes me unhappy in a way nothing else can. (I’m generally a pretty happy person, but when I’m tired or frustrated, the 24/7 buzzing in my ear is pretty discouraging.) I’ve tried various things to cure it, so far to no success. Acupuncture was the best; it made me more at peace with the ringing. But I was going every week and that got expensive, so I stopped. I’ve decided to try it again though, so I feel hopeful. But if I could just magically make the noise go away…oh, what a dream!

    • Meg R

      I know what you mean, I very seldom have total silence any more and miss that. I have the TV or radio going in the background to distract me from paying attention to it. Play classical music for reading. I miss silence a lot.

  • Diana

    Gretchen, what one thing would you change?

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m pondering that!

  • I would build up my writing skills and marketing!

  • A big question, a huge question! I would like to find a way to help fill that desperate, quiet need so many people have. Not the starving children in Africa kind, but the husband doesn’t communicate well, am desperately worried about money, my child isn’t coping at school, i have no friends, I’m new in town, I drink/spend/eat more than I should, I’m cracking at the seams kind that so many of us experience. The true, agonising, desperate, grief-filled worry that eats us from the inside out and that we can’t really talk about because it doesn’t have a proper name. The kind of horrible stuff I’ve just emerged from and recognise in so many people around me. How do I do that? How can I help? I need to find a way.

    Also, I want to write a book, run a half marathon, meditate three times a week at least and generate income. So, not a small task then. But at least I know what it is I want to do… 🙂

    Thanks Gretchen. You are a big part of my sanity.

    • gretchenrubin

      Those are really big, important aims. Good luck. I hope your 2013 brings a lot of terrific change.

    • Amyd

      Wow, Andrea – you really need to start writing…this is great & so much how so many people feel…good luck with making your 2013 brilliant x

    • LeeLee

      Wow…. you took the words right out of my mouth, the thoughts from my head and that feeling right out of my heart… I could not have said it any better… I have so much going on.. but yet so much I want to do… so many interests and yet so much that I am responsible for.. lol.. what I call “The Single Mom affect” that still desires the american dream like every one else and no support, in a place with no family other than her kids.. then again what is the american dream anymore these days? lol… Maybe we can help each other come up with some really good ideas! 🙂

  • joyce b powell

    It’s hard to choose One thing. At my age, there are so many things undone. If I choose one thing I Can do something about, I would choose getting my craft studio completely organized and set up to use. Right now it is a big room with a big jumble. Part of my new happiness project is to work every day on it to get in done.

    • peninith1

      You will find this so endlessly rewarding! (-:

    • UNO

      On that note, let me work on me, stay the hell away from the glaziers and all this cold, do some of what all I just read and invest in me, not sure yet of the specifics, but i do know endlessly without you having to say it, but 1700 apart, I use to have 2 daily desires, one is no longer worth it, waste of money and life, the other, let you decide! lol uno how it goes, i guess I am curious of all the specifics, and btw you said you were gonna be shopping…zzz, hmu!

  • Johnny

    As always, love remain the basement of hapiness. So, I’,m looking for….Are you available next year?

  • juhli

    If magic were to happen I’d move to the part of the country where my sons now live. 5 years before that can happen so I will continue to declutter and maintain our home so it will sell readily when the time comes. This year though I am focusing on being a person who comes across as full of joy and energy. Actionable steps are to increase and vary my exercise activities, schedule my day to include things that I am enthusiastic about and work on my ability to respond well in stressful situations. I have my sons and their sweethearts as wonderful role models for this.

    • UNO

      unconditional love then what I have ever felt in my life, but I hate the fact that I come across as all knowing or use of a different vocabulary or all this, this I would like to work on and fix as I view as character flaws, I really long for the simpler life, fast car, maybe to rock every other sunday, if I had today after all this lately, can u imagine showing up at the office everyday in it – Naaaa, we’ll rock it when we go to show or nice drive 😀

  • KatieB

    I would like to be a doer, not a worrier. A creater, not just full of ideas. A decision-maker, not just the one who goes with the flow.

    I used to watch my Mom and see her as someone who was standing on the diving board (of life) and too afraid to jump in. She did eventually.

    I want to jump!

    Concrete, manageable steps: Define my philosophical mission for the year to give me focus (like Gretchen’s Choose the Bigger Life), make a list of 5-10 values that are most important to me and put that list on my bathroom mirror, Conquer nagging tasks (work on landscaping our yard a little bit every weekend), Work at work, take one small creative idea and turn it into reality…even if it fails (interview my Grandmas and write it down).

  • Nancy Essex

    I would magically be able to help my son, who is a high school senior, see how many opportunities he’s throwing away! So difficult to not be able to get through. Gretchen, I’m looking forward to your book, Happier Parenting.

  • Diana

    I want to notice and savor the many magic moments in my life and mindfully create more of those moments each day. I just bought a special notebook that I will strive to write in every day as an aid to this. It can be one sentence, it can be more, as long at is in service of this goal.

  • Michelle M

    Worry Less!! Even though some worrying is good, it causes me to take careful precautions, too much worry is draining. Dr Weil says relaxing breathing will help, as will avoiding caffeine, and partaking in exercise (which I generally do). Also taking action about things I can do something about. Putting my worries on paper to see if they are realistic or exaggerated. Will taxes go up crazy high? Will the kids do their homework? Will the college funds be sufficient for each of them to finish school or will the markets tank? OK I think these are realistic fears 😉 On the other hand I want to travel with them now that they are young teens and enjoy the world with them before they leave for college and my husband and I are old.

  • Ripe for Change

    I think back to your interview with Rebekah. She said something to the effect “remove all people and things that do not add value to your life.” I made a list and I intend to put at least a few items into actionable steps for 2013. Some examples that add value to my life would be to attend my place of worship on a consistent basis, make fitness a part of my daily routine, find work I enjoy, to be present, and to give back. Some things to eliminate, or at least cut back on, would be alcohol, shame, gossip, excess facebook/internet/tv, needless worry. I love lists. By making this list, it will keep me focused and driven to change. Happy Holidays!

  • Dr. Christi Hegstad

    What a thought-provoking question! I’ve found that wording we choose is so important, too. I replace “change” with “transform” most of the time – it seems less like a “should” to me. An example I shared with other women business owners yesterday: rather than “I need to change my online presence,” try “I am transforming my online presence.” Maybe just semantics, but it seems to make a difference 🙂

  • Molly

    This is tough. I feel like the thing I want has alluded me in spite of my efforts. I have one son after many years of trying (through in vitro), but I long for more children. We tried our last frozen embryos last year and if I want more, it would be more invasive expensive procedures or adoption, etc. I want more children, but just don’t know if I have any more fight (not to mention money) in me. Yet, I can’t get this off my mind and cannot get going on other goals enthusiastically b/c I feel like I”m still still stuck here. I don’t know what to do anymore.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is so tough. Hang in there.

      • Molly

        Thanks Gretchen!

    • this is a really tough one, i am unable to relate in a way because i have children. that said, i can tell you that having children is very stressful. my oldest is in college, she’s worried sick about paying her college debt as i can’t afford to help her with it. but she is a good girl, she’s on the right path. my son is a drug addict and dropped out of high school. it breaks my heart but its the path he chose, there is nothing i can do but watch, wait and pray. this doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to deal with these kinds of issues. my thought for you is to savor every minute that you have with your son. it can be hard but try to make each day magical and special for your son. you will feel better when you know you’re providing a safe and fun environment for your son. your son will feel like he’s inherited the world once he becomes an adult and realizes how special his mom is! your feelings of longing won’t go away as i can definitely relate to that! you can lessen the worry and intensity by focusing on your son, but its a double edged sword… don’t focus so much that you lose yourself… best of luck.

  • peninith1

    Thanks! You are right about this. I have had GREAT success in achieving many other aims. This one has been more ‘unmanageable’ for me. I ‘know’ that what really works as nothing else seems to after many years of the yo-yo effect and a metabolism now dominated by insulin resistance, is a very low-carb regime. This is sort of the opposite of my favorite eating habits. I need to ‘just do it’ of course. I am letting a host of family stresses + a love of self indulgence get in my way. Again, thanks!

    • Machtelt

      Your welcome!
      Because helping somebody might makes us both feel happier(gretchen’s idea 😉 ), may I help you next year?

    • UNO

      quit being so hard on yourself, we are our own worst critics, compromise, take whatever you need, just continue loving me, im done with cold weather, i’ll try all else to be better, but what’s the song that says “gone and fucked everything up” I seem to do well in every decision I make, I better pick a path and set goals, achieve dreams!

  • Dear Gretchen,

    At first I thought, “there is nothing I would like to change ( and as a life-time learner who gets ridiculed for spending a good deal of time in the Personal Development section…”Magically Change” is not in my regular (real or imagined ) bag of tricks.) However, there is one thing that nags me. I like your inevitable next question. Thanks very much for your work. Kindest regards, Suzanne

  • lizacat

    Giving myself permission to be simply, completely and guiltessly happy.

  • spacymd

    I would like to be 80 lbs lighter without the current health issues I have related to my weight.

  • manju thomas

    ITs not just one thing , couple of things i would like to focus for 2013,
    continue my healthy eating and workout habits ( something i started in 2011 and continued in 2012)
    Being patient with my son , when helping him with his homework
    Create a retirement plan

  • WWW

    I would be happily partnered.

    • UNO

      amen, u see my words, sense of two hearts beating as one, why ever leave, i’m not sure I could do what it appears, you do, til you click with one and then your free

  • Anne

    Go to bed around 10pm.

  • for 2013, i’d like to have my own home. not just a house but a home where people feel comfortable to hang out. as i just filed for divorce, its gonna be a tough goal but with small steps, i can get there!

  • lindenwood

    I would love to be out of debt. It probably won’t happen this year, but I have a plan, and every month I chip away at it. Paid off one card this year and am looking at, minimum, 2 more in 2013. It’s hard to do as a single mom with kids and a house — just checked balances, and it looks like I’ve actually added $5000 this year. But there was a PLUS loan for my son’s college, new tires on the car, and a lot more honesty in reporting now than then. If I had a fairy godmother, the slate would be wiped clean and I could work on retirement savings, and maybe take a vacation. But sometimes one just has to put on her big-girl panties and get a wand of her own. 🙂

    • disqus_EsWApwfuuN

      I love your approach to this… we are only as powerful as we allow ourselves to be. And you have such a powerful voice about what you can (and will) do!

  • This is a great question! I think many of my issues come from a lack of self-confidence. I hear the negative voices telling me I can’t lose weight, I’m fat, nobody likes me..its overwhelming and depressing. This time next year I’d like to be in a better place emotionally. I’d like to build enough confidence in myself that I can go after all my goals with gusto and a plan. I’ve spent many years inactive and depressed. I want to take control over my life and I’m going to make the choice not to be depressed about life or my circumstances.

  • Dawn

    Meditate. Make meditation a daily part of my life. 15 to 30 minutes daily of quiet reflection, prayer, journaling, painting. I will begin by writing times in my daily calendar and stopping what I am doing to make time for this.

  • maxresonance

    Hmmmm… All my boys are settled, the grandkids thriving. My relationship ditto. We live in my absolute favorite spot in my absolute favorite city. So other than wanting some changes in the _world_, of which I can think of a whole bunch, for myself _personally_ I would like to elevate my hedonic setpoint to orgasmic all the time. Thank you for asking.

  • Meg R

    Procrastination. I have tried many things to alleviate being in this state, making lists, setting deadlines, breaking tasks down, TO-DO lists, even rewards and I never reward bad behavior. As I said below, I always have noise going to distract me from the ringing in my ears, so getting caught up in a show, tv or radio, is not that difficult. I had not realized how many things I do that goes better with silence, reading, writing, playing an instrument, even some clear thinking. I’ve found that if I stick to a regular diet of fruits and vegetables, not a lot of meats spices, sugars ( like zero on that one) or anything that will cause my system to work harder seems to cause the ringing to start. A basket of fruit sits out, no bananas – they are hard to digest. Meals are soups, salads, veg stir fry, steamed medleys, etc. Its like an allergy and by eating right the ringing retreats. No meats, no sweets, no breads, no dairy.

  • Maria

    I would be grateful for the happiness right under my nose! I’ve gone through some really tough times for the past 2 years and many of the things I thought were a necessity weren’t really important at all. My favorite quote this year is “You’re only as happy as you allow yourself to be,” so in 2013, I’m going to get out of the way of my happiness. I will actively and openly be grateful for at least one thing/person every day. I will practice staying in the moment, and “anticipate the future joyfully or not at all!”

  • Margaret Lacey

    For me the key word here is “magically”. I am a pretty happy person, and enjoy a quality of life that is pretty darn wonderful, and which I don’t take for granted. But I have osteoarthritis, especially in my knees, and while it isn’t bad enough to require knee replacement yet, the pain is chronic, and does sometimes limit what I want to do. If I could magically change something in my life, I would have my 50-year-old body feel as good as my spirit does!

    • UNO

      cement pond!

  • Ann

    I have thought about this for a few years now. 3 things had to change/ go and let go of, but the hard part for me was getting the HELP I needed in order to do these things.
    The first thing that had to change was my constant anxiety which began in childhood,
    The 2nd thing I needed to change/ let to of was the coping skills I used, which no longer served me, but instead kept me in that constant downspiral of anxiety, shame and guilt.
    The third thing that needed to go was all the clutter and junk.
    Where to start, when you feel overwhelmed and desperate to change but can’t?
    After 5 years of trying different types of therapy, CBT, etc , I learned Transcendental Meditation and worked with an amazing hypnotist, which allowed be to break out of the old mindsets and helped me overcome my reliance on detrimental habits to escape the anxiety, stress and pressures that had accumulated over years, and see clearly for the first time the many things in my life that I am truly grateful for.
    Now I have more clarity, and I have sought out the help I need to be able to plan how to sell my busines, transition into work that feeds my soul, and move to the place where I have chosen to start the next chapter of my life journey, with my husband of many years.
    We all have this crazy notion that we should be able to do it all ourselves, figure it all out, and implement all things ourselves. This is wrong. We may need some help and we definately need each other for support.

  • Sabine

    After 4 years of trying to have children, with 6 failed tries of fertility treatments, I´d love to “magically” finally get and stay pregnant or finally be able to make my peace with the fact that it just might not be meant for us. And that that is ok too for us and everyone around us. Living in Scandinavia where having children seems to be a subject of prestige and with siblings on my and my husbands side with all having 3 to 4 children – it is really unbearable sometimes. I would try to magically make everyone stop saying that we “just need to relax” – it makes me scream!!!

    • Linda

      I’ve been where you are, many years ago, and found my way to happiness through acceptance and looking for joy in other things. Have now been happily married to a wonderful man for 33 years, and we live a very full life without children. We are able to do things many people only dream of because of this freedom. We have many nieces and nephews and their children to enjoy without envy. Good luck with finding what’s right for you and finding your own path to happiness.

  • Marty

    I want more “human being” and less “human doing”. I am a very organized, efficient, multi-tasker and I get a lot done – but I am really noticing that “the days are long and the years are short”. Time flies by and I sometimes don’t notice all of the happiness that is already around me. I think a combination of yoga, meditation, prayer and reserving quiet time might help with becoming more conscious and present in my daily life.

  • Kathy Morgan

    For me it is my job. I been so unhappy in my job but after yesterday’s events in CT…I have decided that I love my job. I work with special needs students as an Adapted PE teacher. When I got home yesterday and watched the news I couldn’t help but cry. How could I not love a job that works with little angels that live here on earth. So instead of looking for ways to get out of this job..I am going to find new ways to enjoy it!

  • UNO

    Always hired friends, former employees that I recruited, some crossed lines with, some haven’t, never has it ever been an issue, this was a rude awakening, I had a “come to Jesus” of all of the little things, from even joking around and the younger kids, however, if a complacent environment, sales and vision suffers, however, I want to make good impressions, teach valuable lessons, and some of what I read supports i am a good leader and based on the hire of perhaps the wrong assistant, almost cost me everything and still may. What exactly happened? I know the date that everything changed, and we all worked together, so lots went into those times, emotions, feelings, maybe was good, maybe was a bad moment,, I wish maybe I was never involved, and really don’t understand how it could have turn out this way, assuming the muslim was one that i know, a good worker, at times, yea, overall, but if i’m the one saying plain english, verbatim, and it could have been yes or no, lean in or all the way through, but to continue playing make belief, idk, if me, i’d either see it as an investment or a pass. Maybe I have that wrong, but it happened, and was unconditional, feels like there was maybe a few of that wanted a certain outcome and wanted it at all expense. Then phone call, reverse, what, idk, going to sleep, let me know, even though they most likely want to exclude me. It all happened so fast. I’m going to regain control, if I’m not mistaking as what others are already saying and it’s too late. We’ll see tomorrow!

  • beverley

    I didn’t know but now i do, the one thing that would make me happy would be to lose the excess weight i am carrying around with me everywhere and to fit into normal clothes and to stop saying it doesn’t matter i’m disabled, when it clearly still does