Secret of Adulthood: What’s Fun for Other People May Not Be Fun for You–and Vice Versa.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:


This sounds so obvious, but it was a huge revelation for me. Even now, I have to remind myself that people go skiing because they honestly want to go skiing, not because they are made from a sterner moral fiber than I am.

I explore this at some length in Happier at Home. Be Gretchen! It sounds so easy, but I find it very challenging. How about you? (Feel free to substitute your own name, of course.)

  • Ginger

    I like how you put it… they are not made from a stronger moral fiber. Sounds so obvious when you say it this way, but I know I’m often guilty of feeling guilty when I don’t enjoy something.

  • adorita

    I’m often coerced into doing supposedly-fun-things such as dancing and shopping, I get very stressed out that I’m not enjoying it. I don’t think anyone is obligated to enjoy anything at all. The stress came from trying to have shared experiences with friends, and the loneliness of not having friends who would enjoy similar things.

  • Randee Bulla

    I cannot tell you how freeing it was when I read this in your book. That is ok to not like what everyone else seems to like and that it’s ok to just embrace what really makes you happy. I’m no longer embarrassed by any of it nor seek to justify or hide my preferences. For example, I don’t like watching sports on tv and don’t really follow what any of the teams are doing and now refuse to feel odd because of it. I embrace that I love feeding and watching birds, working out for hours at a time, reading almost any fiction (romance to science fiction) novel that allows me to have so many adventures, and seeking out experiences with small groups of friends because I prefer deeper conversations than you can get in a crowd. BIG sigh of relief to just be who I am.

  • Amy

    This is something that I find so much easier to accept about others (I’m not offended that you don’t like my favorite band!) than myself! I love what you said about sterner moral fiber. I find myself thinking if I don’t like something someone else really loves, it’s my deficiency. Similarly, I am trying to make myself ask people to define words they use that I don’t know and not just pretend I know them!

  • Jenna

    I was trying to explain this to a new roommate of mine yesterday and felt very judged by her comments. Nothing is wrong with me because most of the time I prefer to stay in rather than go out!

  • Jeanmarie

    “I cannot tell you how freeing it was when I read this in your book.” My thoughts exactly, Randee.

  • Christy King

    Similarly, what’s hard for you may be easy for others. If what you’ve done is a big deal to you, be proud, even if other people don’t understand why.

    • gretchenrubin

      SUCH a good point.

  • Carolyn

    I still don’t think people let you off the hook that easily when you don’t like something that they “expect” you to do and like. Unfortunately, in my case, I don’t like being the only one who puts on the holidays. The dinners, the gifts, the desserts, all the family birthdays. This is blasphemous I know but I’d like just one holiday where someone else does the work. Or shares the work. I would love to not dread “holiday season”. Part of this is a stage of life thing (daughters not quite on their own yet) and part of it is circumstance (unmarried male siblings who will never marry, deceased parents and inlaws). Anyway, I’ve decided to simplify big time and drop completely what I don’t want to simplify but it does affect other people and most of them probably see me as being selfish.

    • MimiManderly

      As to the holidays, my husband and I used to loathe them. Then we decided to celebrate OUR way. Now, every Christmas we go to a blockbuster movie that is better seen on the big screen, followed by dinner at an Indian restaurant (usually open and better than a diner. Hotel restaurants are open, but usually crowded.)

      Your brothers are old enough to make other arrangements. Perhaps they have friends who will invite them. Daughters can come along… but perhaps THEY have secretly been dreading all the family stuff as well, and want to spend it with their friends.

      Once you decide to opt out and be unapologetic about it, you will see SUCH a reduction in stress and depression around the holidays. I know this contributed a LOT to my happiness!

      • Carolyn

        I do agree with you Mimi in every way. My one brother in particular enjoys the traditions from our childhood but he doesn’t see any need to provide them for me so I shouldn’t always have to provide them for him either. My husband’s family is large enough that they don’t miss us. It’s a work in progress but change is gonna happen :).

  • peninith1

    This is why I have always HATED corporate ‘forced fun’ activities supposedly designed to build team spirit and the like. Egad, these ghastly adult games drove me bananas. The only alternative for introverts like me was to play along for the sake of others in my group. Large social gatherings similarly are really hard for me to enjoy. Generally I go early and leave early and keep a low profile. I am never going to be the life of anyone’s party, although I can be pretty happy in a family gathering of up to 20 people. The best I can do at a large event is make a strong attempt to appreciate the effort others have gone to to create a party, and not be a poor sport. I have found that it is sometimes helpful to find another person in the crowd who is also pretty obviously intimidated or overwhelmed, and find a way to enjoy a quiet conversation. I tend to just not go, if the event is really optional.

  • Isn’t it really about taking responsibility for ourselves and our choices? It is a choice whether to participate or not. I don’t enjoy everything that my wife likes to do. We have a honest, open conversation on whether we or just she is going to participate. If I agree to go along on something that isn’t on my preferred list of activities, I remember that discussion and my choice to go anyway.

  • Anna

    This may be my favorite of your ‘Secrets of Adulthood.’ It’s something that I eventually learned in my 20s and now I still have to remind myself sometimes that it’s okay to decline an invitation to something that I am not going to enjoy. That, combined with finally understanding that being an introvert isn’t a bad thing (thanks to Susan Cain’s Quiet) have made adulthood more liberating!

    • gretchenrubin

      So happy that it strikes a chord with you.

  • CJ

    It is so easy to project some type of meaning to what people like or don’t like — we can be pretty rough on ourselves. Ie, liking staying = I should be more social, not liking extreme sports = I should be more adventurous.

    Like what you like, just check in to make sure it’s genuine preference vs. NOT doing something you might want to do because of fears or labels. Thanks for the post.

  • Sadye

    Yep, as an introvert, I sometimes just want to go home from work, and if that happens on a “fun” night of the week, I beat myself up over it. I know a lot of extroverts, and socializing A LOT is fun for them, while it’s more fun for me in moderation … however I think because extroversion is generally more valued I don’t see my fun as “OK.”

  • Prince Kennedy

    The albums “Boomerang” and “Goodmorning Africa”, conveys message of perseverance and fight against social injustice around the world, also encouragement and incentive to confirm that everything one dreams, can be realised. The innovative blend of rhythms and melodies, takes over the listener, transporting him or her to places and situations described by our song. We have a public waiting to listen to us we hope to connect them, in all continents.

  • Kate

    I feel this bit of wisdom I first pondered after reading it here, is something I re-learn every day when I read my friends’ Facebook posts. Several friends talk about their running/marathon training; one friend is obsessed with Walt Disney & Disneyland, etc. Things I could care less about! (Which doesn’t mean I don’t care about the people.)

    And I know some of these same folks are out there, looking at my posts and thinking, vegetable gardening, how utterly boring, or why would anyone want to go on a swamp tour, or, I don’t care about hockey. So every day there is that little reminder….

  • peninith1

    Wow, such an interesting observation. I guess this puts me in the ‘abstainer’ category. While I may not eat the whole half gallon of ice cream, I will have it for dessert every day until it is gone . . . and as another person says, salty snacks just keep tasting better all the way to the bottom of the bag. I would have to admit that the 10th bite may not be as good as the first, but it very often leads to the 11th and 12th. Never thought of the distinction between moderators and abstainers that way, though I know that I’m an abstainer.

    • peninith1

      whoops this is a response to your 1st bite or 10th bite entry! sorry!

  • Amy

    I chose to miss Christmas dinner at the last minute because my sister that hosted the event didn’t inform anybody that it was a large party w many of her friends and not just the small gathering that it was made out to be originally. I actually sent along my small dish that I made, and my mom ended up carpooling w friends. Mom ended up drinking too much because she was so uncomfortable w so many people. After explaining that I didn’t like the bait n switch, and this “party” thing is an ongoing difference between us, she still doesn’t get that what she likes is not what my mom nor I like.

  • Heidi

    Gretchen, could this be related to you being an Upholder? (At least I think that’s what you call the category of people who are very interested in following the rules.) I’m a Questioner with a strong Rebel tendency, and I don’t have this same difficulty with justifying my preferences. My response to “Be Heidi” in the context of preferences is “Of course. Who else would I be?”

    And I agree with Christy King – we should be proud of accomplishing things that are hard for us as individuals, and if people don’t understand that it was hard, well, other things are hard for them that were easy for us.

    I have found the admonition to “Be Heidi” useful on other fronts besides fun. When I’m trying to do something that’s difficult for me (like organizing something), telling myself to Be Heidi reminds me that what works for other people may not work for me, and I shouldn’t be surprised or frustrated about it. Just try something else.

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