Secret of Adulthood: Enthusiasm Makes Difficult Tasks Easy.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:


The more I think about happiness, the more I value enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is a form of social courage — it’s safer to criticize and scoff than to praise and embrace — and I’ve decided that I’d rather be “enthusiastic” than “confident.”

I have a patron saint for enthusiasm. Can you guess it? Julia Child! (This post about Julia Child may be one of my favorite posts ever.)

It can seem cooler and smarter to be ironic, detached, or critical, and it’s certainly much easier and safer to adopt that sort of stance. But enthusiasm is more fun. Enthusiasm is generous, positive, energetic, and social. It’s outward-turning and engaged. It’s unselfconscious, warm-hearted, and kind of goofy. Like Julia Child!

Also, enthusiasm makes difficult tasks easy. One interesting question for self-knowledge is: What do you memorize without effort? That tells you something important about yourself. Do you effortlessly remember sports scores, song lyrics, scientific facts, vocabulary words, recipes, details about friends’ lives?

When I feel enthusiastic about some undertaking, it comes so, so, so much more easily to me. For instance, writing. My husband is great at writing, but I’m a writer, and he’s not — because I have endless enthusiasm for writing and revising, and he doesn’t.

How about you? Do you find that enthusiasm makes an otherwise difficult task easy?

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  • Soujanya

    Willingness to do a task also makes task easy esp where drudgery involved like dishes.No one can be enthusiastic about dishes. Willingness to clean the dishes will make it easy.

  • Rachel

    I love this sentiment and agree wholeheartedly! I have to tell you that, “Enthusiasm is a form of social courage.” is one of my favorite quotes. It immediately resonated with me when I read it on your blog. It is, in fact, hanging on my living room wall – along with quotes from some of my other favorite thinkers!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! I’m so happy to hear that.

  • Shali Whalen

    Absolutely! I’m in my early 50’s and have been out of the “workforce” for some time. I’m one of the lucky ones :). I’ve just moved to a new province with my husband, and in an attempt to get to know people, I took a part-time job at a olive oil/balsamic vinegar tasting room during the busy holiday season. I was very nervous about my first day. It had been a long time since my “first day”. I promised my new employer that what I lacked in product knowledge, I would make for in enthusiasm. Yesterday was my first day and oh boy what a lot to remember – what flavour pairs with what, what goes with fish, beef, chicken… The list was endless. But because I love to cook and I was so enthusiastic, my first day was so much F-U-N and I learned so much. As an additional perk, I met some really nice people and they were so patient with me simply because, I believe, I was so enthusiastic! So Gretchen, your Secret of Adulthood was very timely for me. I love,love,love your writing and can’t wait for your new book.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great example!

      Thanks so much for your kind words.

  • Molly

    I agree with the importance of enthusiasm and how refreshing it is compared to other traits, yet that it is undervalued. And yes…Julia Child…a perfect example. She was really neat!

  • Alysa Stewart

    Agreed! Even fake enthusiasm helps in my case.

    I’d like to point out, quickly and kindly (sort of like when you see that someone has something in their teeth), that enthusiasm is missing an S in the image.

    Love your blog!!! woo!

  • Debra Quartermain

    Gretchen, love this and so true! I just turned 60, got married two weeks ago and nine months ago opened a 5 Star B&B. I had never stayed in one but always loved having guests. History was never my favorite subject but living in a 175 year old house I love, I am now a history buff and love telling my guests all about the rich history of this beautiful historic property. We are getting rave reviews and it is because of my living life just as you so wonderfully put it, enthusiasm. The place is decorated for the holidays and we have had parties and guests, the main comment is “magical and enchanting”! With enthusiasm we can share our best gifts and make a difference in people’s lives giving them moments and memories. Here is to enthusiasm!

  • Jeanne

    I never thought of myself as an enthusiastic person. Growing up in an unhappy home, I just dragged through childhood, mostly hoping I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. That was so long ago, and yet part of me was still identifying with that foot dragger even well into adulthood. Somewhere along the line, probably sometime in my late 20s, all the dragging stopped, and yet the way I labeled myself did not. Now in my early 60s, one day I noticed that the phrase I use most often in life is “I’m so excited!” This about everything from trying out a new recipe, to going shopping with a friend, to an upcoming vacation. I love everything I do now, no matter what. I’m an enthusiastic person, and have been for a long time. Who knew?

  • Dean Read

    Yes, very much agreed. Enthusiasm makes all the difference. It makes tasks and even goals much more doable.

  • Guest

    Yes, very much agreed. Enthusiasm makes all the difference. It makes tasks and even goals much more doable.

  • Well, I tried to post and had to sign in to another sight. So, you see, my enthusiasm must be high for I finally figured it out. Anyway, just to say, “Yes, very much agreed. Enthusiasm makes all the difference. It makes tasks and even goals much more doable.”