Last week, my sister Elizabeth and I did something that felt very new and bold — we recorded an episode of our podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, live in front of a whole theater full of people.
And I was reminded of the importance of an atmosphere of growth.
As I discuss in The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I’ve identified Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness. (I was enchanted by all the numbered lists in Buddhism, so wanted to do my own numbered list.)
My First Splendid Truth is: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
It makes us happier to feel that we’re growing — that we’re learning, that we’re helping, that we’re making something grow, or fixing something that’s not working, or teaching someone, or improving ourselves.
For instance, my father was a great tennis player and played a lot when I was growing up. At some point, he started playing golf, and over time, gave up tennis. I asked him why. “My tennis game,” he explained, “was gradually getting worse, but my golf game is gradually improving.”
For Elizabeth and me, doing this live event was a major episode of growth. We’d never done anything like it before; the theater was sold out (yay!), so the stakes were high; we had a lot to remember and say and do.
We were both very anxious leading up to it, and that’s the uncomfortable thing about the atmosphere of growth: growth often means feeling anxious, frustrated, embarrassed or incompetent. There are often false starts, failures, and mistakes.
But then comes the atmosphere of growth, and it’s so satisfying.
One thing that made it easier? We had a terrific audience — quick to laugh and friendly, one that was on our side.
And Elizabeth and I had so much fun! We’d love to do it again! As we told ourselves backstage, “Tonight is the only time that we’ll be doing a live recording for the first time.”
Putting up with discomfort is sometimes part of the price for the atmosphere of growth.
How about you? Have you ever pushed yourself to do something that made you anxious — then felt great, afterwards?
Curious about the other seven Splendid Truths? Here they are:
Second Splendid Truth
One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy;
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
Third Splendid Truth
The days are long, but the years are short. (Click here to see my one-minute movie; of everything I’ve written about happiness, I think this video resonates most with people.)
Fourth Splendid Truth
You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
[Many argue the opposite case. John Stuart Mill, for example, wrote, “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” I disagree.]
Fifth Splendid Truth
I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature.
Sixth Splendid Truth
The only person I can change is myself.
Seventh Splendid Truth
Happy people make people happy, but
I can’t make someone be happy, and
No one else can make me happy.
Eighth Splendid Truth
Now is now.