Podcast 71: Choose a Signature Color, and Ask “Am I an Alchemist or a Leopard?” Plus FOMO.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: We’ve heard from people about how they’re designing their summer. Great ideas.

Try This at Home: Choose a signature color. This is a big commitment! I’m not sure I can make the jump, but I’m intrigued. What’s your color? How did you choose it?

I mention the Time article, “How Your iPhone Photos Make You Happier. ” And I also mention Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

Below is the photo from my friend with her collection of things in her signature color.
Signature Color

 Know Yourself Better: Are you an alchemist or a leopard? My first Personal Commandment is to “Be Gretchen.”

Listener Question: Bethany asks about FOMO — “fear of missing out.”

If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, it’s here.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth screamed at Adam when he didn’t like any of the fabric choices for their new banquette.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give myself a gold star for managing to stay calm and enjoy Eliza’s prom experience. If you want to listen to Eliza’s view of her junior prom, you can listen to her podcast, Eliza Starting at 16.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #71

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Featured image by Emily Orpin.

  • Courtney Hunt

    My question is whether an alchemist could ever become a leopard, if they made enough changes, or would a true alchemist always fight against their nature?

  • Courtney Hunt

    My signature color is turquoise. I painted my laundry room, my powder room, my walk-in closet, and my accent wall in my bedroom in turquoise. If the color turquoise is an option for any accessory or décor item, I’ll always opt for it. Thankfully, it’s been having a moment as a popular color these past few years. I like it because it’s calming and serene but also bright and cheerful.
    My sister loves orange so I always buy gifts for her in orange. When I asked her why she chose orange, she said, because it makes me happy. Pretty good reason.

  • I’m pleased to see StitchFix as your new sponsor. As a classic Underbuyer who hates shopping, I’ve been using their service and LOVE it! I wrote a post about how to get the most out of your stylist here: http://carriewillard.com/how-to-help-your-stitchfix-stylist-nail-it/

  • Laura Jolna

    Alchemist vs Leopard – great food for thought! I’m accepting of myself (leopard) but always trying to improve myself and become a better version of me. Does that mean I’m really an alchemist? I don’t push myself to do things that aren’t in my nature 🙂
    Thank you for another great episode helping me to “know myself better”!

  • Lori

    I love the discussion of a signature color, mine is pink – no particular shade they all work depending on the item. My kids are aware of this and quick to make decisions when gift shopping, quick to identify who the pink coffee cup, or water glass is. I don’t however buy many pink clothes I prefer it to be an accessory color as there is some shade of it that is appropriate for just about any color I am wearing that day. Pink – because it feels happy and optimistic to me!

  • Paria

    I love the idea of a signature color! Though I fear that I, too, will have trouble choosing just one.

  • Becoming a Better Bear

    Chameleon or Leopard?

  • Natalie

    I didn’t deliberately chose a signature colour, but I realised at one point that a large percentage of my clothes were either aqua (summer/day) or purple (winter/evening). So I guess they are mine. When I was younger it was pink and I do still love pink.

  • Mimi Gregor

    My signature color… favorite color… the color others always associate with me because most of my wardrobe is this color… is black. I don’t find it a somber color at all. I think it’s chic, one doesn’t tire of it the way one can tire of bright colors (or is that just me?) so I find it restful to the eyes, and it just makes me happy.

    I also have other “signatures”: My signature scent: patchouli. My signature piece of jewelry: my pearls. Not only does having these “signatures” make it easier to decide what to wear, choose, or cook, but it also makes it easier for other people to choose a gift for you.

    I’m definitely an Alchemist, as I am always tinkering with my appearance and my interests. (I’ve always thought I was being a dilettante, but I like “tinkering” better.) When I was younger, I had a friend whose first question to me when phoning me was “So… what color is your hair now?” I’ve changed my appearance more often than Doctor Who. My interests are more evolutionary: I read a book about something that interests me, I try it out, then incorporate it into my life. (For instance, I started cooking from scratch… then growing my own organic vegetables… then canning and pickling them… and NOW I’ve started baking my own bread. Some interests fall by the wayside (like drawing and writing short stories), as something’s gotta give, and they are crowded out by things that interest me more at the time.

  • Monika Kelly

    I think my signature colour is orange, judging by what I already have, see photo below, which is also a shrine to Penguin books.

  • Malin

    Hey ladies!
    As always, love your work! How about chameleon and leopard? Two animals to make it feel more catchy?
    My color is definitely navy blue. It calms me down and I always surprise myelf when I remember that fact!
    Love, Malin

  • MaggieRose59

    Hmm…I thought Chameleon was a better word too until I realized my husband is a chameleon, but he is definitely not an alchemist. He is very content with who he is and his basic nature doesn’t change. But I am always amazed the way he can fit in to any situation or group of people. He can put on a suit and tie and be the businessman or preacher that he is, he can put on leathers and a do-rag and be the biker that he is, or overalls and a t shirt and be the farm boy that he is, or shorts and a Hawaiian shirt and be the cruiser that he is! While I admire that ability in him, a leopard I am and a leopard I will always be!
    Pink became my signature color years ago when my 3 boys stopped running off with my wellies when I bought pink ones. It kind of stuck after that. Mom’s stuff was the pink one and they left it alone. But I really have a passionate love affair with color and most of the time have great difficulty choosing colors for things because I love them all. The color charts in the paint department make my heart go pitty-pat!

  • Carol

    This was such an interesting episode!

    * About the Signature Color

    As a sort of “color addict” =P I love the idea of playing with colors. My signature color is green (olive or leaf green, reminiscent of nature), but I’m also very fond of purple tones (including lavender and violet) and some pink shades (think cherry blossom).

    But most of all, I love playing with associating colors to my… menstrual cycle. Yep, I know that might sound weird or TMI, but please bear with me! This is a nice way of bringing a positive light to it (Miranda Gray has excellent work on this subject, including books and YouTube videos)! There are different phases of the menstrual cycle, and they affect not only our physical bodies but our mental/emotional state, and each phase can be associated to a metaphor – or, in my case, to certain colors:

    – pre-ovulatory phase – renewed energy and disposition – spring – pinks and purples
    – ovulatory phase – sensual energy, communication – summer – greens and browns
    – pre-menstrual phase – turning inward, questioning, critical evaluation – autumn – reds and oranges
    – menstrual – stillness and quietness, reflection, rest – winter – blues, greys and black

    * Alchemist or Leopard
    I’m an Alchemist. Although I do acknowledge how I really am, I’m always striving to somehow improve and learn something positive from how others behave.

    * Bethany’s question – multiple career projects/interests
    I love how you commented on Bethany’s question, and I do think that analysis paralysis and FOMO/fear of regret can be related. But I also think there’s something more. For those who like thinking of different categories (moderators/abstainers, the four tendencies, leopard/alchemist, etc), think about specialists/multipotentialites. Specialists thrive when they focus on an idea or subject and dive deep, while multipotentialites thrive when they permeate different fields, having a broad overview, and connecting the dots between separate areas. Perhaps Bethany is a multipotentialite? There’s a great TED Talk about this by Emilie Wapnick: https://youtu.be/QJORi5VO1F8

  • Ruth Carter

    I didn’t think I had a signature colour until I had a quick look round my flat. I have a lot of things in red from my toaster to my tent. It cheers me up and is somehow a very definite colour.

  • Ann Boyd

    I loved thinking about your alchemist and leopard schema. However, I wonder if “caterpillar” wouldn’t be a little better analogy than “alchemist.”

    Personally, I appreciate the challenge of improving my habits and working toward growth, but when I do these things, I think of it as “becoming more fully myself” rather than changing my essential nature. I think I’m a caterpillar, growing and changing so that I can turn into my fully mature butterfly-self someday.

    This is part of what I’ve learned from my Christian faith as well. Spiritual disciplines are a way to train ourselves to become more completely the person that God has made us to be, rather than putting on a facade of religiosity and following lots of rules.

    Thanks for helping us all to grow and know ourselves better!

  • Melanie Novak

    Another great episode ladies! Love waking up on Wednesday morning and listening to “Happier” on the treadmill.

  • Kimberly Sears

    I love what Elizabeth said about FOMO…whatever you choose, you WILL miss out on something else. Acknowleding that feels very freeing and makes it easier to move forward and make a decision somehow. P.S. Congrats to Eliza on going to prom! The only thing anyone misses about high school, ha ha. If it’s okay with Eliza, will you post a picture of her in her prom dress?? I would love to see and I’m sure I’m not the only one…

    • annecore

      Yes! I thought the same thing when they were talking about it. We’d like to see the dress.

  • bridgejr

    What’s the difference between a signature color and a favorite color? Or is there no difference?

  • Petra

    Pink! I run a lot of road races and I always wear something pink or purple. It started when a stranger called me at the end of a race years ago: “Hey Pinky! Was trying to catch you at the end. Nice job!”

  • Jamie Leija

    My color is yellow! It has been since I was young. All of my close friends associate me with that color and even buy me yellow things! One of the biggest compliments I’ve ever gotten was when I told someone that my favorite (aka signature) color was yellow. They said, “yellow’s your favorite color? I can see that. It suits you.” Which totally made my day! I hope that means I convey happiness and warmth!

    Gretchen, I’m surprised you didn’t say that blue was your color! Especially since your book covers have lots of lovely blue on them. And you identify the blue bird as one of your personal symbols!

  • Lauren Malamala

    For years now, my signature color has been hot pink – specifically, HOT pink – because it’s feminine, yet fierce (unlike baby or pastel pink). Even though I wear tons of black (a side effect of living in NYC), I’ve applied your advice of adding pops of hot pink here and there. A hot pink Kate Spade wallet, nail polish, fresh flowers, etc. I never gave it much thought until this episode, but seeing anything hot pink definitely brightens my day. 🙂

  • Robin Hunter

    Alchemist or leopard? it made me think immediately of one of your quotes “Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” Flannery O’Connor

    I’m constantly working on specific aspects of my behaviour but never because I want to be someone different, just better and more true to myself. I should let you know I often use the quotes you provide in the daily emails as meditation chants. I too struggled to establish a meditation habit. I started with 5 minutes a day and slowly increased. I was at 20 minutes a day before I started noticing changes. I now do 30 minutes and hate to miss it. I’m currently using “Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” ― Walt Whitman.

  • Jen W.

    Turquoise has been my signature color since college when a friend commented, “Wow, everything you own is your color!” Since then I specifically look for turquoise for accessories and friends and family say “your color” instead of the word “turquoise.” Working such a vibrant signature color into my life always makes me cheerful, especially since my house is mostly white and my wardrobe is mostly black. Plus, it reminds me of the ocean – my favorite place!

  • Megan M.

    My signature color is coral – it was the primary color at my wedding, and just a color that I continually gravitate toward as evidenced by my accessories and wardrobe. From phone covers, to desk accessories, to bathings suits and jewelry. It makes me feel great when I wear it, see it, and am surrounded by it. Listening to your podcast has been a habit that has definitely made me happier! Thank you.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! I love that color, too.

  • Lindsey Reader

    As a rebel, I don’t like hard-and-fast or super lasting commitments; so I enjoy the signature color exercise with a bit of irony. The last few places I’ve rented had some really odd color quirk (a lime green kitchen backsplash, a turquoise brick exterior) that was unfixable, so I used those cues to bring more of the offending color into the whole house. It softened the shock factor and became sort of a theme. I also like to draw on colors because they already hold a specific meaning. Burnt orange pops up a lot in outdoor gear, and the Subaru I bought used out of state just happened to be that color. To me and my friends, it has become the color of adventure! The children’s book ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’ reminded me that purple is the color of creativity — that purple crayon can get you out of your own scrapes or generate something new. Now I keep a little decorative jar of purple crayons on my desk as a reminder. As for my signature color, duplex-brick turquoise is growing on me… Speaking of color, would a chameleon or an octopus be a good animal stand-in for the alchemist? Both manipulate color and texture for camouflage and advertising physiological/’emotional’ status…

  • Alyssa W.

    I’m having a hard time deciding whether I’m an alchemist or a leopard. I’m always trying to change my habits and am constantly on some ‘kick’, whether that be to eat healthier, start meditating, or clean up my house. I’d love to change from an anxious person to a calm person. Or from a messy person to a neat person. But there are other ways in which I accept my personality and fundamental nature as it is and don’t bother trying to change it. I’m very introverted and have given up trying to be the gregarious social butterfly, it’s just not me. I’m not a very artistic person and am ok with that, not going to force myself into painting lessons or anything. So it’s a toss-up, not really sure where I land with this distinction.

    PS – Teal is my signature color 🙂

  • Dayna

    I used to have a signature color. Red, it was my wedding color and I decorated with it and wore it a lot. That lasted about 10 years and now I’m a bit sick of it. I still like it but it is starting to feel too heavy. I’m really drawn to blush pink right now. Same color as red but much lighter (in it’s hue and feeling). I don’t know if it’ll become my signature color yet. Maybe red will remain my color after a break.

  • megan

    My signature color is blue. Right now it’s more of a cornflower blue, a year ago it was a navy blue.

  • Lori Wise

    I love the signature color idea. I have 2. “Denim” is one. Another is Aqua, as in clear ocean water..and gems I like to wear (fluorite, apatite, etc.) I went right out and made Pinterest boards for each of these. Sooo fun.

    • gretchenrubin

      Love this!

  • Judie

    I started listening to the bit about a signature color and thought “oh this is silly”, then you mentioned phone cases etc and I looked down. My phone case, iPod (yes, I still use mine), diary (yup, paper version), watch and even wallpaper on my laptop are all a similar shade of blue – a sort of deep sky blue. So it seems that I do have a signature color and it makes me very happy. Not such a silly idea after all! 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! Great to hear it struck a chord with you. Love that color.

  • Carrie

    I’ve gone through different favorite colors: blue as a kid, pink in my teens (worn ironically, since I’m a bit of a tomboy!), then a long stint of purple through my 20’s, followed by orange in my 30s. Looking around lately, it seems I’m in a bit of a red phase… Fun question!

  • Becky

    I listened to this podcast today and my color has always been blue that I gravitate to. But it was interesting looking thru different shades of blue and found my signature color is cobalt blue. I love the brightness of it and it makes me smile.

  • Viky

    Alchemist, for sure and my signature color is black (and has been for years). Black (all black) has made me happy from a young age — my bike (black Schwinn Strand cruiser), my roller skates — all black. When my mother thought it was too mature for a tween to wear all black, I would sneak a black t-shirt in my bag to change into. I deviated from this when I was a new wife and mother, but as I got older and authenticity became a priority, the closet slowly returned to its natural state. To answer an earlier post: I don’t think signature color and favorite color are the same. My favorite color is red — it’s strewn throughout my house (where there is actually very little black).

  • VannahM

    I love this signature color idea! I didn’t think I had one, because I really do love so many colors. But then I realized my signature “color” isn’t a color at all, it’s a print! I love tropical prints in all forms, palm trees, flowers, birds, alone or all together. I have half a dozen vintage dresses in tropical prints, my phone background, my bedspread, and I have to stop myself from buying any more now that it’s come back into style again and is everywhere. As a Californian girl with a South Beach streak, tropical prints are fun, can be bright or subdued, slightly retro, and sometimes delightfully tacky. So I wouldn’t get boxed in by the idea of a “color”. I’m sure many people favor prints and patterns over just one color.

  • eve

    What is the difference between a favorite color and a signature color?
    My favorite color is black but my signature color is red. The first is an aesthetic response to color; it represent a choice. The second, a signature color, is a visceral response to color. I’m very shy so I would never choose a bright cherry red as my signature color but it is. I always was drawn to red but I knew it for sure when I met a flakey girl at a party in my 20s. She claimed to be psychic and to have synethesia (where one sees colors in response to sound). As she talked, I became convinced she was crazy and tried to get away from her. She also said she could see auras. She looked at mine casually and said it was bright red. I was shocked — she picked my signature color. It could have been a lucky guess but then she said my spirit animal was a deer: my favorite animal. Anyway, the whole incident (I still don’t believe in auras) helped me make a difference between a favorite color and a signature color. One way to know yours: what color do you wear that makes everyone stop and say, “that color looks great on you.”

  • Hannah Jenkins

    It has been a few weeks since I listened to this episode, and I had trouble identifying a “signature” color for myself. However, as I was looking around my home last night, I was surprised to find that I already have a signature color. Multiple accents of the room- a chair, a vase, a water pitcher, my KitchenAid blender, a lamp- were all shades of this color. It is the shade of the the hydrangeas that were in our wedding, so I have deemed my signature color “hydrangea blue”. This is a hue that apparently makes me very happy, and I didn’t even recognize it!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! Now you’ve identified it.

  • Alexandra

    I love color. I am pretty sure that I don’t have a signature color, because I love them all. But I love being on the metro and noticing a stranger and seeing that their signature color is obvious: pink umbrella, pink phone case, pink tote bag. It tickles me to know something about someone I don’t know.

    But this topic made me think of people being known as “cat people” or “frog people”– having a signature animal that then becomes something people center gifts on– cat people get cat pot holders, frog people get stuffed frogs etc.

  • Kaitlin Perez

    I love the idea of a signature color! Back when my husband and I were dating, he asked me my favorite color. Without hesitation, I responded, “I don’t have a favorite color, but yellow is my favorite accent color!” What I meant was that I love yellow in the form of a happy POP. I wouldn’t necessarily paint a room yellow, but I love a yellow pillow. I used to think yellow couldn’t be my favorite color because I prefer it in small doses, but listening to this episode made me realize that yellow is my signature color. Thanks for your show. Listening is a bright spot in my week!

  • My signature color for ages and ages was cobalt blue. I had outfits in that color blue, jewelry in that color blue, and a pair of lizard skin pumps in that color blue. Now it seems to have morphed into a really intense turquoise, maybe because the stone in the ring my husband gave me as an engagement ring is a blue topaz.

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  • Michelle Potter

    I don’t know which I am, alchemist or leopard. On the one hand, I have suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life, and spent the past 15 years working very hard to change this very ingrained aspect of myself. On the other hand, I don’t relate to the need to remind myself to “Be Gretchen” (or “Be Michelle,” as it were). If anything, I sometimes miss out on things I would have enjoyed because I didn’t want to try.

  • Shannon Cyrkin Payne

    Hi Gretchen and Elizabeth!

    Just listened to this episode this morning (I’m a few months behind), and I had to say that I absolutely, definitively have a signature color: teal. Now teal has many shades, and I enjoy them all, but my favorite teal is on the bluer end of the teal spectrum. In face the major focus wall of my living room is entirely teal. My countertop kitchen appliances, teal. My upcoming wedding colors: Teal and tangerine (my fiancé picked the tangerine). As a child, my signature color was purple, so now I say “My 8-crayon box favorite is purple, but my 64-crayon box favorite is teal.” This has seemed to resonate with people who feel like they are somehow cheating on their historically loved favorite color by preferring a more mature color later in life.

    Also, I’m definitely an alchemist…albeit, a generally failed-alchemist, but I love learning about ways to change myself and my surroundings even when my implementation is less than consistent.