Tag Archives: drift

Story: There’s Something Special about Being A Doctor.

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: There’s something special about being a doctor. I mention that I was talking to medical students about “drift“–the decision you make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility. If you want to read more about drift, go here and here.


In the video, I talk about being a doctor–because it was a doctor who made the comment to medical students that started me thinking–but really this point applies to anyone in a healing profession. To help to take away pain, to bring people back to health–there really is something special about that. At least it seems that way to me.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Do you agree that there’s something special about being able to help heal people?

Find the archives of videos here.  More than 1.5 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe!

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Back by Popular Demand: Quiz–Are You Drifting?


Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or Quiz Day.
This Wednesday: Quiz — Are you drifting?

I hear from readers so often about the notion of “drift” that I’m re-posting this quiz from a few years ago.

What is “drift”? Drift is the decision you make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility.

One of the problems of drift is that we try to deny we’re drifting. Take this quiz: how many of these statements apply to you, in your current situation? The more checks you make, the greater your risk for being adrift.

__ I often have the peculiar feeling that I’m living someone else’s life, or that this isn’t my “real” life, which hasn’t yet begun.
__ I often think, “This situation can’t go on,” but then it does go on.
__ I spend a lot of time daydreaming about a completely different life as an escape from what I’m doing now.
__ I find myself getting very angry if someone challenges the values that I think I’m working toward. (E.g., working like crazy as a fifth-year associate at a law firm, and furious if someone argues that money and security aren’t important.)
__ I complain about my situation, but I don’t spend much time trying to figure out ways to make it better. In fact…
__ I fantasize that some catastrophe or upheaval will blow up my situation. I’ll break my leg or get transferred to another city.
__ I find myself having disproportionate reactions. (For example, I have a friend who wasn’t admitting to herself that she wanted to be an actor, and she decided to give it a shot after she started crying when someone started talking about acting.)
__ I feel like other people or processes are moving events forward, and I’m just passively carried along.
__ I find myself doing or getting something because the people around me are doing it or want it.
__ There is something in my life about which I used to be passionate, but now I never allow myself to indulge in it. In fact, it makes me uncomfortable even thinking about it.
__ I’ve justified certain actions on my part by assuring myself, “I might as well,” “It can’t hurt,” “This might be useful,” “This will keep my options open,” “I can always decide later,” “I can always change my mind,” “Nothing is forever,” “How bad can it be?” “How can I turn down this opportunity?”

According to the First Splendid Truth, to be happier, you need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

Of these four elements, “feeling right” is the hardest to explain. “Feeling right” is feeling like you’re leading the life you’re meant to live; that you’re living up to your expectations for yourself; that you feel comfortable with the life you’ve chosen.

Feeling right might mean being in the right career. One reason I left law was that I was haunted by the feeling that I was…on a tangent, off-center. I can’t describe it any other way. There I was, clerking for Justice O’Connor, and I was haunted by a feeling that it was all a digression. From what, to what? That’s what I had to figure out.

Some people don’t “feel right” because they don’t have the family situation they want, or the financial situation they expected. Or they’re not spending their time on something that’s important to them. My Manhattan-raised college roommate didn’t “feel right” about living in the Midwest; she tried and tried, but her life there just didn’t feel right.

I think “feeling right” is especially susceptible to outside pressures. We drift into certain decisions because other people approve of them. Your sense of what is right for you becomes clouded by what other people think is right. You drift into medical school because your parents will be pleased. You drift into marriage because all your friends are getting married. You drift into a job because someone offers you that job. You want the respect of the people around you, or you want to avoid a fight or a bout of insecurity, so you take the path of least resistance. That’s drift.

The word “drift” has overtones of laziness or ease. Not true! Drift is often disguised by a huge amount of effort and perseverance. Just because you’re working hard is no guarantee that you’re not drifting. For me, law school was drift, and it was hard every step of the way, from the LSAT to the New York Bar exam. In the end, I’m happy I did go to law school — and that’s another tricky thing about drift. Sometimes drift does make you happy. But don’t count on it.

One of my drift-related Secrets of Adulthood is “You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.” And here’s another one: “Approval from the people we admire is sweet, but it’s not enough to be the foundation of a happy life.”

It comes back, as always, to a fundamental truth about happiness, and my First Commandment: Be Gretchen. (Feel free to substitute your own name.) In order to be happy, I have to know myself and build my life around my own nature.

Have you ever found yourself drifting? How did you start, how did you end it — or not?

* There’s a huge amount of interesting material on the Psychology Today site.

* If you’d like a free, personalized bookplate for your copy of The Happiness Project — or as a gift for someone else — email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com. (Don’t forget the “1”.) Be sure to include your mailing address, feel free to ask for as many as you like, and yes, I’ll mail them anywhere in the world.

“Happiness is a Choice.” True or False? Plus the Weekly video.

People often tell me is that “Happiness is a choice.” They say this with such emphasis, and such conviction, that I can tell that this is a very meaningful insight for them; it’s also one of the most widespread observations about happiness.

I understand what this means. But for me – and I’m just speaking for myself – it’s very hard to put that observation into practice. “I wake up every morning and decide to be happy,” one person said to me. I can’t really do that. It’s too…huge.

What works better for me is to decide what changes in my life would make me happier, and choose to make those changes. Same idea, just a different way of putting it into action.

So, for example, I realized that our mornings were not as happy a time as they could be. There was too much rushing, nagging, complaining, and foot-dragging. So I choose to:

• get up an hour earlier than my family, so I have plenty of time to get ready myself before helping everyone else get ready, which meant I also have to…
• go to bed earlier so I can get up at 6:00 am, yet still feel well-rested, and also…
• do an “evening tidy-up” each night so I don’t feel like I need to rush around, tidying up the apartment, as part of the morning routine
• sing in the morning to set a cheery tone
• make a deliberate effort not to “talk in a mean voice,” as my younger daughter puts it
• make an effort not to repeat myself over and over: “Put on your shoes,” “Is your backpack packed?” etc.
• touch everyone in my house with affection
• give my husband a real good-bye kiss

For me, it’s easier for me to imagine making these choices than choosing to be happy. I do better when I keep my resolutions very concrete.

How about you? Can you choose to be happy?

* 2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year, this month’s focus is Work. Last week’s resolution was to Ask for help. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?

This week’s resolution is to Beware of drift.

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
A problem in happiness: drift.
Quiz: Are you drifting?

If you’re new, here’s information on the 2010 Happiness Challenge (or watch the intro video). It’s never too late to start! You’re not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For more ideas, check out the Happiness Project site on Woman’s Day.

* Speaking of Woman’s Day, I just wanted to say THANKS for everything they’ve done in support of The Happiness Project. A great magazine, a great partner, great people.