Tag Archives: work

Five Very Big Things I’m Grateful for This Year.

Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: gratitude is a critical element to a happy life.

Research shows that people who cultivate gratitude get a boost in happiness and optimism, feel more connected to other people, are better-liked and have more friends, are more likely to help others—they even sleep better and have fewer headaches.

Nevertheless, I find it…challenging to cultivate a grateful frame of mind. I find it all too easy to fail to appreciate all the things I feel grateful for—from pervasive, basic things like democratic government and running water, to major, personal aspects of my life such as the fact that my two daughters rarely fight, to little passing joys, like a warm fall day. I get preoccupied with petty complaints and minor irritations, and forget just how much happiness I already have.

So for this Thanksgiving, I decided to take a moment to think about what’s happened in my life since last Thanksgiving, to set aside a moment for thankfulness.

And boy do I have a lot to be thankful for. So much!

1. My husband’s hepatitis C is cured!

First, and by far biggest: My husband’s hepatitis C is cured! I will never stop being thankful for that, I’ll never take it for granted. (Want to read about one of the happiest days of my life, and how he got it, and how he was cured? Read here.) This will be on my gratitude list for the rest of my life.

2. My new podcast with my sister

This undertaking has been so much fun. Working on Happier with Gretchen Rubin has given me a chance to spend more time with my sister, and to collaborate with her; it has given me a whole new way to connect with people on the subjects I find fascinating; I’ve made new friends and learned new skills.  That’s a lot of thankfulness birds with one stone.

3. Doing work I love

This year my latest book, Better Than Before, hit the shelves. I feel so, so lucky that I get to do the work I love, and explore the subjects that interest me, and talk to other people about them. And people seem interested! Every time I sit down at my laptop, which happens many times a day, I feel grateful for this.

4. Our new dog, Barnaby

Podcast listeners know that I really debated whether or not to get a dog. My two daughters wanted a dog desperately, but I wasn’t sure.  In the end, I decided to choose the bigger life, and get a dog. Now we’re all so happy that we have our puppy Barnaby.

5. You

Last but certainly not least, I’m thankful for you, my readers and listeners. I started writing books before the internet made it possible to be in touch with people so easily, and I constantly marvel at how wonderful it is — and how technology just keeps making it easier to connect, and in new and intriguing ways. My understanding of my subjects has been immeasurably deepened by the comments and questions I’ve received. Just on the Four Tendencies framework alone — I wouldn’t have nearly the grasp of it that I do (I think), if I couldn’t hear from various Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels, about their experiences. I so appreciate your support and enthusiasm.

The nice thing about feeling grateful is that it drives away negative emotions like annoyance, resentment, or anger. I really find this to be true. I just spent some time reflecting on the vastness of what I have to be grateful for, and as a result, the usual, petty annoyances of my day have vanished.

How about you? Do you make a special effort at Thanksgiving actually to give thanks? Does it change your frame of mind?

Podcast 39: Elizabeth Talks about Getting Fired — and Do You Want More Time for Friends or for Solitude

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

Update: For our upcoming Very Special Episode, Holiday edition, we want to hear from you: What’s the thing that’s the essential element of the holiday for you? For instance, for Elizabeth, the essential element of Thanksgiving is stuffing.

And keep sending in those responses to our other holiday question: what’s your Try This at Home for staying happier, healthier, and more productive over the holidays?

In other news, Elizabeth reveals that she has persistent acid reflux. TMI?

 Try This at Home — this week, it’s an involuntary try-this-at-home: Get fired. Elizabeth describes the first time she got fired, and why in the end, it made her feel more free. Of course, we recognize that many people would say that getting fired had no upside for them.  She’s talking about her personal experience. It’s about dealing with the thing you fear, and learning that you can move forward.

Know Yourself Better Question: Would you like to have more time to spend with friends, or more time in solitude — or both?

I mention the journals of May Sarton.  In her books, such as Journal of a Solitude, she writes a lot about the difference between solitude and loneliness.

Listener Question: “How do you deal with negative press or hecklers or adversity?”

RoyalsCrowdGretchen’s Demerit: I felt bad because I’m not that into sports, and I just wasn’t terribly excited about the fact that our hometown team, the Royals, won the World Series.  Everyone in Kansas City was so thrilled! I wish I’d felt more excited.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: As a surprise treat, Jack and Adam took Elizabeth to dinner at Benihana, one of her favorite restaurants.

Call for comments, questions, observations!

Have you ever experienced the involuntary try-this-at-home: getting fired? We’d be fascinated to hear your experience.


As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Did Pablo Picasso Paint Fakes? The Question of Creativity.

For some reason, I keep thinking about a story I read several years ago, in Arthur Koestler’s book, The Act of Creation.

This anecdote caught my attention because it was about a subject that interests me — the mysterious nature of creativity. Plus it had a certain koan-like quality, and boy, do I love a good koan.

This story sounds apocryphal, but Koestler says it’s true:

An art dealer (this story is authentic) bought a canvas signed “Picasso” and travelled all the way to Cannes to discover whether it was genuine. Picasso was working in his studio. he cast a single look at the canvas and said: “It’s a fake.”

A few months later the dealer bought another canvas signed Picasso. Again he travelled to Cannes and again Picasso, after a single glance, grunted: “It’s a fake.”

“But cher maitre,” expostulated the dealer, “it so happens that I saw you with my own eyes working on this very picture several years ago.”

Picasso shrugged: “I often paint fakes.”

I know this feeling well — the uncomfortable feeling that even though a particular piece of my work is original, it nevertheless feels repetitive, imitative, a perfunctory variation on one of my common themes.

And in other situations, too.  Every time I go clothes-shopping, I’m tempted to buy a black cardigan. How many black cardigans does one person need? Not many.

This is always a warning sign to push myself harder, to break through the familiar to something new.

On the other hand, sometimes I re-visit material (like this very story!) many times, because I get something new from it, each time I think about it. Over time, its significance becomes clearer to me. For instance, I write about my personal commandment to “Be Gretchen,” very often, but every time, it’s new to me. But that’s not true of all subjects.

Do you know this feeling — the feeling of painting your own fake?

“How Does One Find One’s Identity?” What’s Your Answer?

“How does one find one’s identity? My answer would be through work and through love, and both imply giving rather than getting. Each requires discipline, self-mastery, and a kind of selflessness, and they are each lifetime challenges.”

–May Sarton, Recovering: A Journal 1978-1979

Yes, another quotation from May Sarton. I’m slowly working my way through all her journals.

Do you agree? That we find our identity through work and love?

Like Andy Warhol, Would You Like to Have a Boss on Retainer? I Sure Would.

“When I think about what sort of person I would most like to have on a retainer, I think it would be a boss. A boss who could tell me what to do, because that makes everything easy when you’re working.”

–Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)

I like Andy Warhol’s art, but I love his writing.  He is the most extraordinarily interesting writer and observer of human nature. I find myself quoting him all the time, and this is one of the lines that I quote most often.

I find that so true about work — that the hardest part about working is telling yourself what to do.  Once you know what to do, things get much easier.

Note the genius, too, of specifying a boss on retainer. Not a boss all the time! Just when you want one.

How about you? Do you ever wish you could hire a boss on retainer, to tell you what to do?