If You Had Trouble with the TODAY Show Link…

Not to keep going on about the Today show, but some people have asked for a different link to the interview, because the one I gave didn’t work for them.

Here’s a better link. It includes the interview, and even better, the little story about my daughter:

“Wonder Woman, Rumi, and Erin Brockovich.”

From time to time, I post short interviews with interesting people about their insights on happiness. During my study of happiness, I’ve noticed that I often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies. I’m much more likely to be convinced to try a piece of advice urged by a specific person who tells me that it worked for him or her, than by any other kind of argument.

I “met” (virtually) Nilofer Merchant through my friend Michael Melcher, of The Creative Lawyer fame. Nilofer is an authority on leadership and on helping businesses become more successful, and her book, The New How: Building Business Solutions through Collaborative Strategy, just came out a few days ago. I was curious to hear her views on happiness.

What is a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Drinking coffee from my Wonder Woman mug. My step-daughter gave it to me a while ago as a joke. But it has become a bit of a ritual to use it – and remember, we are all wiser and stronger than we think we are – we are all wonder woman.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
Once each of us can actually can love ourselves for who we are — warts and all (this is the important part) — we can then be open to real happiness. Until then, happiness remains on the other side of a moat filled with judgment, self-doubt, and crocodiles, ever so far away.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Over-committing. When I sleep too little, travel too much, don’t eat well or exercise or spend time with friends because I’ve said yes to too many meetings or projects…. then I get tired, cranky, and lonely. If I don’t take care of myself, then everything gets viewed through a tired, cranky, lonely lens (I know, I know — surprise!). I get over-committed easily by wanting to say “yes” (for fear the opportunity will never come again) when I really need to say “not now” and have faith that the right things will be there when it’s the right time.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?
A quote that captures a point of view shapes my happiness: “If you are irritated by every rub, how will you get polished?” – Rumi. This is my way of saying that even this challenge or frustration could be helping me in ways I cannot yet see.

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (mine is reading children’s books).
I actually have a box which I called “break-glass.” It has notes, cards of things I’ve accomplished, and movies that make me feel stronger like GI Jane or Erin Brockovich. I call it “break-glass” because I think…”in case of disaster or fire, break glass.” Going through this box always gives me a boost. And the funny thing about what’s in the box is I always find notes or ideas of things I once dreamed of and struggled with that are now in my rear-view mirror. It gives me perspective, which is usually the thing that is missing when I’m blue.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
I love it when people are “students of the game.” They say to themselves, “What will I learn or gain from this experience?” rather than focusing on how they’ve failed or bombed. It’s all about having the perspective that what happens next is what matters. We all fail, and the thing is we all don’t learn from those failures.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
I have been unhappier at times… like getting fired by Carol Bartz (now of Yahoo, then of Autodesk). I got separated (and ultimately divorced) from my then-husband the same week. So yeah, that was pretty much bottom. I was living out of alignment with my values. I acted like a mean person to my colleagues, more interested in my own advancement than OUR advancement, and saw that people fundamentally distrust me. I made a series of radical life changes to get re-grounded and set about living a good life, not aiming for a wealthy or powerful life. I have found that living with personal integrity is the key to my personal happiness.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Happiness is, in my mind, a mental choice. We’ll all have adversity, challenges, and setbacks, but we get to decide how we’ll handle them. We get to decide to view things as opportunities. We get to decide to be nice. We get to decide who we work with and what kind of ways in which we’ll work. When I’m not over-committed, I generally can keep perspective and make good choices.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?
I just finished publishing a book (The New How), which I had to rewrite three solid times. When the first editor trounced (and I don’t use that word lightly!) my work, I felt like a terrible failure. I was desperately unhappy because I wanted the work to be both done and good, right away. I was over-committed (since I hadn’t planned to rewrite again and again), I wanted to return to leading my firm, and I was really, really tired of looking at this body of work. But now, I’ve seen how the process of rewriting and re-crafting to be more clear, more concise, and more engaging made the result so much better. Something that made me really unhappy (writing it over and over again), in the end made me really happy. I’m glad it didn’t go out in the first revision. And I’m glad my second editor could see the diamond amongst the other stuff, and work with me keep chiseling away to get rid of distracting material and complete a product I’m glad I worked on.

* I’m no foodie, but I always enjoy stopping off at Eating For Beginners — “on food, farming, and raising a family.”

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at gretchenrubin1 [at] gmail [.com] — and don’t forget the “1”. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

Reviews and Buzz

The Happiness Project was an instant and #1 New York Times bestseller.

Rights have been sold for 31 foreign editions of
The Happiness Project

 

Thirty-second television advertisement

Today show interview:

The Nate Berkus Show:

CBS Sunday Morning:


 

Jeopardy:


 

The Early Show:

 

The Today Show:

 

Good Housekeeping:

Gretchen-rubin-smiling-on-a-stool-0111-sm

Featured Videos:

Steven and Chris interview segment begins at 20:01

Steven and Chris’s Blog

 

Radio Interviews:

Q the Podcast interview

Marketplace radio interview

The Takeaway radio interview

As seen in…

Mag-logos

Highlights from the reviews:

“Rubin writes with keen senses of self and narrative, balancing the personal and the universal with a light touch.” “Rubin’s project makes curiously compulsive reading, which is enough to make any reader happy.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Aided by her formidable intelligence and willingness to try anything, she spent a year road-testing every theory about happiness she could get her hands on, using her own life as the road.”
TIME

“Before I even finished the book, I had already preordered multiple copies of Gretchen Rubin’s latest title, The Happiness Project. Which means if you’re looking for an enlightening, laugh-aloud read, get the book and forget the rest of this review.”
Christian Science Monitor

“For those who generally loathe the self-help genre, Rubin’s book is a breath of peppermint-scented air. Well-researched and sharply written, she sprinkles her text with observations on happiness from Aristotle and Plutarch, Samuel Johnson and Martin Seligman, The Dalai Lama and Oprah.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Rubin masterfully interweaves touching and often funny personal anecdotes into the analysis of her progress, resulting in a friendly, approachable and compulsively readable narrative that will not only make you want to start your own Happiness Project, but will also make you want to invite Rubin out for a cup of coffee and a cruller.”
San Diego Union-Tribune

From a few bloggers:

Bob Sutton, Work Matters
Collen Wainwright, Communicatrix
Fred Wilson, A VC
Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
Jonathan Fields, Awake at the Wheel
Erin Doland, Unclutterer
Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity
Jesse Kornbluth, Head Butler

 

Forbes.com named Gretchen Rubin one of the 14 Power Women to Follow on Twitter.

A Secret to Happiness: Clean Off My Desk.

One of the big insights I’ve gained from my happiness project is that for me (as for many people), outer order contributes to inner calm. I feel more serene and cheerful if my apartment and office aren’t too messy.

Something else I’ve learned from my happiness project is to be wary whenever I have the urge to “treat” myself, because often my treats don’t make me happy in the long run. One of my “treats” is to let piles of papers, clothes, books, and dishes pile up – which does indeed end up making me feel less happy.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed this week. There are two kinds of stress: distress and eustress. Distress is the negative type of stress, and eustress is the positive form of stress, but both are taxing.

My first early-warning sign of stress – in this case, enormous eustress – kicked in. It took me years to identify my idiosyncratic stress indicator (actually, it was my mother who first pointed it out, when I was studying for exams in high school), but when I feel stressed, I start re-reading my favorite books from childhood, one after another. I never tire of these books, and their familiarity and their atmosphere comfort me. This week I’ve re-read the entire collection of Elizabeth Enright. What a joy!

To calm myself further, I decided to take an hour and clean my office. It had become a wreck, because I wasn’t taking the time to put anything away. I kept putting off little tasks, thinking, “It’s more important to answer my emails,” “I need to get this little piece written first,” “I need a break, I don’t want to deal with this now,” but finally, I got down to it.

I set aside an hour and tackled the mess. Methodically I entered reading notes, copied information, filed, wrote emails, tossed papers, took coffee cups to the kitchen, got rid of empty yogurt containers, etc. One of my daily habits is to take notes on a scratch pad – mostly to-do reminders – and these pile up quickly. I worked my way through the items on those sheets so I could toss them out.

I even dusted.

This morning when I came into my office, I felt a shock of relief. All those clean surfaces! No more stacks of papers and books teetering on the edge of the desk! No more feeling harassed by uncompleted tasks! It gave me a real boost.

As Samuel Johnson wrote, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.”

* A thoughtful reader sent me this article, Are wireheads happy? It is absolutely fascinating, and raises several important questions about the nature of happiness.

* The fact that the book The Happiness Project will debut at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list won’t feel real until I actually see it in the paper on January 17 (there’s a two-week reporting delay). But seeing the online report sure made it feel MORE real!
If you’re wondering whether you’re interested in reading the book yourself, you can…
Watch my Today show interview (and the bonus video story about my daughter)
Read sample chapters
Watch the one-minute book video
Listen to thirty minutes of the audiobook (read by me)
Read this review or this review
Buy the book

“Well-being is Attained Little by Little…”

“Well-being is attained by little and little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself.”
Zeno of Citium

*

I loved this post on Escape from Cubicle Nation, Tiny steps make major leaps. Pamela Slim describes how she coaxed herself back into her exercise routine — and how that process parallels efforts to find “career fitness.”

* I send out short monthly newsletters that highlight the best of the previous month’s posts to about 32,000 subscribers. If you’d like to sign up, click here or email me at gretchenrubin1 [at] gmail.com (don’t forget the “1”). Just write “newsletter” in the subject line. It’s free.