10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Blogging

Unbelievable! I just hit my tenth anniversary for this blog. I can’t believe it. The days are long, but the years are short. 

Certainly, when I started, I had no idea that I was embarking on an project that would become such a big part of my day, my identity, my writing career, and my relationships. In fact, I remember thinking, “Yes, I’m stressed out about writing these first posts, but that’s okay, because no one will ever read them.

That first post, “The Blog Begins,” is here, if you’re curious.

Here are ten things I’ve learned from ten years of blogging:

1. It’s often easier to do something every day than some days.

This sounds counter-intuitive, but I’ve found it to be very true. I write on this site most days, so I don’t debate with myself, “Today, tomorrow? I wrote last week, can I take this week off?” I know I have to write on my blog, so I do. In Better Than Before, I explore this phenomenon more.

2. People like to learn in different ways.

I’m a writer, and I like to provide ideas in text — and no surprise, that’s also the way I learn best. But I’ve found that some people prefer videos, some people prefer audio, some people prefer to get email, some people prefer social media. To reach a wide range of people, we have to think about all of that.

3. People are more wildly creative, insightful, and articulate than I could possibly imagine.

I’m constantly blown away by the comments I get from readers and listeners. Such fascinating stories, such astute comments.  I feel so lucky to live at a time when technology makes this kind of engagement so easy, because it has has deepened my understanding of my subjects immeasurably. To take just one tiny example, when I asked people, “What’s the motto of your Tendency?’ I got brilliant, hilarious answers. My favorite: “You can’t make me, and neither can I” for the Rebels.

4. It’s fun to have a consistent record — any kind of record — of the past.

onesentencejournalimage
I often look back to see what I wrote on my site on this date, some years ago. It’s so fun!  I think this is why my One-Sentence Journal: a Five-Year Record has proved so popular. Most people won’t keep a blog, or write long journal entries, but writing one sentence seems manageable and fun, and is enough to bring back memories.

5.For creativity, it’s better to pour out ideas rather than to dole them out with a teaspoon.

When I started blogging — and I confess, I still have this thought, sometimes, ten years later — I’d think, “This is a great idea. I should hold it back, so in case I ever run out of ideas, I’ll have something in reserve.” No! I have to trust in myself, trust that I’ll get more ideas. The more I do, the more I can do.  It’s one of my Personal Commandments: Spend out.

6. As a writer, the biggest challenge is to make readers aware that a book exists.

There’s so much to read, watch, and listen to these days — how does a person hear about a particular book? I’ve found that it’s very helpful to have my own way to connect with an audience that’s interested in my subjects.

7. An atmosphere of growth makes me happier.

In my Eight Splendid Truths about Happiness, the First Splendid Truth is:  To be happier, we must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. We’re happier when we’re growing: when we’re learning something, helping someone, improving something, making things better. With my blog, and also social media and my podcast, I have the feeling of learning new things, engaging in new ways, learning new skills, meeting new people, adding new identities to my sense of myself. Along those lines…

8. Novelty and challenge make me happier.

When I was writing The Happiness Project, I needed to use myself as a human guinea pig for the notion, often suggested by scientist, that novelty and challenge make people happier. I thought, “Well, that might be true for most people, but not for me.” To test the idea, I decided to start a blog — which seemed very novel and challenging to me. I figured I’d give it a short for three or four weeks, decide that it didn’t work, and abandon it — the way I abandoned my gratitude journal. But no! I realized that even for someone like me, novelty and challenge did make me happier. Of course, they also gave me moment of anxiety, frustration, and anger, but those feeling paid off. If you want to read about this, check out the chapter for March, “Aim Higher,” in The Happiness Project.

9. It’s true, as research suggests, that we’re happier when we have many aspects to our identity.

Having many identities protects us: if you get fired from your job, you can think, “People think I’m doing a great job at the church finance committee”; if you can’t play tennis anymore, you can think, “Now I have more time to garden.” Adding the identity of “blogger” (and then “podcaster”) to my professional identity was enormously energizing, interesting, and reassuring.

10. Don’t get it perfect, get it going.

The longest journey starts with a single step. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. All these proverbs are true. When I was starting this blog, I was paralyzed by the desire to do everything right — and there were so many decisions to make! Finally, I decided, “I’m going to talk to a few smart people with blogs, and do whatever they do. I can change things later, if I want.” That was a great way to get started. It’s one of my Secrets of Adulthood: Most decisions don’t require extensive research.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary, I’ve pulled together a short e-book that features my favorite posts from the last decade. It was so much fun to choose what pieces to include.

You can order it here, for $1.99.

Sidenote: I just realized that my blog anniversary is the same day as the wedding anniversary for both my parents and my in-laws. That seems auspicious! Both couples have been married for more than fifty years.

A Little Happier: Stressed? Try This.

It’s a Secret of Adulthood, and one that never fails me: When I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself.

What are your healthy treats? We should all load ourselves with healthy treats! (Pictured: my idea of a healthy treat. Not for everyone, but works for me.)

I hope you’re enjoying the new mini-episodes. I love doing them.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

Podcast 57: Choose a Daily Mantra, Avoid the Awful Habit of “Awfulizing,” and the Problem of the “Chair” Where Clothes Collect.

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

Update: Elizabeth is still in New York City. She’s working so hard on a pilot (glamorous, right?) that I’ve hardly seen her.

We also share a before-and-after story from our listener Kate, who has used the knowledge that she’s an Obliger to great results — also Pairing.  She sent me this before and after photo to share. Congratulations, Kate!

1pixTry This at Home: Choose a mantra for the day. In episode 26 , we talked about picking a one-word or one-phrase theme for the year. (Elizabeth picked “Novel,” I picked “Vision.”) Picking one for the day works well, too — for instance, Elizabeth chose “I can” when she felt out of control. Listen to the end of the episode if you want to hear Joe Gideon say, “It’s showtime, folks.”

Happiness Stumbling Block: The awful habit of “awfulizing” — dwelling on the worst possible scenarios. I talk about my fear of driving, which I discuss at length in Happier at Home.

Listener Question: “Having a clean apartment makes me feel less stressed. But we have ‘the chair’ where once-worn clothes get stuck.” Listeners, do you have any other good solutions?

 Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth didn’t start packing for her long trip to New York City until the afternoon before she left.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to one of my favorite movies, All That Jazz.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #57

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Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HAPPIER listening!

For Podcast Listeners, Something New! First Mini-Episode to Make You “A Little Happier.”

My sister Elizabeth and I are having so much fun doing our weekly podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

And I’ve found that there are some powerful ideas about happiness, good habits, and human nature that don’t quite fit the structure of the show.

So, for listeners who’d like to start their weeks with a little boost of happiness, I’ve started doing “A Little Happier.”

Each Monday, I’ll release a little bonus episode — maybe 2-3 minutes long — to help launch the week.

I’ve always been intrigued about how much we love stories, and in the end, how we learn best from stories, so these “A Little Happiers” will feature a story from my life, or something I’ve read or observed, that make a point about happiness. They’ll often feature one of my “Secrets of Adulthood” — the things I’ve learned, with time and experience, about how to be happier.

I love all teaching stories, koans, parables, aphorisms, maxims, epigrams, proverbs, and the like. A Little Happier is another way to explore the power of story and aphorism.

I hope these mini-episodes will help you start your week…a little happier. Let me know what you think!

I’m Off for Spring Break! (Mostly) See You in a Week.

It’s time for spring break! I’m off for the week with my family. I’ll post on Wednesday, when the new episode of Happier with Gretchen Rubin becomes available, but other than that, I’m off.

Every spring, my family takes exactly the same vacation with my in-laws. Very relaxing, lots of fun. In fact, it was on this vacation for years ago that I had the Lightning Bolt moment that completely transformed my eating habits — in a way that has made me very happy — after I read Gary Taubes’s book, Why We Get Fat. (I talk about that Lightning Bolt here.)

If you’re thinking, “But Gretchen, I will so miss reading your entries while you’re taking a break!” well, you’re in luck…

You can read The Happiness Project — my bestselling account of the year I spent working on my happiness. It was a #1 New York Times bestseller and stayed on the list for two years. Yowza.

You can read Happier at Home — also a New York Times bestseller. I went deeper into the subject of happiness, thinking about issues related to home, like relationships, possessions, neighborhood, time. If we’re not happy at home, it’s hard to be happy.

You can read Better Than Before — also a New York Times bestseller (I never get tired of typing that). All about how we can make or break our habits. This issue may sound a bit dry to some people, but I promise, it’s a fascinating subject.

Or you can listen to my podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, where I discuss how to be happier with my brilliant, hilarious sister, Elizabeth Craft. We try to make it fun, thought-provoking, and practical. iTunes named Happier one of the Top Podcasts of 2015. (Not sure how to listen to a podcast? Very easy instructions here. Or you can just get a link to listen by email.)

Or you can sign up for my daily happiness quotations, to get a great quotation delivered to your in-box each day.

Or you can sign up for my monthly email newsletter, which has highlights from this site, my podcast, and my Facebook Page. More than 300,000 people get it.

Okay, that’s enough to keep you busy.

Now I’m off to the library; I like to bring a lot of books when I go on vacation, because I plan to do a lot of reading.

I’m also going to work on my current project, my book about the Four Tendencies. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: Doing a little work makes goofing off more fun. Agree, disagree?