Gretchen Rubin

This Wednesday: Quiz: Do you know yourself? It’s surprisingly hard.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day (or quiz day).
Today: Quiz: Do you know yourself? It's surprisingly hard.

My friend Michael Melcher, a career coach who used to practice law, just wrote an excellent (and quite funny) book called The Creative Lawyer; he also has a terrific blog. It’s aimed at helping lawyers find more job satisfaction – whether within law or outside of law – but it’s also a valuable resource for anyone trying to understand himself or herself better.

In doing the Happiness Project, I’ve been repeatedly struck by how hard it is to “Be Gretchen.” It’s oddly difficult even to appreciate my own interests. I have to remind myself of one of my most important Secrets of Adulthood: just because something is fun for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s fun for me – and vice versa. (See left column for all the Secrets of Adulthood.)

I’ve noticed that people often assume that everyone enjoys the same activities that they enjoy, because they believe those activities are inherently enjoyable – e.g., they enjoy arranging flowers because arranging flowers is just a fun thing to do. No! Not so.

Or else people assume that they in fact do enjoy what they think they SHOULD enjoy – e.g., they enjoy going to the theater, because going to the theater is a fun thing to do. Nope! Not true.

Here’s a quiz, lightly adapted from The Creative Lawyer, to help you figure out your interests. Not what you WISH interested you, but what ACTUALLY interests you.

1. What part of the newspaper do you read first?

2. What are three books you’ve read in the past year?

3. As a child, what did you do in your free time?

4. What’s a goal that has been on your list for a few years?

5. What do you actually do with your free time?

6. What types of activities energize you?

7. What famous people intrigue you?

You need to pay close attention to yourself. Skiing, drinking wine, going to concerts, eating pasta, gardening, shopping…all these activities are fun for some people, all these are chores for some people. Like me.

The better you understand your true likes and dislikes, the better able you are to make decisions – in work and leisure – that will make you happy.

The next step, then, is to act on your interests. For example, once I started paying close attention to myself, I realized that I'm fascinated by the subject of obesity. Just what is causing the dramatic rise in obesity? There doesn't seem to be a way to act on this interest, other than to read articles and books on the topic, but I'm on the look-out. After all, I started a children's literature reading group; maybe there's some listserv or something I could join.

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Gosh, I love reading Seth Godin.

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