Gretchen Rubin

Why I’d Rather Be Enthusiastic Than Confident.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about enthusiasm. I’ve become increasingly convinced of the importance of enthusiasm to happiness.

Enthusiasm is energetic, positive, generous, and social. It’s outward-turning and engaged. It’s kind of goofy.

As one of my happiness-project experiments, I tried putting sticky notes throughout the apartment with two key adjectives to keep in mind as I went through my day. In my office, the sticky note originally said, “Creative and confident.” But as I thought more about the quality of confidence, I decided that it really wasn’t the right adjective.

Confidence has an overtone of posture; also it relates to the way I’m seen by others, or the way I feel about myself. Enthusiasm, on the other hand, has to do with the way I feel about something or someone else.

Enthusiasm is a form of social courage; it’s safer to criticize and scoff than to praise and embrace.

Enthusiasm is contagious; one person’s enthusiasm can infect others with enjoyment. My mother-in-law is a theater nut who takes my older daughter to the theater a lot, especially to musicals. If my daughter took a class in musicals, would she love them? I’m not sure. But being swept up in her grandmother’s enthusiasm has made her love them, too.

I’m not a particularly enthusiastic person, except in certain very specific areas, and I’m trying to do a better job of tapping into my enthusiastic side and encouraging other people’s enthusiasms. For instance, I follow resolutions to Give positive reviews and to Act the way I want to feel.

There’s a dark tendency in human nature to mock or attack other people’s enthusiasms. It’s easy to make fun of ping-pong or Barry Manilow or Star Trek or wine-tasting -- but why do it? I remind myself to Shield my joyous ones. I draw energy and cheer from the joyous ones, from the enthusiastic ones, and I need to encourage and join them, not drag them down.

* One of the pleasures of the internet is the glimpse it can provide into the very different experiences of other people. Kinda like Rear Window for the whole world. A thoughtful reader sent me the link to her blog about working on a research vessel in Antarctica.

* Curious about the book The Happiness Project? You can...
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