Gretchen Rubin

Have You Ever Fixed a Small Problem That Gave You a Disproportionate Happiness Boost?

Last week, I was very discouraged, because I thought my laptop didn't save my day's work. But presto! the work has magically reappeared. (Which suspiciously suggests computer ineptitude on my part...but I'm just happy that I have my work back.)

So here's the post that I meant to post last week:

One of my Twelve Personal Commandments is to Identify the problem.

Once you identify a problem, it’s much simpler to solve it. "But," you might say, "if I have a problem, how it is possible that I haven’t identified it?" This rule seems so obvious that it’s hard to explain why it’s so tremendously helpful.

I’ve realized that often I’ll put up with a problem or an irritation for years, because I haven’t actually examined the nature of the problem and how it might be solved. Example:

I’m always cold. I’ll be in a room that other people find comfortable, and my hands will turn purple, my nose will be icy, my feet will be numb. I do my best to stay warm by wearing long underwear and heavy sweaters, constantly drinking hot drinks, sometimes wearing a wool hat indoors, and not sitting still for too long.

My hands always suffer the most. In fact, in high school I went to a doctor about my cold hands, because they were so stiff from cold that I was having trouble writing exams.

Over the years, I’ve developed a lot of strategies for dealing with my coldness. For whatever reason, though, for the past few months, my hands have been colder than usual, despite the long underwear, hot drinks, etc. Having such cold hands makes typing uncomfortable, which is a problem, because I type many hours every day.

Finally, I stopped and said to myself, “What’s the problem?”
“My hands hurt from the cold.”
“How could I make them warmer?”
“I wish I could wear mittens all day long.”
“Why don’t I wear mittens all day long?”
“Because I have to type.”
Then the big insight – “Why don’t I get those fingertip-less gloves to wear?”
“Nah, I’d look too affected!” I thought. “What am I, a starving Russian artist?”
Then I realized – it wasn’t affected to wear those gloves if I actually needed them. Which I absolutely do.

Identify the problem: Cold hands.

Solution: Buy those gloves.

The commandment to “Identify the problem” is really a reminder about mindfulness. Mindfulness! With happiness, so often, it comes back to mindfulness. Of course, I fully realize that in the scheme of life, having cold hands is a very minor complaint. But as Samuel Johnson observed, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.”

Update: I have ordered my fingerless gloves, but they haven't arrived yet. (Actually making this purchase was a big step for an under-buyer like me.)

Have you ever fixed a small problem that gave you a disproportionate happiness boost? I will really be happy if these gloves help me keep my hands warmer.

* I was so thrilled to see this lovely note, My Happiness Project, on my friend Melanie Notkin's site, as she gets ready for the publication of her book, Savvy Auntie. Awwwwww!

* Volunteer to become a Super Fan, and from time to time, I’ll ask for your help. Nothing too onerous, I promise. Sign up here or email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com. (Don't forget the "1".)

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