Gretchen Rubin

“There’s Something Magical About the Combination of Movement, Fresh Air, and a Useful Task.”

“There’s Something Magical About the Combination of Movement, Fresh Air, and a Useful Task.”

Interview: Anne Bogel.

I first got to "know" Anne Bogel (in a virtual way) through her popular website, Modern Mrs. Darcy. (If your Jane Austen is a bit rusty, Mr. Darcy is the hero of Jane Austen's masterpiece Pride and Prejudice.) There, she writes about a broad range of subjects of interest to women. And she writes a lot about books and reading.

Anne also has a terrific podcast, "What Should I Read Next?" which is a great resource for people who, like me, are always on the hunt for a new book to read.

She has a new book that I cannot wait to read: Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything. It's about how understanding personality frameworks -- such as Myers-Briggers, StrengthsFinder, the Enneagram, and others -- can help you understand yourself and others better. I do love a great personality framework! (Although I must confess, I'm particularly partial to my own framework, the Four Tendencies.)

Because we share so many interests and preoccupations, I was very interested to hear what Anne had to say.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Anne: Walking the dog, especially if I leave my earbuds at home. There's something magical about the combination of movement, fresh air, and a useful task. The shower gets all the credit for good ideas, but mine come to me on the city sidewalks.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

I've learned that if I wait until I know exactly how to do something, I'll never get started, so don't wait. It's okay to learn by doing.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

Upholder. I love streaks, am motivated by momentum, and hate to break the rules—even the silly ones. I wish that last part wasn't true about myself, but understanding my Tendency has helped me understand why I feel that way.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

Absolutely. When my husband and I were newly married, we had a hard time figuring out how to work through our inevitable disagreements. We didn't know how to argue in a constructive way. I've always been interested in personality frameworks, and during that first year of marriage, I happened to pick up a book on personality types and how they affect romantic relationships. The author described how my husband and I would probably handle conflict based on our personality type, and his portrayal was so accurate it was spooky.

That paragraph didn't change anything practically—we still didn't know how to fight. But it transformed my outlook. Before I read that passage, I'd thought we had a big problem on our hands. But the author convinced me (and rightly so) that we weren't facing an extraordinary problem, but an ordinary one. We had to figure out the details, but the situation was no longer fraught; it was wonderfully normal.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

For a long time, I didn't understand that I was an Upholder, because I'm not always eager to adopt new habits. They feel limiting, and I like to keep my options open. (I don't always like this about myself, but it's true.) But I've also seen time and time again that even though I don't always think I want the structure that habits provide, I am so much happier when I embrace them.

That being said, I embrace them carefully. A new habit feels like a big commitment, and my tendency is to wait until I'm certain before I commit—whether to myself, or to someone else. But once I decide to adopt a new habit, I'm all in.

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

Does my puppy count? I didn't realize how much she influenced my daily routine until she stayed at the trainer's an extra day after we returned from vacation. I skipped my short early morning walk without even realizing it. I didn't chat with the neighbors on the sidewalk like I usually do. I forgot to take walk breaks during the day, and my shoulders were achy from too much typing. We've almost had her a year, and I didn't realize how much she affected my daily rhythms until I spent a day at home without her.

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One Last Thing

Want to harness self-knowledge to create the life you want?

Sign up for the waitlist for my new Four Tendencies course. Registration opens on May 1 for a limited time. If you're on the waitlist, you'll have the chance to get access with the early bird discount.

Join the waitlist