Big Ideas

With a relentless curiosity for human nature, Gretchen Rubin has helped people live happier, healthier, more creative, and more productive lives. 

Hi, I’m Gretchen Rubin. In my work, I explore the practical side of happiness—what we can do, right now, as part of our ordinary days, to make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

I write about my experiments in the practice of everyday life—the science of the soul. (My sister calls me a “happiness bully,” because if I spot a way for me or someone else to get happier, I can get quite insistent.)

A few of my key conclusions:

  • The aim: To accept ourselves, and also expect more from ourselves.
  •  There’s no one “best” way or “right” way to make our lives happier; we each need to find the way that’s right for us.
  • When we know ourselves and what works for us, we can change our habits—and change our lives.
  • Small changes can yield big results.
  • The days are long, but the years are short.

My Chain of Ideas


Years ago, while riding a city bus, I asked myself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” I answered, “I want to be happy”—but I spent no time thinking about whether I was happy and whether I could be happier. In a flash, I decided to start my own happiness project.

So in my book The Happiness Project, I write about the year I spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, cutting-edge science, lessons from pop culture, and my own experiences to try to be happier. I used myself as the guinea pig of my own experiment.


After that book hit the shelves (and became a #1 bestseller), I noticed that while people could usually point to habit changes that would make them happier, they struggled to make those changes. So I wrote Better Than Before, where I describe the twenty-one strategies we can use to make or break our habits.

The Four Tendencies

Writing that book showed me that there’s no one “right” way or “best” way to change our habits; different approaches work for different people. Why? This question led me to discover my “Four Tendencies” personality framework. When we know whether we’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebels, we’re better able to choose the strategies and approaches likely to work for us. I wrote The Four Tendencies and created my proprietary quiz// (taken by more than four million people).


Along the way, in my explorations of happiness and human nature, I was puzzled by the disproportionate happiness boost that most people—including me—get from clearing clutter. So for fun, I wrote a short, playful book Outer Order, Inner Calm.

Five Senses

One day, after the shock of learning that I was at risk for losing my vision, I realized that I’d been overlooking a key element of happiness: my five senses. I spent so much time stuck in my head that I’d allowed the vital sensations of life to slip away, unnoticed. In Life in Five Senses, I write about lifting myself out of my state of foggy preoccupation. By tuning in to our five senses, we can cheer up, calm down, live in the moment, remember the past, experience more pleasure and energy, deepen connections, and even touch the transcendent.

Big Ideas