Gretchen Rubin in Washington D.C.
Feb 06, 2014 04:47AM
Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, is part research project, part self-help book. She took the subject of happiness, reviewed research, read the great thinkers and then, presented to her readers, a gem that offers wonderful insights and practical tools to find happiness in your own life. In so doing, Rubin has become an inspirational voice, spurring her readers to find their own happiness.
In her second book, Happier at Home, Rubin narrows her scope to examine the sources of happiness one can find in the place that one should always find wholeness—the home. Covering a wide range of topics, such as parenting, neighborhood and possessions, her latest book delves into the relationships that make home, and one’s community, a place where readers are encouraged to “kiss more, jump more” and always, sleep as much as you need.
Robin Fillmore, publisher of Natural Awakenings DC, had the opportunity to sit and interview Rubin, prior to her recent talk at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, before a packed house.
RF: I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Happiness Project, after it was recommended by marketing sage, Seth Goodin in his community college project. What I learned was that to find happiness, one needs to identify clearly those things that make one happy, and then start a plan to put this in their life. Why is it so hard for us to do that?
Rubin: I think that it is hard, in part, because self-knowledge is hard. We’re distracted by the way we wish we were, or by the way we think we ought to be, or what’s true about the people around us. To build a happy life, you have to build it on the foundation of your own nature, your own interests, your own values. You have to know what those are and that’s hard. Then, you have to figure out concrete, specific ways to make what you want to change, actually happen.
People might think, “I just feel exhausted all the time. I don’t have energy.” If they say, “I need to get more sleep,” and that means, “I need to go to bed by 11,” you really have to drill this down. What’s the problem, and what can you actually do to change that? It’s not hard to go to bed earlier. It’s hard to sit down, think it through and figure out what you want to do about it.
Some people ask, “Don’t you think that you’re too obsessed with happiness?” Not from what I see. I don’t think people think about it enough. In the chaos of everyday life, when you are just managing the day, you don’t have time to sit back and think, what could I do differently? What is manageable? What are the little things that I can do without time, energy or money that would make me happier? It is hard to take the time to think about that.
RF: How has the rhythm of your own life changed since you have become known for writing The Happiness Project and Happier at Home?
Rubin: On the one hand, my life is pretty much the same. I am a writer and have two little kids. Ninety percent of my day is controlled by one of those two things, but what is different is the experience of my life. I’m the same old person, but I have so much more fun. I have more friends. I have more enthusiasm. I have less guilt, less anger, less boredom. I really have found that I can do all these things. I also behave myself much better, which was a big aim of both my projects. I really just wanted to ask more of myself. I want to expect more from myself. I don’t behave perfectly, but I do behave better.
RF: I love your video, “The Days are Long, the Year’s are Short”. Tell me how that came to be.
I test drive all the theories [presented in the book] and one of the theories was that novelty and challenge bring happiness, so I had to do something novel and challenging. My agent suggested I write a blog. I said, “I’m not techie. I like to write long, not short. I’m not a journalist.” But I thought I would try it, thinking I would do it for a month. Then, I realized I LOVED it, and it turned into this real thing for me as a writer. I have my identity as a traditional book writer, which is my core identity, but I have this whole other identity as an online person. I’m part of that world, and I can engage with readers in a way, that as a book writer, you just can’t. It has so deepened my understanding of my readers, to be able to hear from them as I am writing and thinking. It lets me get so much farther.
Once I got online, I started thinking that it might be cool to do a video. I’ve seen these short videos, and writing something short like that, was like writing a haiku. How much could I strip away and leave the core of the story? It was an intensely, intellectually and creatively interesting thing to do, and then to have it put together like that, it was really great.