6 Lessons I’ve Learned From Gretchen Rubin
If you visit this blog regularly and/or know me in real life, you know that Gretchen Rubin is one of my personal gurus.
I credit her first book, The Happiness Project, with changing my life. It served as one of the major catalysts to the changes that have led to the life style I lead. That is, one focused on gratitude, fun, and self care.
Each of Gretchen’s subsequent books deepens my hold on this way of living. When I’m struggling, I reach out to her, either by reading one of her books or interacting with her via social media. Some of my personal values which I hold strongest are ones I’ve learned from her.
- Act the way you want to feel.
I totally called bullshit on this concept the first time I encountered it. It’s a variation on the adage “Fake it tip you make it,” which I’d never been a fan of either. I’m not a “faking it” kind of gal. What you see is what you get. But what I realized is I was actually already doing it in my day to day life. You know how when you’re feeling low you might put on makeup and dress nice just for a little boost? That’s this concept at work!
2. Happiness looks different for everyone.
This is a big one for me because I’ve never been interested in pursuing The American Dream. I don’t enjoy owning a home, I don’t value having lots of “stuff,” and I don’t want to have children. In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I struggled with feeling like a failure because I didn’t keep pace with my peers who went on to graduate school or progressed in successful careers, got married, bought homes, had babies. I was just kinda off doing my own thing, moving around the country, living aloe, dating a lot. While I can’t say I was happy 100% of the time, I was pursuing my own version of happiness, but it didn’t look like everyone else so I often felt like an outsider and was judged by people who didn’t “get” me.
3. Little things make a big difference.
Last year for our wedding anniversary, my husband bought and installed a new toilet seat in our bathroom while I wasn’t home. It’s one of the nicest gifts he’s ever given me. Our previous seat was old, dingy, and had a loose hinge. I was frustrated every time I had to use it. The new one improved my daily life in a big way. Likewise when I last went to the optometrist and learned my prescription changed so both of my contacts are now the same. I no longer have to spend time keeping track of left eye and right eye. When I acknowledge these seemingly minor things for the major impact they have on my daily life, I am not only finding joy in the ordinary but learning more about how to find more and make my days easier.
4. My “junk” isn’t junk because it means something to me.
While I don’t posses a lot of “stuff” in the traditional sense, most of what I do own has personal significance. Gretchen’s second book, Happier at Home, contains a chapter in which she talks about making personal “alters” for her and her girls in their home. These are small spaces dedicated to bjects collected that don’t necessarily have a “use.” I was inspired to do the same right away. Instead of having momentos boxed up in closets or shoved into drawers, I gathered them all up and created specific places in my home where I can see them on a regular basis.
5. I don’t need to fight my tendencies to be productive/successful/happy.
Among many other things, I’m a morning person, a procrastinator, an optimist, and a rule follower. I thrive with structure and external accountability. While some people don’t like labeling themselves, I find it helps me embrace and accept who I am as a whole. In Better Than Before, Gretchen introduces us to her concept of The Four Tendencies, and gives us permission to STOP trying to change who we are. For example, I’m never going to be able to stay up late to get chores done, so why set myself up for failure by setting a goal to do that?
6. I am the only one in charge of my happiness.
This is another big game changer. Once I fully realized this, not only did I stop blaming others for my misery, I stopped taking responsibility for others’. When I put myself first, it is not selfish, but rather self care. And when I take care of myself, I am in a better place physically, emotionally, and mentally, which makes me a better person for everyone else to be around. It’s a cycle.
Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s books? What have you learned from her approach to happiness?