Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin

Author of NYT bestsellers Better Than Before, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 16, 2015

Discussion

Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
Hi, everyone! I’m Gretchen Rubin, author of “Better Than Before,” “The Happiness Project,” and several other books. Just about every day, I report on my adventures in pursuit of happiness and good habits on my blog, gretchenrubin.com, and I also have a podcast, “Happier with Gretchen Rubin,” with my sister, Elizabeth Craft. I’m from Kansas City, live in NYC, am left-handed, red-haired, and drink gallons of caffeine every day. Ask me anything!
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
Okay, everyone, thanks for being here today! Such thought-provoking questions. Onward and upward!
David Huynh
David Huynh@dhh83 · Co-Founder, SayMore
@gretchenrubin. Can you share your thoughts on staying "connected" with friends? Specifically, I'm curious to learn about your thoughts around talking versus texting/emailing and how this may (guessing it clearly does) or may not lead towards a more happier and fulfilling life.
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@dhh83 Nothing can replace face-to-face, that's clear. We need to make room for that in our lives. But friendship takes time and energy, so I'm a fan of technology that makes it easier to stay connected. Like many things (ambition, money, habits, caffeine), technology is a good servant but a bad master. We need to make sure that it's helping us stay connected, when we might otherwise struggle (e.g., keeping in touch with a friend who moves frequently) but make sure it's not replacing higher forms of connection.
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
My next book will be about the Four Tendencies. I'm having so much fun writing it. http://gretchenrubin.com/happine...
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
Gold star for the first person to ask a question!
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@gretchenrubin Hey Gretchin! Thanks for joining us today. What's something significant you've changed your mind on in the past 6 months?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
Oh, I have a BIG one. I changed my mind about getting a dog. I'd never wanted a dog, but my daughters convinced me. We got our 11-week-old puppy, Barnaby, last week. Very exciting (and a little overwhelming). I decided to "choose the bigger life," which, for me, meant dog. I discuss here: http://gretchenrubin.com/happine...
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@gretchenrubin can you share a pic of your new pup? 🙏
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Gretchen! Happy to see you on here (pun intended... sorry). 😁 I saw you speak at @nireyal's Habit Summit a few years ago (video of your talk from NY below). How your perspective or understanding of human psychology changed since you started learning and writing about it?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@rrhoover I've learned so much about how people are alike, and how they're different. There's such a strong desire, from all of us, to find magic, one-size-fits-all solutions or explanations. "The key is moderation!" "Just get up, and do it first thing in the morning!" "Start small!" True for some people, not all. I feel like the more I study human nature, the more I begin to see the similarities and differences.
jamestodd
jamestodd@jamestodd · Serial encourager and delighter
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
bear with me here....If you were asking YOURSELF a question in this LIVE Chat to try to illuminate some deep truth about yourself...what would you ask?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@eriktorenberg I'd ask, "Are you an Upholder, a Questioner, an Obliger, or a Rebel?'" This is the framework I developed to try to illuminate a deep truth in people. I learned SO MUCH about myself when I discovered that I'm an Upholder. I'd thought I was pretty typical when it came to habits, but I'm actually on the extreme fringe. Which surprised no one but me! Read about the Four Tendencies framework, and take an online quiz to find out YOUR Tendency, here: http://gretchenrubin.com/happine...
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Who are some of the most influential/impactful people in your life?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@katesegrin Probably the people who have influenced me most are people I've never met! Winston Churchill -- I wrote a biography about him, huge influence on my thinking and writing and living. http://gretchenrubin.com/other-b... Samuel Johnson, the way he approaches human nature. George Orwell's writing -- the essay on Dickens and Tolstoy! Unforgettable. My spiritual master St. Therese of Lisieux (read her extraordinary memoir, Story of a Soul). Virginia Woolf. Flannery O'Connor's use of formal and colloquial language. And of course, the extraordinary long-term influence of my favorite childhood writers, which did so much to shape my soul and my thinking: CS Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Edward Eager, Elizabeth Enright....gosh I could go on and on.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@gretchenrubin Hey Gretchen! I have just started at PH and getting used to working in a remote environment. I try to get out and exercise to refresh myself, what other daily routines would you recommend to keep up levels of happiness? I'm still not sure I am into meditation yet, although not really explored it!
Judith Straetemans
Judith Straetemans@judithstr · Product Manager @ Addapp
@gretchenrubin Hey Gretchen! What are your favorite books/talks/... on (finding) happiness, besides your own ones?
Mouyyad Abdulhadi
Mouyyad Abdulhadi@mouyyada · Marketer, Founder appruvd.com
@gretchenrubin loved The Happiness project, out of everything you did in your happiness experiments, whats the one thing that you still do and how big of an impact has that had?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@mouyyada Gosh, I still do MOST of the things that I wrote about. So many things. Big things, like maintaining my blog, www.gretchenrubin.com, or being part of my children's literature reading groups, or smaller things, like kissing my husband every morning and every night. One thing that made me much happier, that I discuss in my new book Better Than Before, is quitting sugar. NOT eating sugar makes me so much happier than sugar ever did. But that wouldn't be true for everyone, I know.
Mouyyad Abdulhadi
Mouyyad Abdulhadi@mouyyada · Marketer, Founder appruvd.com
@gretchenrubin wow, it's great that you still do most things...maybe a follow up question, is what things do you no longer do and why? Were those things too consuming or not worth it from a happiness perspective?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
When you think of the term "success" who comes to mind?
Julie de Graaf
Julie de Graaf@julieschrijft · journalist
Hi Gretchen, I love your podcast. Every episode sounds so effortless (in a good, spontaneous way), it almost feels like you and Elizabeth just call each other and chat for a bit. So I'm curious to know: how much time (including preparation and editing) goes into each episode? By the way, great episode with Eliza! I listened to it while running this morning: my wednesday habit :) Thanks! - Julie (from Leiden, the Netherlands)
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@julieschrijft That's so nice to hear! Thanks for your kind words -- especially about Eliza's appearance! Elizabeth and I have a call where we decide what subjects to talk about. Then, a few days later, we'll go over it. We talk about what we'll talk about, consult on whether a particular example or fact is worth including, decide what the "update" feature will be, debate whether a demerit/gold star is interesting, etc. Fun to include some kind of clip or unexpected note, so we also try to think if there's anything that ties in (sometimes it's obvious, sometimes not). Sometimes our producer Henry will add a little surprise, too, which is so fun to discover when Elizabeth and I listen to the final episode.
Amit Jain
Amit Jain@gravicle · iOS Engineer
Hey Gretchen! Good to see you on PH. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about happiness?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@gravicle That because something makes you happy, it will make someone else happy -- or vice versa. We can build a happy life only on the foundation of our natures, interests, and values.
Positivity Dan
Positivity Dan@positivitydan · n/a
@gretchenrubin, Thanks for doing this AMA! What are some critical aspects of habit formation that people usually miss?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@positivitydan You need to start by thinking about what is true FOR YOU. Not what worked for Ben Franklin or your sister.
randa
randa@randathinks · Deal team @ AngelList
@gretchenrubin what was your childhood like? what did your parents (or whoever raised you) do right and what do you think they could have done differently?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@randathinks I had a great childhood. My parents did many things right. I wish I'd thought more about "being Gretchen," however. I did some things that I thought I should do, not because I wanted to do them. My parents might have helped me think that through more explicitly.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@gretchenrubin thanks for joining us today! What inspired you to start your pursuit of happiness? And if you could give only one piece of advice for people to change one habit to help them in their pursuit of happiness, what would it be?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@ems_hodge Gosh, ONE piece of advice? Almost nothing is universal...but I think I would say...GET ENOUGH SLEEP.
Irina Jordan
Irina Jordan@irinajordan · Director of Inbound Marketing
@gretchenrubin Loved "The Happiness Project". Have you been able to raise your naturally set point for happiness? Do you think it can be raised indefinitely as long as you're mindful of it. Thanks!
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@irinajordan I think that through our conscious thoughts and actions, we can make our experience of our lives much happier. Our inborn nature is the same, but our lives are happier, healthier, and more productive. One person might naturally be an 8 on the happiness scale; another person a 6, but we can all take steps to push ourselves to the top of our natural range.
jamestodd
jamestodd@jamestodd · Serial encourager and delighter
I enjoyed hearing you speak at WDS in 2013...
It really inspired me to spend more time eating extended meals with people I care deeply about (Happiness Pre-indicator #2). There are lots of great habit books out now. What makes "Better Than Before" stand out among them?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@jamestodd Many experts on habits propose some approach: do it for 30 days, give yourself a cheat day, start small, do it first thing in the morning. A habits researcher told me, in all seriousness, that been given a grant to identify the "best habits for people to have." But different strategies work for different people! One person gets up early, one does better by doing something later. One person resists a strong temptation by abstaining; another by moderation. One person does better by working slowly and steadily; another loves the crunch of a deadline. One person loves habits; another is philosophically opposed to habits. These differences have huge influence over the way we can most effectively shape our habits. The one true thing? Begin with YOURSELF and what's true FOR YOU (plus get enough sleep).
jamestodd
jamestodd@jamestodd · Serial encourager and delighter
@gretchenrubin Love that idea! So you're inviting people to explore their habit diversity. :) www.habitdiversity.com is available at the time of this post. :P Can't wait until the Four Tendencies book is out. Gold star for reminding me of that mental model!
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
Hey @gretchenrubin - do you think that you're being typecast a bit from The Happiness Project? Do you mind at all? Also, along with @bentossell's question, I'm really curious on this front. I've been in the same office for four years and I often wonder what I can do to stop myself from going crazy.
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@jeffumbro You mean, do people expect me to be happy all the time? Not really. In person, I'm pretty edgy! So I don't think people are surprised when I'm not super-sunny all the time. But I am pretty happy, generally. And a lot more so, since I've studied it so much and made so many changes.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@gretchenrubin how about typecast in terms of only being "the happiness" writer? does it ever feel silly or strange for being "the happiness" person as a brand, the way it might if it one was "the religious" person
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
Do you find that your podcast is effecting your book sales and vice versa?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@jeffumbro That's a great question, and I really should dig into my analytics and figure that out. Which I haven't done. Thanks for the reminder! Anecdotally, though, I think the combo of the two helps people discover my books if they haven't read them yet.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Thanks for doing this @gretchenrubin! =) What's a critique of your work that you sympathize with?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@alexcartaz People sometimes say, "But this is just one person's experience." Exactly.
Jonny Miller
Jonny Miller@jonnym1ller · Cofounder @Maptia
Hey Gretchen – love that you describe yourself as a moral essayist/happiness bully! Q1) I recently watched a superb TED talk by Martin Seligman in which he broke down the fuzzy concept of happiness into feelings of 'pleasure', 'flow' and 'purpose'. Would you agree with this break down and if not how would you define 'happiness'? Q2) Stealing a question from @tferriss – if you could put a billboard anywhere in the world what would you say & where would you put it?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@jonnym1ller Q1: I started my career in law, and so I'm very familiar with the process of debating definitions! An entire semester on "contract." Happy memories. Anyway, I LIKE the looseness of the term "happiness" -- it can encompass many meanings. I don't find it helpful, in my own thinking, to try to worry about a precise final definition. Of course, academics have to have precise terms, but for lay people, I think a more encompassing notion of happiness is fruitful. At least for me. I also find that exact definitions encourage people to pose false choices: "I want a meaningful life, not a happy life." Is that the choice? I don't think so.
Brooke
Brooke @littlemightyone · Me
@gretchenrubin What non-fiction books are you reading at present?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@littlemightyone I've been reading a lot of dog books lately. You can see them listed here: http://gretchenrubin.com/happine.... Also just read Watson's THE DOUBLE HELIX, Swaim's THE SPEECHWRITER, just started the Steve Jobs bio by Schlender and Tetzeli, because I recently finished the Isaacson bio, and as I know from writing biographies myself, to get a fuller picture of a subject, you have to read MULTIPLE biographies. Also just started May Sarton's JOURNAL OF A SOLITUDE. I'm slowly making my way through Thomas Merton's journals...there are 7 volumes so I'm pacing myself. From my husband, I picked up the habit of reading multiple books simultaneously.
Brooke
Brooke @littlemightyone · Me
Thank you for suggesting LOWERING THE BAR. That helps so much. BUT... when to NOT lower it?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@littlemightyone Such a good point! Sometimes we should ask MORE of ourselves. So true! The opposite of a profound truth is also true. I talk about a Christopher Isherwood quotation in this context: http://gretchenrubin.com/happine...
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
What's something about the human condition that, even after all of your observation and writing, still astounds you?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@melissajoykong The degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm and inner self-command. In the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet is trivial, yet over and over, people tell me how great they feel after they clear clutter. A friend told me, "I finally cleaned out the fridge, and now I know I can switch careers." WHY??? I'm constantly puzzling this.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
What book do you think the world needs that no one has written yet?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@melissajoykong That's how I figure out my subjects! I think, "I want to read a book like this _____" and then discover it doesn't exist, so I have to write it. I do think the world needs a guide to the Four Tendencies framework. I made up that framework, so I probably need to be the one to write it -- and I'm writing a short book about that right now. http://gretchenrubin.com/happine...
Brooke
Brooke @littlemightyone · Me
@gretchen How do you handle truly-inadvertently hurting someone who then completed vanishes from your life with no explanation, conversation, or anthing... just POOF! Leaving you to try to figure out how You were "bad," or what you "did to them" to hurt them. ?
Positivity Dan
Positivity Dan@positivitydan · n/a
@gretchenrubin how would you codify good personal experimentation? Best way to design, length of time, topics to choose, etc?
Jay Schulman
Jay Schulman@jschulman · JaySchulman.com
Hey Gretchen, I read The Happiness Project a long time ago and still try to kiss my wife every day (not that it's the only thing I took away from the book). What do you think the role of technology plays in happiness? Is our tether to our technology affecting our ability to be happy?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@jschulman Like many things, technology is an intensifier of human nature. It makes bad things worse and good things better. I think there's absolutely a role for technology -- I love having little tiny interactions with my husband throughout the day with text, in ways that we never did by email or phone or in person. But of course, technology can also get in the way, if we never put down our phones when we're together. Any medicine can become poison.
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@jschulman And I hope the kissing of your wife is making your (and her) HAPPIER!
Jay Schulman
Jay Schulman@jschulman · JaySchulman.com
@gretchenrubin It's amazing how something so simple has such an impact.
Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee@dleesta · Product Manager
@gretchenrubin I work for a startup in the home improvement space and our mission is to help homeowners everywhere "love their home". What does loving your home mean to you?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@dleesta Oh my goodness, I wrote an ENTIRE BOOK ON THIS SUBJECT. So important! If you're not happy at home, it's hard to be happy. I discuss in HAPPIER AT HOME: http://gretchenrubin.com/books/h...
Brooke
Brooke @littlemightyone · Me
Absolutely the WORST Young Adult book you've ever read, and which you wished was banned? (okay, maybe not banned... but that you wish would disappear... a little bit, anyway... I know... books are so wonderful, that's terrible to say... but really)
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@littlemightyone Oh, if a book is bad, I forget it right away so no idea!
Positivity Dan
Positivity Dan@positivitydan · n/a
How does love relate to happiness? Have you done any love experiments in your life?
Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin@gretchenrubin · writer, self
@positivitydan SO KEY. Ancient philosphers and contemporary scientists agree: to be happy, we need strong bonds with others, we need to get and give support, we need to be able to confide, we need to feel like we belong. Anything we can do to deepen our extend our love for others will make us happier. I've done a MILLION love experiments, I feel like, in The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better Than Before.
Positivity Dan
Positivity Dan@positivitydan · n/a
What’s your process for writing your book? What comes first: research or personal experiments?
Positivity Dan
Positivity Dan@positivitydan · n/a
Any ideas for your next book? What topics are you curious about?
Positivity Dan
Positivity Dan@positivitydan · n/a
how would you codify good personal experimentation? Best way to design, length of time, topics to choose, etc?
Positivity Dan
Positivity Dan@positivitydan · n/a
How does love relate to happiness? Have you done any love experiments in your life? P.S. Thanks so much for coming on the AMA!
Narek Khachatryan
Narek Khachatryan@narekk · Product Designer
@gretchenrubin Thanks for joining us, Gretchen! What's one thing that you believe every family should do together at least once?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
HUGE Thanks to @Gretchenrubin for taking the time to chat with us today! definitely check out The Happiness Project!
Esha Gupta
Esha Gupta@lacedwithmagic · Director of Content - Telepathic
@gretchenrubin - thank you for being on PH today! You are so inspiring. I'm curious to know if you currently have any daily rituals that you practice (i.e. every morning I wake up and _____) that contribute to your sustained sense of Self and happiness?