gretchen rubin on the secret(s) to happiness

one of the latest episodes of design matters is an interview with gretchen rubin. it’s a brilliant interview and a huge portion of it addresses her recent book on happiness (the happiness project). whether or not they seem to be trying to, almost everything in the conversation wraps back around to being happy.

of course, debbie (the interviewer) flat out asked what the secrets to happiness are. and, of course, nothing was incredibly surprising but it’s still worth sharing. there were many parts to the answer so here are the three that stuck out most to me.

answer part 1: once, when gretchen was working for supreme court justice sandra day o'connor, she asked the justice that very question: what’s the secret to happiness? justice o'connor, without missing a beat, responded “work worth doing.”

answer part 2: gretchen referenced several academic research studies on happiness. the threads that ran through them were (1) relationships and (2) self-knowledge. people who had strong, meaningful relationships and knew themselves well were the happiest over time. there are likely many reasons for that and i could write a whole post about each of those, but i’ll pass for now.

answer part 3: growth. for some reason, people are just happier when they’re growing something. over time and place, that has looked very different. sometimes it’s a garden, other times it’s a family, and other times it can look like an empire or a business. i would hope as we grow in consciousness about what it will take to make human life, we can all ‘grow’ things that are regenerative (instead of destructive) to the environment and each other, but regardless of what it is for each person, it makes a ton of sense to me that growing something is a critical part of being happy.

she also mentioned something about a happiness 'range’ and how to maximize it, but that seems like a post for later…