Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

018: Gretchen Rubin: The Habits That Lead to Happiness [Podcast]

When asked what we want out of life, many of us respond with a simple answer: “I want to be happy.” But what we often don’t realize is what we need to actually transform our lives.

Man flying in the air

Photo Credit: Lara Cores via Compfight cc

Have you ever taken a moment to clarify what being “happy” means to you? What if there were actionable steps that you could take to day to reach it? That’s the very question that sent Gretchen Rubin on her journey.

In this episode of The Portfolio Life, Gretchen and I talk about how she made the transition to full-time writing, the habits that kept her on track, and the projects that define her life.

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From happiness to habits

While clerking for Justice O’Conner at the Supreme Court, inspiration struck Gretchen Rubin. She became obsessed with an idea and spent nights and weekends researching and writing. Then, one day she realized something.

She wanted what she did for fun to be what she did for a living. The idea that she could be a writer without being a novelist or journalist had never occurred to her until that moment.

So she started taking steps in the direction of a new and exciting career. Years later, she is now a New York Times best-selling author and sought-after speaker. But it didn’t begin there.

It all began with just a few simple steps. One of the most interesting things about my interview with Gretchen was how she linked happiness to habits — daily actions we all can take to help us live a more meaningful life now.

At the end of our conversation, we talked about writing. And I asked her about something every writer has to deal with today: marketing. She pointed out something I completely agree with and that will speak volumes to anyone who’s struggling to share their art with the world:

Instead of thinking about brand, think about voice. –Gretchen Rubin [Tweet that]

For Gretchen, everything from writing to leading a happier life comes down to daily habits. As you listen to her story, I encourage you to consider what small steps you can take today that will lead to the kind of life you want to live.

Find out more

If this interview speaks to you, be sure to check out Gretchen’s work on her website, on Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also find her books including The Happiness Project and Happier at Home online or in your local bookstore.

Also, if you’re enjoying this podcast, please don’t be afraid to leave a review. That helps other people find the show. You can do that in iTunes or Stitcher.

I’ve also been out visiting:

  • Bryan Allain’s Schnozcast to talk about calling, cheese, dictionaries, wearing jeans, world domination, phone plans, making the leap, and other silliness.
  • The Riverstone Group podcast to discuss leading a virtual community, the role of writing in leadership, and the importance of managing tension rather than striving for balance.
  • Joe Saul-Sehy at FinCon to talk about reducing mental clutter to become a more powerful writer. And Pez dispensers, of course.

What’s one small step you can take today, one habit you can start, that will make you a happier person tomorrow? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • Andrew Zanzig

    I recently read “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor, and he speaks about priming our brains to look for the positives instead of the negatives, which seems to be much easier. One exercise he gave is the “three good things” exercise, where you give detailed accounts of three good things that happened to you that day. They don’t have to be big or grandiose (I find that the smaller the better) but they have to be specific and detailed. We’ve started to incorporate this into our dinner conversations, even getting my three and eight year-old sons involved. It’s amazing how difficult it is at first, but how quickly it changes your mood when you do practice it. And I think it takes seven minutes for the whole family to have a turn :)

    • http://EvaPScott.com/ Eva P. Scott

      I just read that book, too. I journal the three good things daily. It helps reframe the day at times.

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        That must be why you’re such a nice person, Polly. :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Interesting. Gonna go check that out on Amazon. Thanks, Andrew! (And I like the “three good things” exercise.) I’ve heard that before.

      • mikedariano

        Jeff, want to think of three good things (each to read, watch, and use) at 27GoodThings.com?

  • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

    This was great. Thanks Jeff for providing this interview with Gretchen! I’ve always appreciated Gretchen’s insights into happiness. Great food for thought.

    Paul // Leadership Blogger, http://www.paulsohn.org

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Paul! Glad you liked it.

  • http://www.jonstallings.com/ Jon Stallings

    I really need to make more of an effort to consistently write and also bring focus to my larger writing projects. I tend to bounce around from project to project.

    I can so relate to the clutter issue. Like you Jeff I am not he neatest person in the world. However the other day cleared off a shelf in my office at home and I had such a feeling of accomplishment. – I was happy.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yep. I know that feeling. I would like to experience it more often. :)

  • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

    I totally clicked with Gretchen’s comments on how physical order of things around you gives you a feeling of satisfaction and peace internally. In fact I find it almost impossible to write when things are in a disarray around me!

  • http://johnpatrickweiss.com John Patrick Weiss

    Great interview, Jeff. I have Gretchen’s book The Happiness Project, so this interview is a treat. Also, picked up your Tribe theme yesterday to play with a second blog idea. Thanks!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Excellent. Thanks, John!

  • http://jeffchapmanwriter.blogspot.com/ Jeff Chapman

    Inspiring interview, Jeff. I’ve noticed that nothing makes me feel more energized than a clean table. Now I need to get busy and completely clean my home office.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Amen to that, Jeff. I’m still trying to make that a daily discipline but I always feel better when I have a clear workspace.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Sleep! Great interview Jeff. I know I’ve been running a little thin on the sleep side of things.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Love that, Kimanzi. One of the hardest habits for me to cultivate has been going to bed early.

  • http://reflecteditorial.com/ Anaik Alcasas

    Loved this podcast!!! So many takeaways to think about.

    Current habit: walking daily. The time in nature combined with exercise fuels my creativity.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Anaik! Glad you liked it. It was fun for me to interview Gretchen. I admire what she’s done so much and have learned a lot from her already.

  • Marcy Mason McKay

    I’m a HUGE fan of Gretchen, so I loved every bit of this podcast. She was every bit as wonderful and I’d hope — someone I’d like to just hang out with. Thanks, Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Awesome, Marcy.

  • Dubem Menakaya

    Really enjoyed this show. It was the simple things – like cleaning your space, building daily working habits and finding theme linkages, that will stick with me. Had never heard of Gretchen before, I’ll be sure to check her work out now!