• Hope A. Perlman
  • My Conversation with Gretchen Rubin on Happiness and Success
My Conversation with Gretchen Rubin on Happiness and Success
Written by
Hope A. Perlman
April 2016
Written by
Hope A. Perlman
April 2016

What is success? What makes you feel successful? And how can you tweak the definition so that you can feel successful even if you don't achieve everything you hope? Recently, I had the opportunity to sit with Gretchen Rubin - in person - and ask her about success.  I told her I write a humorous blog about redefining success, triggered by a midlife crisis. She was generous with her time and her enthusiasm*, and offered some interesting ideas for me to consider, which I am now passing along to you, Readers.

The New York Times described author, blogger, and podcaster Gretchen Rubin as “the queen of self-help.” I myself think of her as “the Martha Stewart of happiness.” Like Martha with her practical advice to create the Good Life, Gretchen tackles practical ways to create the happy one. But she’s a lot wonkier, i.e., more intellectual, than Martha. She’s great at illuminating home truths we take for granted – for example, if something is easy to do we are more likely to do it.

However, her particular genius is breaking down complex ideas into practical, useful tips. We couldn’t be more different. If I have a genius, it’s for existing in a state of conflict or ambivalence, and examining all facets of it. Then making fun of myself. I call this "complexification," as in, making something more complicated than perhaps it needs to be. I can't help myself. Luckily, Gretchen Rubin cuts through the mess.

Here are three takeaways on success from our conversation:

  • Success is a broad term with many definitions. Instead of considering it in the abstract, it might be more useful to tackle small goals to help you feel successful.
  • Success is not success unless you enjoy the process . If you don't find meaning and happiness while you are doing something, then all the achievement in the world isn't going to make you feel successful. 
  • Make sure you have more than one way to define yourself. Don't only define yourself by your job. "Multiple personalities," says Rubin, can help you feel successful, because if one area of your life isn't going well, you can look to another area to balance it. 

Click to read the full conversation.

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