Join Kristina as she speaks with the incredible Gretchen Rubin, multiple New York Times Bestseller and author of The Happiness Project, Better Than Before and many more!
Be inspired as they explore the power of passion, the importance of habits and how by taking control of your life you can create a happier life - your dream life! As one of the most inspiring, influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature today, Gretchen inspires millions of people to make positive changes to their lives in their quest for a happier existence.
In fact, Gretchen’s values and beliefs align so perfectly with ours at Dream Life that we've even been lucky enough to collaborate with her a few times in the past!
Some highlights of her inspiring career include being interviewed by Oprah, meeting the Dalai Lama and having her impressive works featured in a medical journal.
Known for her ability to convey complex ideas with humour and clarity, in a way that’s accessible to a wide audience, Gretchen truly is an inspiration.
Her wisdom continues to inspire millions of people to make sustainable positive changes to their daily lives.
And her story is a wonderful example of how we can take control of our lives and let our values guide us in creating happier life, a life of purpose - our Dream Life.
In this amazing episode, you’ll discover:
- How Gretchen took control of her life and career to create a life she loves
- How happiness plays such an important part in living our dream life
- How important it is to live a life guided by your values
- How positive habits can play a huge part in creating the life you want
- And how you too can embrace more happiness in your everyday
...and so much more!
- Gretchen Rubin https://gretchenrubin.com/
- Happier Podcast https://gretchenrubin.com/podcasts/
- The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin Forty Ways to Look at JFK, Gretchen Rubin Power Money Fame Sex, Gretchen Rubin https://gretchenrubin.com/books/
- Outer Order, Inner Calm, Gretchen Rubin https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/599217/outer-order-inner-calm-by-gretchen-rubin/9781984822802/
- My Story, Jo Malone http://www.simonandschuster.com.au/books/Jo-Malone-My-Story/Jo-Malone/9781471143007
- Pippy Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/297697/pippi-longstocking-by-astrid-lindgren/9780142427521/
- Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl https://www.penguin.com.au/books/mans-search-for-meaning-9781846042843
As a New York Times Bestseller and author of many incredible books including The Happiness Project and Better Than Before, today, Gretchen's award-winning podcast ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin’, explores all aspects of happiness and healthy habits with her sister Elizabeth Craft.
But Gretchen's life wasn't always dedicated to writing and inspiring others to live a happier existence...
Starting out her career studying law, as a clerk for a Supreme Court Justice, Gretchen took a moment one day to consider what else she might be interested in.
Uninspired by the world of law, she began considering what it was that did inspire her. It was then that she decided to change paths to pursue her dream of becoming a writer.
Gretchen took the leap, took control of her life and left her law career to follow her passion. After years of pursuing this career, Gretchen was sitting on a city bus when she thought to herself "What do I want from my life?" And the answer? "To be happy!"
A hunger for understanding happiness sparked and her fascination grew into a career dedicated to helping people embrace more happiness in their everyday. After finding her passion and following it, she jumped into the driver's seat of her own life and is now living her dream existence.
“I find it so inspiring that Gretchen has been able to create a career out of sharing her experiences and ideas on living a happier life.” Kristina Karlsson
THIS IS A FULL TRANSCRIPT OF KRISTINA KARLSSON’S CONVERSATION WITH GRETCHEN RUBIN.
Kristina: 00:00:04 What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? If you had all the money, all the time, all the knowledge, all the resources that you needed? What would you do with your life if you simply knew that anything was possible for you? My name is Kristina Karlsson, founder of global Swedish design and stationery brand kikki.K, and author of the book Your Dream Life Starts Here. And I love exploring these sorts of questions to inspire people to dream.
Kristina: 00:00:35 Before I started kikki.K, I had a dream that I could bring Swedish design to the world to create beautiful products that bring sparks of joy into the everyday lives of millions. Now that I have achieved that dream, I want to help you dream big. I want to create a global movement to inspire 101 million dreamers to transform their lives and transform the world in return. Each episode I’ll be talking to some of the world’s most inspiring people, exploring the powerful impact that dreaming has had on their lives. We’ll be diving deep into the power of dreaming, with real insights and ideas that you can use immediately to build a dream life of your own. Whatever that means for you.
In this episode, I am thrilled to be speaking with three times New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, who is one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to subjects like happiness, habits and human nature. All topics that we love to explore with you on Your Dream Life podcast. Gretchen’s bestselling books include The Happiness Project, a favorite of mine which I actually reread every single year. And her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide in over 30 languages. She’s one of the most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness, habits and human nature in the world today.
Kristina: 00:02:13 And as someone interested in living your dream life, you are in for a real treat ahead. Gretchen’s wisdom has literally inspired millions of people to make simple and sustainable positive changes to their daily lives. And as you’ll hear, I’m very grateful to have been one of those to benefit from the very practical wisdom she shares. Just one of the many things you’ll find fascinating in this conversation ahead is how Gretchen started life studying law and working as a law clerk, but then realizing this just wasn’t feeding her soul. She changed path to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, focusing on subjects she was passionate about.
Kristina: 00:02:53 There are so many learnings ahead for you, and for you to pass on to people in your life you care about. This episode will be worth listening to multiple times. I can’t wait to have you sit in on this conversation with us, so let’s get started.
Hello and welcome, Gretchen, to our Dream Life podcast. I am thrilled to have you on our podcast. I cannot tell you how excited I was this morning when I woke up. I was thinking I was like in a candy store and thinking what should I choose to talk about today? Because we have so much to talk about. So thank you so much and a very warm welcome.
Gretchen: 00:03:29 Oh, well thanks. I’m so happy to be talking. We’ve known each other for quite a while now and we always have so much fun when we get a chance to sit down and talk. So I’m really looking forward to this too.
Kristina: 00:03:37 Yeah. Thank you so much. I wanted to share, I know that you know this already, but I want to share to our listeners that I read The Happiness Project many times and it’s a habit that I actually have, which is perfect ’cause it’s happiness and habits, which is two of your passions.
Gretchen: 00:03:52 Yeah.
Kristina: 00:03:52 But I read it every year between Christmas and New Year and I absolutely love it ’cause it gets me inspired for the new year and I always start doing The Happiness Project and I always give it as a gift. And I’m thrilled that we have done, I think, probably three different covers now, kikki.K covers, for your book, which I absolutely love. And also one of my absolute favorites of yours is the video that you’ve made quite a while ago. It’s about that life is short, which is one chapter in my book which I feel really passionate about. It’s so wonderful. That video is such a wonderful reminder that life is really precious, and that was how it all started with your project, I think. But before we get into that, I’d love to hear a little bit about your childhood. What were your dreams for the future when you were a child?
Gretchen: 00:04:38 Well, you know, it’s funny. Looking back, I mean, maybe I don’t remember ’cause I don’t remember very much. I’m one of these people who’s not good at remembering things. But I don’t think as a child I really did think about what I would do in the future. And I still do as an adult. You know, they say you should really make plans, and I don’t know that I did think about it that much, about sort of what my dream for my future was other than I just thought that I wanted to build a life that I wanted.
Gretchen: 00:05:08 But I didn’t really know what that was and I really think it’s very helpful to think, try to be specific on what you want. It’s a lot easier to hit a target if you’re aiming at it. And so one thing I do try to do much more is be much more purposeful in thinking about the future and what my dreams could be for the future.
Kristina: 00:05:25 Yeah. Wonderful. Something I find so interesting about your journey is that you had quite a big journey. Like it looks amazing when you read about you are obviously a New York Times bestselling author and teacher of living happier, healthier, and more productive and creative lives. I believe your books have sold more than two million copies, and online copies as well, in over 30 languages. Which is just unbelievable, and I need to talk to you at one stage how I can make my dream come true to sell one million copies.
Gretchen: 00:05:59 Yeah.
Kristina: 00:06:00 But it’s without doubt that you have profoundly inspired millions of people all over the globe to improve their lives. Absolutely amazing achievements. But you did start out studying law. So I’d love you, if we can wind back the clock, when you were working in law and how you actually then took that to what you are doing today?
Gretchen: 00:06:19 Well, when I look back on my life, I did everything that a person would do to prepare to be a writer. I majored in English. I would always write a paper instead of taking an exam. I read and write all the time, and I’ve done that since I was little. But I didn’t really see a place for me in the writing world. Like I didn’t want to be a novelist or a playwright or a poet, and I didn’t want to be an academic and I didn’t want to be a journalist. And I think I just sort of didn’t understand what kind of writing would be right for me.
Gretchen: 00:06:47 And so I kind of, because I couldn’t think of anything better to do, I went to law school. And I was actually clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for our Supreme Court, which here in the United States is a really big deal for a lawyer. And it was at that point that I realized, you know what, I really want to be a writer. And there were a couple of things that were sort of the wake-up moments for me. One was I went over to a friend’s house and she had these really boring looking, very thick books lying around. And I said, kind of dismissively, “Oh, do you have to read this for your education grad school program?” And she said, “Oh yeah, but that’s what I read on my own anyway.”
Gretchen: 00:07:23 And I thought, “Wow, I want to be doing in my free time what I would be doing for work.” And I knew that for law I never spent one more minute on law than I had to. Like I wanted to do an excellent, excellent job but I was surrounded by people who loved law, who were reading law on the weekends, who wanted to talk about law during their lunch hours. Whereas I was always trying to minimize how much time I was spending on law. So that was an important clue. And another thing was that I had the idea for a book. I got sort of obsessed with this idea. I was outside during my lunch hour going for a walk and I thought, “What am I interested in that everybody in the world is interested?” And I thought, “Well, power, money, fame, sex.”
Gretchen: 00:08:06 And it hit me like a lightning bolt. Power, money, fame, sex, like this one subject. And I became obsessed with it and started researching. And this is something that happens to me often in my life, I have to say. I will get obsessed with things. I will go research them. Sometimes it sort of burns itself out. Sometimes it becomes kind of a lifelong pursuit. Like just very recently I became obsessed with color. I just did massive amounts of research into color. And so that’s something that was familiar to me, but this just kept growing and growing and growing. And finally I thought, “Well, you know, this is the kind of thing that a person would do if they were going to write a book about it. I could be a person who writes a book about it.”
Gretchen: 00:08:41 And I realized when I thought about my career going forward, when I thought about people who had law jobs it was like, “Oh, that sounds interesting.” And when I thought about people who had writing jobs, I was like intensely envious. So I thought, “You know, maybe I should try to write a book.” And so I did.
Kristina: 00:08:56 Actually, before we continue on with that I have to ask you, because I do a lot of workshops on How to Create Your Dream Life. And I meet so many lawyers who actually don’t love what they do. And I wonder why that is. And my theory, which of course is just my side of things, having spoken to quite a few, is that often when we are so clever and we’re getting to those amazing schools like the law schools, and they cannot get onto that road. And then they get a really great job because it’s expected after spending so much money on getting into the school and studying so hard. And then they get a really good job, and then they’re kind of really stuck in that. Is that your theory? Or what is it do you think that a lot of people seem to get into law but not loving it?
Gretchen: 00:09:48 Well, my theory is sort of related to your theory. I think that law is a good default for a lot of people who don’t really know what they want. So if you haven’t spent a lot of time dreaming and thinking about this is what I want, if you’re good at research and writing, if you’re kind of a person who sort of likes to be in a library, if you’re good at school, law school feels like an easy default choice. Because people, when you’re talking to people about going to law school, they say things, and this is definitely what I told myself, is I can always change my mind later. It’s a great education for a lot of different things. It’ll increase my options.
Gretchen: 00:10:22 But what is true is that law school prepares you very well to be a lawyer. And so I think a lot of people get into it just kind of because they don’t know what else to do. People don’t become sound engineers by default. You either want to be a sound engineer or it never occurs to you to be a sound engineer. It’s not like you do that because you can’t think of anything else to do. A lot of people just sort of wander into it. Surprisingly, this is also very true of medical school. You would think medical school is so specific and so demanding, but I know many medical students and doctors who are like, “Well, both my parents were doctors and I was really good at science, and so people kept saying, ‘Oh, you should go to medical school.’ And I didn’t know what else to do, so I did and now I’m a doctor.”
Gretchen: 00:10:58 So I think anytime that you’re just doing the default choice, then it opens up the chance that you’re going to get through it and be like, “You know what? I’m not really interested in it because I wasn’t really interested in it to begin with. I got into it for the wrong reasons and so now it’s not really that surprising that I don’t like it.” I think one of the things about my experience is that a lot of the lawyers I know are extremely happy, because these are people who really decided to be lawyers, who wanted to specifically be a lawyer, whether it’s they wanted to be a litigator or they wanted to do public interest law or they wanted to do Supreme Court brief writing.
Gretchen: 00:11:30 These are people who set out to get what they wanted, and so they’re happy that they’re there. But if you’re just doing it because you can’t think of anything else to do, then it’s sort of no surprise that you might not like it. Sometimes people do like it and that can be confusing because they’re like, well, some people just wander into it and they do just fine. But I think a lot of people are like me. I kind of went for the wrong reasons and then I wandered out of it once I realized that I really would prefer to do something else.
Kristina: 00:11:56 That makes complete sense. Many people tell me they struggle with leaving the comfort of what they have or what they are used to do to really follow a new dream. Did you find that? And how did you find the courage and self-belief to really start from scratch?
Gretchen: 00:12:13 Well, it is a big deal to start from scratch and I felt that very acutely because I really had no writing credentials at all. I didn’t like write in the college newspaper, I had never published a short story anywhere. I had nothing other than I had done well in English, which counts for nothing. And one of the things that really was helpful to me was I was at a point in my life where I either needed to get another law job or I should try to be a writer.
Gretchen: 00:12:42 And I said to myself, in a very objective way, this is my shot. I’m married but I don’t have children. I’m moving from Washington DC to New York, which is the publishing capital of the United States. I have a big idea for a book that I’m really excited about writing, and in fact I’ve already kind of started writing it. This is the time. If I get another law job, it’s probably going to get very hard for me to extricate myself from that because I’ll just be that much further down. The stakes will be higher. I’ll feel like I’ve spent more time on it. I’ve already spent a lot of time on this. If I’m ever going to take a risk, this is the time to take the risk.
Gretchen: 00:13:18 And so I think that was very helpful to me because I was sort of like, “Okay, take your shot, this is your moment.” And so it felt like something that had to happen, that like now was the time. ‘Cause I think sometimes things that can happen at any time happen at no time. But for me it was like one job. I had actually taken another job that I only did for 18 months, which was a great law job after my clerkship. But while I was there I was like, okay, this is I’m planning how I’m going to try to write a proposal, get an agent and do all that. I used that as sort of my transition. And so I think for me that was a big thing, was knowing it’s now or never. I don’t think that’s actually true. I don’t think there really is now or never, but it certainly felt like this is a good time.
Kristina: 00:14:00 Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. One of the very first chapters in my book is titled You Are in the Driver’s Seat, which is really timely here. In my experience, to live the life of your dreams you first need to fully understand that your outcomes in life are driven by all the decisions you take or you don’t take. That effectively we’re all in the driver’s seats of our own life. And I truly believe that you are the only one who can make it happen, regardless of what people think around you. Can you share any advice from your experience on how important that is, and how our listeners can jump into driver’s seats in their own lives?
Gretchen: 00:14:35 Well, I think that’s incredibly important. And I think we’re so influenced by what other people think we should do, or kind of what we think we ought to do. Or feeling what’s the right thing to do or feeling, well, I can’t take a risk or I can’t do that. I can’t. What if I fail? I think it is really important to remember your life, it’s the consequence of your decisions and your actions. And if you don’t like it then you’re the one who has to do something about it.
Gretchen: 00:15:05 And I have to say I’m haunted by something, a conversation I had with somebody at a New Year’s Eve party. And this was a guy. So in the United States you work as an associate in a law firm, and that’s incredibly grueling for seven years. And then you might make partner or you might not. And if you don’t make partner, it’s very distressing and you have to leave the law firm, and then what are you going to do? But then if you make partner, it’s a big deal. You make more money and you have security and whatever.
Gretchen: 00:15:28 So I was talking to this guy and he hated being an associate. It was like he hated it so much. I’ve never met anybody who hated their job so much. He felt so trapped and he was working so hard, and he was so anxious about making partner. He was in incredible distress it was upsetting just to talk to him. But then when you would talk to him about making partner, it was like then he just was even more trapped because then he was stuck there and he could never leave because how could he leave banking partner. And he needed the money because he had this family and he had this house and he had these responsibilities. And I was just it was like, man, this is a trap you put yourself in and you are putting yourself in there every day. You think you have no options, but you do have options. You’re just so unhappy. There has to be another way.
Gretchen: 00:16:13 And he just wouldn’t hear it. He was just absolutely convinced that he was completely powerless to do anything about his situation. And I thought in a way his feeling of powerless just made everything worse. Because if he mindfully went into it and embraced it, and was like I don’t love this but this is what works for me, I have to do it this way because this is what I’ve decided, at least he would feel like he was in the driver’s seat. He had made a decision. And sometimes we decide to do things we don’t want to do or don’t like to do because for whatever reason that’s what makes sense overall.
Gretchen: 00:16:44 But this was a person who felt utterly passive. And I’ve never forgotten it, because I thought that is an example of exactly what I would never want to see in my own life. Which was carefully walking yourself to a situation which then you felt like you had no authority to change. And of course he could change it. He might not like the outcomes, but he could absolutely have changed it. And he didn’t even want to think about that.
Kristina: 00:17:11 No, no. I have met a few people who have that as well, and it’s such a shame because life is so short.
Gretchen: 00:17:17 It is, it is.
Kristina: 00:17:18 And it is our own choice what we do with our life. Even though it’s sometimes hard to change, of course.
Gretchen: 00:17:24 Yes, yes.
Kristina: 00:17:25 But I’d love to hear how you went from your first book, and then I think you did a book about JFK and then you came across happiness. I’d love to hear about that.
Gretchen: 00:17:40 Yeah, you’re exactly right. Many people think The Happiness Project is my first book since that was the first big success. But I was an example of someone working very hard for 10 years to be an overnight success. And I had written three books, published three books, before. Actually four books, one was like an art book, before I wrote The Happiness Project. And I was finishing work on my … I did, I wrote a biography of Churchill and a biography of JFK, and I was finishing up the work on JFK. And I was just on a city bus and I had one of those rare opportunities for reflection that you don’t often get in everyday life when I thought, “You know, what do I want from life anyway?” And I thought, “Well, I want to be happy.” And I realized I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether I was happy or how I could be happier.
Gretchen: 00:18:25 And so I thought, “Well, I should have a happiness project and I should learn a lot about happiness.” So I went to the library and got out a giant stack of books. And like I said, I often get obsessed with subjects so that was a very familiar impulse for me. But the subject of happiness was just so vast and so fascinating. And just the more and more I got into it, the more and more I wanted to learn and think about and try in my own life, I wanted to experiment with all these ideas, that finally I ended up, “Well, maybe this is my next book. I’ll write a book about The Happiness Project and then I’ll really be able to dive into it.” And, of course, it turns out that I have never really left that subject. Because it is such an inexhaustible subject and there’s so many aspects of it and it’s so fascinating that I’ve really just gone deeper and deeper and deeper into it ever since that book.
Kristina: 00:19:12 Yeah, that’s fantastic. You know, it’s funny. When I first came across your book I absolutely loved it and I read it I don’t know how many times. So I love rereading books, like I think you do as well.
Gretchen: 00:19:24 Yes, I love to reread.
Kristina: 00:19:26 But I remember the financial crisis and having my own business and, you know, it was tough everywhere. And the news were at war. Everything was really, really challenging, everywhere I looked. And then I reread your book and I was like, “I know exactly where we’re going to focus on. We’re going to focus on happiness” But that’s when I heard from you saying can we do a kikki.K cover? And I’m so glad we did because there were so many people who kind of needed that at the time and, of course, still do.
Gretchen: 00:19:58 Yeah.
Kristina: 00:19:58 But you’ve enjoyed so many incredible achievements. Obviously being a New York Times bestseller multiple times, launching an award-winning podcast with your sister, which I absolutely love as well.
Gretchen: 00:20:09 Oh, thank you.
Kristina: 00:20:09 And, of course, being interviewed by Oprah. And you met the Dalai Lama and you had your work featured in a medical journal. All the amazing things you have achieved. What are you most proud of, if there is one thing?
Gretchen: 00:20:23 You know, I think I’m most proud of making the switch from law to writing. It was a big jump and I just was like, “Okay, I’ll give it a try.” Now that I look back on it, it’s kind of amazing to me that I did. And I feel so lucky that I did. I worry just what if I hadn’t done that? What if I hadn’t gone out for my lunch walk one day and had this idea that got me so excited that I had an idea for a book?
Gretchen: 00:20:50 ‘Cause I think, and I don’t know if you’ve seen this, a lot of times people want to be writers but they don’t have an idea. And to be a writer you have to have something to talk about. You have to have something that you want to communicate.
Gretchen: 00:21:00 And so I feel really lucky that all those puzzle pieces, and maybe they would have come together inevitably. Maybe it was inevitable that I would have made that shift. Because I think for me writing is almost a compulsion. I think for some people, what they do, they have kind of a compulsive. Like I know doctors who feel like I was born a doctor, I have to be a doctor. There’s no way for me. Or I know people who are physical trainers who are for my whole life this is my calling. And I definitely am a person who feels that way. But I do feel like I’m very proud that I kind of had every credential in law that a person could possibly have, if I do say so myself, and then I just chucked it all. And I’m proud of that.
Kristina: 00:21:44 Oh, absolutely. So you should be. And that’s so inspiring for our listeners, because I think that is the hardest thing to do. Because it’s one thing when you start and you actually don’t have any specific path, but you’ve definitely left something that could be amazing for so many people. So that is something definitely to be super proud of. So I have to ask you, do you feel like you are living your dream life now?
Gretchen: 00:22:11 You know, I really do. It almost feels unlucky to say that. But I really do.
Kristina: 00:22:17 Yeah. And if you were to explain what is your dream life, what is it that makes it your perfect dream life? Of course, nothing is perfect but you know what I mean.
Gretchen: 00:22:29 Well, I mean, I think part of it is having thought so much about happiness. And also specifically for me, I think everyone’s happiness project is different. Your happiness project is different from my happiness project. But having thought about it, I’ve gotten much better about making decisions that lead me to happiness. And knowing, like part of my nature is I love to just stay at home. I love a free day. I like to just putter around in my yoga pants. But I have to remind myself if I go out. And I work by myself ’cause I’m a writer, but go out to lunch, go to a meeting, show up. Even if you could do it on the phone, do it in person. You know you’re happier when you meet people face to face, you know you’re happier when you get out in New York City. Push yourself.
Gretchen: 00:23:09 And so I know now. Like, okay, Gretchen, I know your tendency is to think, “Oh, no, it’ll be so much better to be on the phone in your yoga pants.” But now I make the right decision ’cause I’ve thought a lot about what makes me happier over the long run. And I’ve also set it up so that, I mean, I really feel so fortunate in my work. One of the things that came out of my law experience is that I became very, very good at training my mind to think very, very intensely and at great length about things that were insanely boring. I mean boring, boring, boring, boring, boring. And complicated and hard to understand. But I had to train my mind like a horse to just do what I wanted.
Gretchen: 00:23:48 And there is not a day that goes by where I am not jubilant about the intellectual freedom that I have now. I read something because I’m interested. I write about something because it fascinates me. I talk to people about the subjects that interest me. And that is just the most delicious ability, I will never take it for granted. And I have a wonderful husband. We’ve been married for 24 years, we have two children. One’s in college and she’s happily in college. The other one seems to be happy in middle school, which is for most people that’s the hardest time of childhood. We got a new dog a couple of years ago, that’s been so fun. And my parents are both healthy. I have a close relationship with my sister. I just feel like enjoy it while it lasts. There are some periods in our life where it seems like everything goes wrong, and then there are some periods where things are going well. And so I feel like I’m very, very, very happy. And I feel grateful for it every day.
Kristina: 00:24:45 That’s wonderful to hear. Something that really strikes me about dreaming is how we seem to lose our childlike ability to dream without limitations as we become older. And I know that in one of your books, I know that you recommend us as readers to look back to our childhood to find what we loved to do back then. But what are your thoughts on why it happens? Why we stop dreaming about all the things that we want to do?
Gretchen: 00:25:13 Well, I think part of it is that we become more realistic and we think, “Well, I want to be an astronaut, but how many people are astronauts?” Or, “I want to be a ballerina, but how many people are ballerinas?” Or like, “Do I really want to do? I see people around me who are really doing it. Do I want to do that at that level?” So some dreams kind of naturally fall away, or you realize, “Oh, I didn’t really understand stand what it took to do that and I’m not really as interested in it as I thought. I thought being an astronaut was about flying through space, but in fact it’s actually about learning a lot about physics and I’m not interested in physics.”
Gretchen: 00:25:44 But I think also part of it is other people’s expectations for us and the expectations that we put on ourselves from the outside. So it’s things like no-one makes a career on that, that’s not a real job, you need to go for security, I don’t know what that looks like, it’s too unpredictable. And one thing, and I tell my children this all the time and I’ve talked about it a couple times on the Happier podcast ’cause this was a really, really important revelation to me as an adult about dreams. Which is when I was young, I had the mistaken belief that if I wanted to be good at something I had to be good at it. So if I wanted to be a painter or an artist, I had to be really good at drawing. Or if I were going to be a really good novelist, I had to be a really good writer. Or if I wanted to be in finance, if I wanted to work for a bank, I had to be really good with numbers.
Gretchen: 00:26:38 The funny thing that you see as an adult, and I’m sure you’ve seen this too, is that a lot of times people are good at things without being good at things. It turns out that Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson, neither one of them could read music. They’re amazing artists and musicians. They love music but they don’t know how to read music or write music. And so can you be good at something without being good at something? Yes. There are writers, and I don’t want to name them, but they are amazing storytellers and they’ve sold millions of copies of books, mesmerized audiences. But when I read their stuff, I’m like they’re not really very good writers.
Gretchen: 00:27:13 It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be a good, quote, writer to be a great writer. And I know people who work in finance who aren’t good at numbers, and they just work around it. And so one thing that I think is really important is if you want to be an artist and you can’t really draw very well, just think, “Okay, well, how can I take my talents and my interests and my strengths in a different direction?” Because there’s a lot of ways to do things and you don’t necessarily have to be good at something to be good at it.
Gretchen: 00:27:37 And so I think sometimes people, they cut off a dream because they’re like, “Well, if I’m going to do X I have to do Y.” Maybe not. Maybe you can do X without doing Y. Look around, see if other people are doing X without doing Y. You might be surprised. I’m often very surprised at how people can achieve very, very great success even missing abilities that you might think are essential. It turns out they’re not so essential.
Kristina: 00:28:04 Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t relate more to this. It’s just so my theory as well, ’cause when I started my business I had no idea. And I loved that I didn’t know, because if I knew what I know now, oh, no.
Gretchen: 00:28:23 You’d be too scared. Yeah.
Kristina: 00:28:23 I truly believe, and it’s really funny when I was writing the book because I’m not a writer and for me to even consider writing a book was just so foreign to me. But when I was talking and doing a lot of workshops and things, I just felt like I couldn’t help people on individual levels. Like I couldn’t have a million coffees a week to help people. So I thought we really need, although we have a lot of products at kikki.K that helps people dream and setting goals or being happy.
Gretchen: 00:28:52 Journals, yeah.
Kristina: 00:28:56 But I felt like I wanted to write something that actually took our followers through a process that I did. And that’s how I did it. And it was funny, when I started to talk, people were asking who do you love? And you were obviously one of them because I was thinking you’re such an amazing writer. And so I love also how you’re actually sharing so much of your personal life with your readers. Because that was a real challenge for me, I have to say, because I like being out there but then I also love to keep some of my life for my own. So that was definitely a challenge. But you were a big inspiration, so thank you for being that.
Gretchen: 00:29:35 Well, thank you. And I think what you said is an excellent illustration of something. A friend of mine was just talking to me about this, and I think it’s very connected to kind of this idea of achieving a big dream. ‘Cause what he was saying is that a lot of times when people have a big dream like I’m going to start a business, they think of everything that has to be done at any point and think I have to be ready to do all that before I can begin. And his whole thing is just do the next thing. Like I want to write a giant book that 101 million people are going to. It’s just like, okay, well, what are you going to do right now? And just sort of figure out the next step, the next step.
Gretchen: 00:30:10 Because a lot of times, just learn what you need to learn. I remember when I started my blog it was like this was a time when it was just becoming easier for ordinary people to do something like blogging. And I was very freaked out ’cause I’m like I don’t know how to do images and I don’t know how to do links and I don’t know how to make bullet points and stuff. And then I was like, “You know what? Just get the thing up and write one paragraph and just have it be something that somebody can click on, and then take it from there.” And then I was okay. And then once I knew how to do that, then I could figure out how to insert an image.
Gretchen: 00:30:43 And it was just like I think it’s good advice. And I was just don’t feel like you have to have everything figured out in advance, because that can be so intimidating that you can’t start. And there’s always those first steps to any dream. And you’re right. If you know what’s involved, you might be so intimidated you don’t start. But if you took it step by step, what you can do over the course of a year, if working steadily, is quite extraordinary.
Kristina: 00:31:06 Yeah, absolutely. And I have a whole chapter, actually, in my book about that. And it’s called Just Start.
Gretchen: 00:31:11 Yes, yes.
Kristina: 00:31:11 Because I meet so many people and they look at everyone else around them that have these massive businesses, or even a small business that are starting to be successful. But they also started and had just one step. So, yeah, really, really good that.
Gretchen: 00:31:25 I just read the memoir of Jo Malone who’s kind of the fragrance maker. And it was really interesting to hear how she got her start. It was very, very kind of haphazard and just who she happened to know and what skills she happened to have. And they just figured it out, and just kind of with this joyful spirit. And I thought, “Oh, my, it was just such a great example of someone who just took it step by step and then achieved something so monumental.”
Kristina: 00:31:48 Yeah, absolutely. And I’m sure you know there is a very well known books by Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish author, about Pippi Longstocking. Most people seem to, yeah. And she, Pippi-
Gretchen: 00:31:59 Oh, of course. Well, because I have red hair and Pippi is one of the rare red. She and Anne of Green Gables. I know Pippi in the South Seas. Yes, Pippi. Love Pippi.
Kristina: 00:32:07 Yeah. And she has a quote saying, I don’t know if I’m translating ’cause it’s obviously a Swedish quote, but it’s more like, “I haven’t done this before so I’m absolutely sure that I can do that.”
Gretchen: 00:32:19 Oh, yeah, yeah.
Kristina: 00:32:21 It’s like I love that quote because it really reminds us that you don’t have to be amazing in everything you do. So that was a really good chat about that because that is what I hear all the time, that people don’t know and it’s just about taking the first step.
Gretchen: 00:32:37 Well, one thing I feel like I was really fortunate when I made my big jump was that the people around me were so encouraging for me to take a risk. I’m really, really close to my parents and I had literally just finished law school and this clerkship where I was perfectly positioned for a fantastic job. I was married and my parents and my husband, my sister, the people around me, were very much if this is what you want to do, you should just go for it.
Gretchen: 00:33:04 And I think sometimes the people closest to us don’t want to see us risk failure. They don’t want us to be hurt or discouraged. They don’t want to see us fail. And so they try to discourage us from trying things ’cause they want to protect us. But the fact is you can’t protect other people. Anything can happen and no matter what course you go down, there is no safety in the world. Like you talked about the financial crisis. I mean, people did not see that coming. It was this huge event. So you don’t always know what the safe choice is.
Gretchen: 00:33:36 But it was really helpful to me that they were like, “You know what? If this is what you want to try, you want to start all over from zero, great.” And that made it a lot easier for me to have that encouragement, or at least the lack of discouragement. I think sometimes just if people would just let you go about your business. But it’s when people are actively trying to discourage you or point out the flaws or problems or struggles, that can be really hard. It can be hard to shut out that kind of message.
Kristina: 00:34:02 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, and that that is, yeah, that is definitely why we’re going to talk a little bit about self-belief at the end. But looking at the key themes of a couple of your bestselling books, it looks like your own personal values include happiness and habits, and they’re seen from your work. A large part of my book focuses on the importance of being guided in your dreaming, but what you really love, really truly value. And it’s something I feel really strongly about. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to define these as your values, and why these core values are important to you?
Gretchen: 00:34:34 I have 12 personal commandments.
Kristina: 00:34:36 Yes?
Gretchen: 00:34:36 And the first commandment is to be Gretchen. And I think you’re absolutely right that it’s an absolutely essential thing that we don’t just sort of accept unthinkingly what other people value, or what other people even find fun or think is worthwhile. That we really have to decide for ourselves what are my values? Just to take a small example, silence. Because I on the podcast, Happier, I talk a lot with my sister. And for my sister, silence is not a high value. And value, of course there’s the value of gratitude, super high values. But silence is a kind of value.
Gretchen: 00:35:10 For me, silence is a very important value. I have to have silence in my life. I have to have a lot of silence. And I can become kind of starved for silence. My sister doesn’t feel that, so she doesn’t need to build that into her day, she doesn’t have to think about that as something that she’s going to protect or seek out. Travel is something that’s not that important to me. I like to travel, but I also like to stay home. I’m kind of a home body. But for some people that’s an incredibly high value, and that’s something that they need to pursue.
Gretchen: 00:35:34 Or creativity. People are creative in a lot of different ways, but for some people it really needs to be in the center of their lives. And if they feel like that’s missing, music. I think we’re just about everyone relationships. I mean, this is the ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree that relationships are a key and maybe the key to a happy life. But how that would look would be different for people. Some people want to go to big parties and entertain and have people coming in and out of their house all the time, and that’s what they want. Some people want to go have coffee with one person and talk quietly. So it’s different for everyone how you would set that up.
Gretchen: 00:36:07 But I think you have to know what would a happy life look like for me? Am I really committed to environmental values? Do I want to volunteer? How do I put my values into the world? I think people are happy when they feel like they are living their values. So if you keep saying to yourself, well, health is a really important value to me but you never exercise and you eat a bunch of junk and you stay up too late every night, it’s like you’re not living your value. And that doesn’t feel good. And so I think it really is important to think about, well, what would this look like for me? How can I put my values out into the world?
Gretchen: 00:36:42 And, oh, I want to be an attentive parent but am I on my phone the whole time when I’m with my child? Or am I really spending my time with my child really kind of deeply engaging with them? Am I really listening? Am I really engaging with them? So I do think it’s very, very important and I think it’s something where it’s not like somebody can just hand you a page that tells you the answer. We’ve all got to figure it out for ourselves. And I think it’s one of the big kind of ongoing challenges of our lives is to figure out what are our values and how do we put those values into action in our everyday life?
Kristina: 00:37:17 Yeah, absolutely. Couldn’t agree more. And I love how I have managed now to work out my values, and I live my values in my private life as well as in artwork. And it just flows so much easier and it’s just so much more fun in whatever I do. ‘Cause I love reading and whatever I read about, it’s always I love sharing that with our customers. And it often translates into products, et cetera. So, yeah.
Gretchen: 00:37:45 You’re a champion. I think you also love to champion work. Like you love to find something and share it, and that’s a beautiful quality. I think people love that. They love for somebody to be like, “I love this, I love that. You’ve got to check this out. You’ve got to read this, you’ve got to try this.” It’s exciting, it’s energizing for people to feel like somebody’s figuring it out for me. I don’t have to figure it out. I don’t have to figure out the best journal. I’ll go here and I’ll see all the best journals or whatever. And I think that’s like an exciting, energizing place to be, to be creating your own things and also championing the things that you love.
Kristina: 00:38:17 Yeah, absolutely. ‘Cause our purpose at kikki.K is to inspire people to live their best life. And we do that through four words. And one is dream, and then do, enjoy. And share is really much a part of that because I really believe that everything that I learn, that I love to share. So, yeah, thank you for saying that. But given how deep you’ve gone on studying happiness, and in such a practical way, can you share with us some things you still do each day to embrace more happiness?
Gretchen: 00:38:43 Oh, like a million things. Well, you mentioned reading, how much you love to read. And that’s one thing that I have learned. That’s one of the things that I really learned from The Happiness Project is I love to read too and I must read. I have to find time to read. And so I really guard that, much more than I did maybe 15 years ago. ‘Cause I think sometimes when you really love something you think, well, I’ll always make time for it because, of course, I love it so much. But those things can often fall to the bottom of the list and you just sort of never get to them.
Gretchen: 00:39:10 So I’m very purposeful now on how I read. And one thing that’s interesting is how many people share that, want to read more. Actually, on my website, gretchenrubin.com, I have a one pager called Reading Better Than Before. And it’s about you can create habits that will allow you to do more reading. Because I was surprised how many people mention that is something that for their best life they really do imagine that as part of their best life. And yet somehow it’s not getting done, so how do you change your habits? So one is to make time to read, which means also going to the library and loading up my bag and going to the bookstore and keeping lists of books that I want to read.
Gretchen: 00:39:43 So there’s a whole bunch of associated things. I get up every day at 6 AM. I mean, every single day I get up at 6 AM. And I’m a real morning person so I love that morning time. But that means I have to make sure that I go to bed at a decent hour, so I work much harder and making sure that I don’t stay up past my bedtime. One thing I did that I loved, which I did about five years ago, is I quit sugar. I basically went low carb. I’m a person who’s always struggled with a sweet tooth. It used to just drive me crazy, and I finally figured out if I just give it up altogether. I write about this in my book Better Than Before. If I just give it up altogether, it’s so much easier.
Gretchen: 00:40:18 Not everybody’s like that, which I write about in the book. For some people this works, for some people it doesn’t work. But for me it has just been such a happiness booster to just have all that boring noise. Now, later, two, three. It’s my birthday, I deserve it. All that just went away. That was a great habit. I try to go outside everyday. I live in New York City but I live pretty close to Central Park, so I try to go for a walk in Central Park every day just because I like the exercise. I like getting the light on my face. I like just seeing the trees. And it’s so beautiful, it’s so beautifully designed. You see the pond and you see the lake and you see the bridge and you see the ducks and the squirrels and the flowers and the playground. So I try to do that every day.
Gretchen: 00:41:04 And then I try to write every day. I’m a person who writes every day, and that very much keeps me connected to my ideas. That is a pleasure, but it’s also a discipline. And so those are some of the habits that I … Oh, and one thing that I love. This is a big one. Anytime somebody comes and goes from our apartment. Well, not now. One of my daughters is at college so she’s not coming and going as much. But I get up and we all do this, my whole family does. We get up and really greet the person. You give them a hug or a kiss. You really acknowledge the fact that they’ve come or gone. Because it used to be that we’d just sort of grunt out a hello or shout it out. And that’s just not a very good feeling. You want to feel like people are excited to see you and that they see that you’re coming or going.
Gretchen: 00:41:47 And just that little change in habit dramatically increased kind of the feeling of tenderness. Kind of the attentive, loving atmosphere of my household. And what’s interesting is how quickly everybody picked it up.
Gretchen: 00:42:00 And now if my husband’s leaving for work and I just shout out, “okay, bye,” you can feel it’s like, “What happened? Where’s my goodbye? I want my goodbye kiss.” It’s easy to adopt that habit, and then it’s so … it makes a big difference.
Kristina: 00:42:14 Yeah, absolutely. And I remember reading that from you, and I incorporated that too, which is really great. There’s a lot of things I have incorporated from your books. And one thing is actually that I love doing is, and I’m not sure which one it started with, but I do a Valentines breakfast, and I do a Halloween breakfast. I don’t know which one you do. I think you do Valentine, but I-
Gretchen: 00:42:34 I do both, yeah.
Kristina: 00:42:36 I wasn’t quite sure, because Valentines for us Swedes is not really a big celebration, but I love it. So I started doing that, and also Valentine, and I absolutely love that, and decorating them. And it’s funny, because one day I came home, and … This was a few years ago, and I came home at midnight, and I had been traveling somewhere, so the last thing I wanted to do was to decorate for Halloween, or Valentines, whatever. But then I thought, “Nah, I’m going to create habits,” and this is something that the kids absolutely love, and it’s-
Gretchen: 00:43:07 They go bonkers.
Kristina: 00:43:08 Yeah, and it’s not like the most Instagram-able picture, but it’s so lovely to do. So I’m really grateful that you had that, passed it on to me, so thank you.
Gretchen: 00:43:18 Oh, well thank you. No, it’s been fun to hear how people adapt it. Because you’re right, it’s like one of these things where you get a lot of bang for the buck. It is not that hard to do, and then it makes the day special; it starts the day off right. Even if you wouldn’t Instagram it, it’s a great picture for the photo album. And people in other places have picked up different ways of doing it. Somebody was telling me that she … When she was an exchange student in Japan, where seasons are very important, the host mother, spring was her favorite season, and so she celebrated the first day of spring with a whole set of china and all these decorative items with watermelons, which I guess she associated with spring, and which she really loved.
Gretchen: 00:44:01 So it’s all this watermelon stuff. So the girl came down, there it was; it was so fun. And the next day, all gone. It only comes out one day, and it’s just so fun and special on that day, and then gone. And I think sometimes if you leave up decorations for a month, like the way I leave up my Christmas decorations, they kind of start to fade away. There is something fun about, this is just for Halloween day we’re going to have this fun experience, and then it’s over.
Kristina: 00:44:25 Yeah, absolutely. I absolutely love it. Love it. Do you have any advice that you can share with our listeners on how they can embrace more happiness into their own daily lives? I mean I know you have a lot, but if you could give us a couple.
Gretchen: 00:44:37 Yeah. Well one thing I would say is to always think about your body, because your physical experience colors your emotional experience. These are all the basics that everybody knows, but it’s really important to actually follow through with, like getting enough sleep, getting some exercise, not letting yourself get too hungry or thirsty. Managing minor discomfort, like, “Are you too hot? Are you too cold? Does your head hurt? Is your chair the wrong height? Are there ways you can just make yourself more comfortable in your physical body?” Because that contributes to your level of general exhaustion or irritation.
Gretchen: 00:45:09 A lot of times we think, “Oh, it would be fun to plan a party, but I’m just so exhausted I can’t even tackle it,” or you’re like, “Well, maybe that’s because you get five hours of sleep every night, because you’re binge watching television for two hours.” Okay, maybe change that, and then having a party will seem like something that you could do.
Gretchen: 00:45:27 Another thing … and this has really surprised me, and I know this is the kind of thing that’s close to your heart … is, it surprised me for how many people outer order contributes to inner calm, and how having a beautiful, orderly surroundings really makes people feel optimistic, energetic, like they can tackle big things. A friend of mine said, “I finally cleaned out my fridge, and now I know I can switch careers.” It’s like taking care of the little things makes you feel more capable of doing some big dream, to doing some big thing.
Gretchen: 00:45:58 And I was so interested in how fired up people were on this subject that I wrote this book called Outer Order, Inner Calm. It’s just a bunch of ideas for people who are trying to create outer order. Because it’s not that it’s so hard, but it’s kind of a relentless process, and it’s easy to get behind and have a lot of overwhelming stuff to deal with, and you kind of don’t know where to begin. So this is just a book that’s full of different tips and strategies for creating outer order.
Gretchen: 00:46:24 But it’s interesting to me how often people will say, “Wow, if I spend 10 minutes cleaning up my desk, I feel like I work so much better the next day,” or, “I cleaned up my car, and now I just feel so much like, I feel like I can go back on my diet.” Or, there’s something that’s just weird, almost, in how much having … I had this situation where I had these messy files, and I could never really quite find anything. It was sort of a constant annoyance, and everything took a little bit too long, but was I ever going to take the time to really sit down and deal with it? And finally I did, and it was just, I still get excite … of like I love my system. I love my beautiful gray file folders. Everything’s exactly where it needs to be. I can find what I need in like 30 seconds. It’s such a disproportionate benefit from the half an hour that it took me to finally cope with the mess.
Kristina: 00:47:17 Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. This is very close to my heart. I get so excited about decluttering. I used to, when we started our business and we had just a few stores where I was looking after most of the things, before we had the wonderful team that we have today, I used to go and declutter the store on a Saturday night with a bottle of red. That was my fun for Saturday night, so I can so relate to it. And then I could not stop looking at it. And it’s the same here when I do, clean up my drawers or whatever it is, so completely, completely [crosstalk 00:47:52]-
Gretchen: 00:47:53 Well, I had a friend where … I kind of foist myself off on my friends, and so I convinced me to let me help clean her closet. And it was bad. It was a huge walk-in closet, and there was a lot to be done. I mean it was amazing; it was an incredible before and after. I found out later that she’d had a dinner party a week later, and she made all her guests come up and look at her closet, because she was just gloating at how great it was. So it is funny how you just get such a charge out of it.
Gretchen: 00:48:20 But again, if you’re feeling exhausted, you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I cannot possibly tackle my coat closet,” or, “I can’t deal with my email inbox; I have to just lie here and scroll through my social media.” It’s like, “No. Get yourself the energy you need, take those steps, and then you will reap that benefit.” You will get that charge of energy; you just have to think about it and set yourself up for it.
Kristina: 00:48:41 Yeah, absolutely. I mean this is actually really good segue into the power of habits, which you’ve written a lot about. And I’m absolutely fascinated by habits, and in many ways similar to you, as I always look at taking away habits that doesn’t serve me, or add habits that enrich my life. And I’m similar to you, that sometimes taking completely things away works better for me. So I’m very much like that.
Kristina: 00:49:05 But I’d love you to share your thoughts on how embracing the power of habits can free up your energy, which we just spoke about, giving us more energy to focus on achieving more. And I’d love you to share some tips on how our listeners can go about changing habits themselves, because a lot of people that I meet, sometimes don’t even know that they have the habits, like we all do. Sometimes we just have to really take some time to think about what they are. But I’d like you to give our listeners some tips on how to change their habits.
Gretchen: 00:49:33 Well, I absolutely agree. I think habits have a really important role to play, because research shows that about 40% of everyday life is based on habit. So if you have habits that work for you, you’re much more likely to be happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. If your habits don’t work for you, it’s just going to be a lot harder to have that life that you want. So it’s really good to think about habits.
Gretchen: 00:49:54 In Better Than Before, the book that you were talking about, I identified the 21 strategies that people can use to make or break their habits. And sometimes people get kind of freaked out. They’re like, “21 is too many. I cannot handle it. I want three. Give me the big three.” But the fact is, it’s good that there are so many, because some work really well for some people and don’t work for others. And some are available to us at some times in our lives, and not available to us at other times in our lives.
Gretchen: 00:50:18 So you really want to know, what are all your options? And changing an important habit, like something like exercise, you might use six or seven strategies. And that sounds really hard, but it’s actually not hard. Some of the strategies work for just about everyone, like convenience. For everyone, if you make something even slightly more convenient, you’re much more likely to do it. And if you make it slightly less convenient, you’re less likely to do it. I’ve heard from many people who sleep in their workout clothes, so that when they wake up in the morning they don’t have to change before they go to the gym. I had never thought of that, but just that little bit of convenience.
Gretchen: 00:50:50 Little bit of inconvenience. If you don’t want to check your phone, don’t put your phone on the kitchen counter. Put your phone on a high shelf in a cabinet and shut the door, so that if you’re going to go get that phone, you’re going to have to drag over a chair and get the phone down. That little bit of inconvenience is going to mean that you’re not going to check your phone every five minutes, because it’s just too much of a pain.
Gretchen: 00:51:08 So those are things that work for just about everyone. Then there are ones like you were talking about, and I was talking about, which is the strategy of abstaining. This works very well for some people, it doesn’t work at all for other people. When meeting a strong temptation, some people do better when they have none. When they just say, “I’m never eating french fries; I’m quitting sugar altogether,” that’s easier for that. And then some people do better, they’re moderators. They do better when they have it a little bit. They have it sometimes.
Gretchen: 00:51:35 It’s not that one way’s better, one way’s worse. It’s just that different ways work better for different people. So if you’re having trouble eating healthfully, you might say to yourself, “Well, maybe I need to just say, ‘I’m just not going to ever eat … I’m just not going to eat chocolate day-to-day.'” Or maybe you’re a person where you’re like, “Well, you know what? I’m just going to keep a bar in my office drawer, and if I need, if I feel like I’m just craving chocolate, I’ll just have one square, and that’ll be enough for me.”
Gretchen: 00:51:58 To me, I could never have one square of chocolate. The whole day would be, “I want to eat that chocolate bar,” but for some people that works. So it’s good just to know, well, some people are different. Some people have a different way, and some things work better for other people. Because I really feel like that’s the key thing about habit change. It isn’t that there’s one best way. It’s that, there’s the way that works for you. And when people say, “Oh, well this worked really well for my boss,” or, “This worked really well for my sister-in-law,” or, “This worked really well for Steve Jobs,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that the same thing is going to work for you.
Gretchen: 00:52:29 Like morning people and night people. I’m a morning person, so the idea like, “Oh, if something’s important to me, I should get up and do it first thing,” that makes good sense to me, because I’m a morning person. But many people are night people, and they’re at their most productive and creative and energetic later in the day. This is a matter of genetics and age for the most part. It’s not a choice you make; it’s part of who you are. And so for them to say, “Oh, I’m going to work on my PhD thesis or start my side hustle or go for a run at 7:00 AM before I go to work,” they’re setting themselves up for failure, because they’re night people. Not because it’s not a good idea. Theoretically it’s a good idea, but it might not be a good idea for a specific person.
Gretchen: 00:53:08 I have tons of resources on my site, gretchenrubin.com, all related to habits, because you really do have to think about, “What have I succeeded in the past? What appeals to me?” To help you figure out, “How do I set myself up for success?”
Kristina: 00:53:21 Yep. I love that. Some really great advice, so thank you so much for sharing that. I’d love to finish up by asking you a few quick questions that I know our listeners would love to hear you answer. We heard a little bit, I know you’re a morning person. But do you have any particular morning routine to set you up for a productive day? Because I know you all [inaudible 00:53:39] because obviously I’m a big fan of yours, so I kind of know that you check your emails early versus later. So I’d love to hear your morning routine.
Gretchen: 00:53:47 I get up at 6:00 AM, as I said, every day, and that helps me fall asleep and wake up … When you always do it the same time, that kind of reinforces good sleep. And first thing I do is take my dog out for a walk. I really love that, because it’s a way to get out and experience the weather and the … Are the days getting longer? Are the days getting shorter? It just makes me feel connected to the world and to nature in a way that’s really refreshing.
Gretchen: 00:54:12 Then I do start my day by doing email. A lot of productivity experts will say, especially if you’re a morning person, you should really do your most difficult, most challenging work when you’re really fresh, and that you should use your brain for low-value things like checking your email later. But what I found for me … And I’m not saying this is true for everyone, but for me, I kind of can’t settle down to do big thinking projects until I’ve gone through my email and sort of figured out what’s going on. Where am I? Is anything happening that I need to be aware of? And just sort of cut out the underbrush and get rid of some of the low-hanging fruit of things that I need to do.
Gretchen: 00:54:47 So for me, I feel like that helps me kind of get situated for then doing a real piece of writing, or doing something that is more intellectually demanding. But I definitely do not try to do intellectually demanding things after 3:00 PM. I’m definitely, after that I’m doing stuff that’s more … the things that I can do without a lot of deep thought. Because I am a morning person, and after about 3:00 I know I’m just not giving it my best focus, and I don’t have the same kind of concentration. And I don’t have the same equanimity, too, because a lot of times when you’re working or engaging with other people, you kind of want to have a lot of control of yourself, and not get too emotional, or not get worked up. I feel like it’s much easier for me to start feeling irritated or impatient if it’s later in the day, whereas earlier in the morning I kind of have a better sense of humor and more sense of perspective, and all that.
Gretchen: 00:55:44 Then the kissing good morning, kissing good night is an important habit, along with saying warm hellos and farewells. And I really try to not let myself get too hungry. I’m one of these people who gets hangry, hungry and angry, and so I really … I feel like other adults don’t get hungry the way I do. I don’t understand it. It’s like people that are like, “Oh, we’ll have dinner at some point.” I’m like, “I gotta eat dinner. I’m hungry,” or like, “I have to have lunch in the next 20 minutes.” I can’t be very flexible with that.
Gretchen: 00:56:14 So that’s something I’ve learned about myself. I’m a person who eats breakfast, and I need to plan that as part of my day. Because for some people it seems to be kind of optional, or super flexible. Like my husband, he can go hours and hours and hours without eating. And that is just not true for me. So that’s a habit that makes me much … keeps me on an even keel, is making sure that I’m eating regularly and exercising. I exercise regularly, and that’s super important for my happiness and productivity.
Kristina: 00:56:43 Yep, absolutely. We are very similar. Thank you for sharing that. What’s your favorite kikki.K product, if you have one?
Gretchen: 00:56:51 Oh, the Happiness Project version, of course. Yes. I love seeing that. It’s kind of funny, because it’s sort of like seeing your signature in someone else’s handwriting. Because I’m like, “Oh, look at this version. It’s so cool.” So I love that.
Kristina: 00:57:04 Yeah. No, thank you. I love it too. It’s been so fun, so thank you very much. And I’m particularly interested, as you know, in books. I know this is going to be a very difficult question, because it’s like naming your favorite child, which is impossible. But what’s your favorite book, and why?
Gretchen: 00:57:20 I cannot name my favorite book. I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of favorite books. I can’t even pick my favorite work of children’s literature, because I just … I can’t. But if I can slightly change the question to be, “What is the book that I think everybody in the world should read?”
Kristina: 00:57:35 Yes, perfect.
Gretchen: 00:57:35 I would say everyone in the world should read Viktor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning. It is absolutely compelling; you cannot put it down. You could just stay up all night reading it. It’s so … it’s such a page turner. It’s such a remarkable piece of history. There’s so many passages in there that I have read and reread and reread. It’s not long, so I feel like that is a book that I would truly recommend for everyone in the world.
Kristina: 00:58:03 That’s such a great book. Thank you for that. And one last question for you: If you could go back to your younger self, say when you were in your late teens, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?
Gretchen: 00:58:15 I would say to be Gretchen. I feel like things that I wish that I had done differently came because I wasn’t thinking enough about what’s true for me. What are my interests? What are my values? What’s my nature? It was when I was straying too far from my core self … I mean I want to accept myself and expect more from myself, so it’s not like I want to be complacent. I want to keep pushing myself and risking failure, and things like that. But I do think that sometimes I just … I had a fantasy self, or I had kind of unrealistic expectations of what I would actually follow through with, and that’s where I felt like I wasn’t Gretchen. And so these things, I would just say, “Be Gretchen, and you’ll make better decisions.”
Kristina: 00:58:58 Such a good, good advice. Thank you so much. This has been such an inspiring … I feel like we could talk for hours and hours.
Gretchen: 00:59:06 I know, me too. Me too.
Kristina: 00:59:07 I think we do have to get you back on this podcast at some stage again, because we have so much we can cover, and I’d love to hear more about, of course, what you’re going to be up to in the future. I cannot wait to see what you come up with. But I wanted to say a massive thank you, and thank you for inspiring the world and sharing all your wisdom, and being such a role model for so many, many people. So thank you so much.
Gretchen: 00:59:31 Oh, thank you. It was so much fun to talk to you.
Kristina: 00:59:33 Thank you.
Kristina: 00:59:36 Wow. I’m feeling so inspired after that conversation. So many practical and helpful ideas on how we can live lives we truly enjoy, our dream lives. I hope you enjoyed her story as much as I did. One of the most inspiring and unexpected things I took from Gretchen’s story was how she took the lead to completely change her direction in life. How, after figuring out what she really wanted to do, discovering what was important to her, she was able to imagine a new future for herself, change direction, and create her dream life.
Kristina: 01:00:09 I am such a strong believer in jumping into the driver’s seat of our own lives, and letting your values and passions guide you. And isn’t Gretchen a great example of that?
Kristina: 01:00:18 I really hope this episode has left you feeling excited to find what makes you happy, and to start or to keep taking steps towards creating your own dream life, whatever that means for you. I would love to help you with that, so if you haven’t got a copy yet, I encourage you to get hold of my book, Your Dream Life Starts Here, and the Dream Life Journal that we have created to go with it, which is a great starting point if you want some guidance on the simple steps you can take to uncover and shape your dreams.
Kristina: 01:00:50 And if you haven’t listened to it yet, I really encourage you to check out my 101 Dreams Audio Guide at kikki-k.com/dreamlife. It’s a really powerful step-by-step exercise I have recorded to help you tap into your heart and get down on paper a long, long list of potential dreams you may want to chase. I have helped thousands of people around the world with this, and I think you’ll find it a great use of your time, and a great place to start. And I would really appreciate your support with my big, crazy dream to inspire 101 million people around the world to write down three dreams on paper, and go and chase them.
Kristina: 01:01:30 If you found this episode useful, be sure to subscribe to my podcast, and leave us a review to help us inspire even more people. And please, help us spread this inspiring dream message and dream life movement to even more people by posting about it on your social media with the hashtag #101milliondreamers and #kikkikdreamlife.