Robyn Emerson

Author Gretchen Rubin Finds Happiness by Looking at Herself

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy”.

Gretchen Rubin is an author on happiness and habits whose books, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project were both instant New York Times best sellers.

Universally applicable: Although Gretchen Rubin has used only her daily experience in her quest for happiness, her writings have struck a bell with people everywhere.

She’s also one of the top 10 influencers on LinkedIn along with Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Barack Obama.

Apart from her wildly popular blogs and monthly newsletters, her posts on YouTube have 1.8 million views, and she has a huge following on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

So why does one woman’s personal journey for a happier life resonate so widely across the world?

“My study of habits and happiness taught me that, perhaps surprisingly, we tend to learn more from one persons’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than we do from sweeping philosophies or wide-ranging research,” she says.

“It’s from the experience of a particular individual that often helps up to learn most about ourselves – even if the two seem to have nothing in common.”

In her writing Rubin speaks about an all too familiar general malaise, a recurrent sense of discontent, and almost a feeling of disbelief, which marked the beginning of her personal journey to dedicating her life to trying to be happier.

“Bogged down in petty complaints and passing crises, weary of struggling with my own nature, I too often failed to comprehend the splendour of what I had,” she says.

“I didn’t want to keep taking these days for granted. How could I let go of everyday aggravations to keep a larger, more transcendent perspective? I could barely remember to stop at the drugstore to buy toothpaste – it didn’t seem realistic to think that I could incorporate these high aims into my everyday routine.”

It’s the intensely personal nature of her writing that garners her readers from across the globe, (her books have been translated into more than 35 languages). She writes intimately and movingly about her daughters, her husband and his family, and her sister in a way that makes you feel as if you know them too, and maybe wish you too could have such close and loving ties with a family who lives around the corner, and not (as the eponymous sticker says) a family far away somewhere in another state.

But it’s not all coated in a rosy-coloured Gretchen Rubin glow either, and the down-home grittiness of her description of her youngest daughter having a tantrum on a tired, grey Saturday morning while her husband leaves for the gym is a particular highlight.

In fact, it’s this intimate quality to her writing that makes it seem so universal and applicable, even in the midst of a self-help industry avalanche that seems to be engulfing the world.

Tips like considering dropping a resolution if you keep breaking it to avoid it blocking your progress may seem simplistic or even corny, but it turns out they’re very effective and remarkably applicable for anyone.

Want to incorporate more exercise into your hectic timetable? Based on research for her new book, Better than Before, Rubin just bought her sister a treadmill desk, and now she walks between 3.2 and 8 kilometres every day. Having trouble making a big decision? Do what Rubin does and appoint your future self as your personal manager and you have the best manager in the world.

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald – click here to view