A new way to think about the labors of your life

51jOKnNkKRL._SY346_Why not labor on things that you love instead of spending so much time laboring about the ones that don’t?

I first shared a version of this post in 2012, when Gretchen Rubin’s second book was brand new. Her ideas were great then and apply today, as well, so I thought I would share them again with a different twist for Labor Day.

As part of Gretchen Rubin’s “Happiness Project”, she created her own “Twelve Commandments.”  Her first commandment, and my favorite, was: “Be Gretchen”, which for her meant accepting her personal likes and dislikes, and then acting on them.

Gretchen explained that she loved reading children’s books, which eventually led her to start a book club with other folks she knew, who also love reading children’s books. At first she felt reading children’s books was a bit foolish and not the best thing about herself to share with others, but by being open about it, she learned others loved it, as well. Now they share their interest and enjoyment together. (Admitting to reading children’s books as an adult might not seem like a big deal, but it probably would have surprised Gretchen’s law school classmates and readers of her more scholarly books on Churchill and Kennedy. And, for the record, most of the things we “hide” about ourselves are not such a big deal either.)

Are you willing to open your life to your likes?

Perhaps you would rather eat burgers, than pretend to enjoy foie gras?  Drink beer than champagne. Or you might, prefer spending the night alone reading, rather than going out. (Please note: each and every one of these examples could be reversed – you might prefer going out rather than reading anything, anytime – there are no “right answers,” only you and what you like.)

Here’s Gretchen’s point – if you like eating ice cream right out of a container rather than baking (or buying) fancy pastries, why not serve containers of ice cream with spoons for dessert at your next dinner party? Not that you need to even have dinner parties, but if you do, you could!

Make what you love doing a part of your life in fun ways. Have a beer tasting. Or a potato chip tasting, or ask your friends to make and bring their favorite comfort food to your next gathering. The list is endless and can bring you great joy and happiness, and will probably do the same for others. Have fun doing and sharing what you like!

Are you ready to discard your dislikes?

Stop doing things you really dislike!  And, stop spending time obsessing about not doing the things you don’t like. (Three negatives make a positive!)

Gretchen learned to accept her dislikes, which for her meant that she was never going to”visit a jazz club at midnight, or hang out in artists’ studios, or jet off to Paris for the weekend, or pack up to go fly-fishing on a spring dawn”, so she learned to stop worrying about not doing them!

Now remember – there’s nothing wrong with doing those things, but if you don’t want to do them it is time to let yourself off the proverbial hook, and set yourself free to focus on what you do want to do – and then do it!

When my kids were 4 and 5, I found creative ways to include them in chores I really disliked. Giving them a pail and some dish soapy, sudsy water became a game and my kitchen floor got clean without much help from me! (Yes, I really did that, it was a tad messy, but still more fun than me facing it alone, and they grew-up to be happy, healthy adults, who clean stuff and love the water!)

As they grew older, we instituted a rule that while everyone had chores to do, no one would ever have to do their least favorite chore – it worked liked a dream for them and me, and I avoided having to empty the dishwasher silverware tray until they left for college!

Being you” has many silver linings, following Gretchen’s lead, I’ve come up with three:

1. Learning to”be you” will help you create more happiness in your life.

2. The happier you become, the happier the people you love and meet may become. (Research shows happiness is contagious.)

3. Learning to “be you” will help you understand and accept that your spouse/significant, kids, parents, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. need to be themselves, too. If you get really good at all of this – you will let them be them, which will make them happier, and in turn, you’ll be happier, because happiness is contagious.

Well, there you have it: “Be you.” Get happier. Pretty profound stuff for this Labor Day.

So, what are your “Likes”?

Any that you’ve been denying or hiding? Admitting them may be the first step to truly enjoying them!

IMG_2418 (1)Don’t be shy, once you share your “hidden” likes or dislikes, others will too. It’s really quite freeing. I’ll start.

I used to read the newspaper every single morning, now I don’t. To many of my friends and former colleagues that’s akin to treason. But I no longer enjoy it, so I don’t do it.

I loved watching the movie  “Speed” with Sandra Bullock when I had a really stressful day at work, somehow the action relaxed me! Silly, but true.

Oh, and I might as well tell you that I read children’s books all the time; truly believe any dessert tastes better eaten from a fancy dish – even instant pudding; watch lots of TV reruns and truly dislike sushi – except for the veggie kind.  And, I adore forests and trees.

I also find nightly news shows boring, I love the in-depth shows and morning news, but nightly news reporting is not for me.

There, you have it, a few of my likes and dislikes. Oh, yes, and I’m perfectly happy eating any sort-of leftovers for breakfast, preferably cold, such as pizza with a liberal sprinkling of vinegar. (I will sprinkle vinegar on just about anything.) And, truth be told, most days, breakfast is my biggest meal of the day, and I will still nibble my way through the morning.

Why not share some of your likes and dislikes? You will feel better and you might discover other folks feel exactly like you do.

 

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