What Makes You Happy?

Gretchen Rubin is a best-selling author of the books The Happiness Project and Better than Before. She is described as one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on habits and happiness, and has terrific advice on how to begin to make small changes to experience happiness on a daily basis. With her sister Elizabeth, she hosts a weekly podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, that hit a million downloads on iTunes in its first four months. People are listening!


On her April 15, 2015 podcast, Gretchen and Elizabeth discussed the importance of knowing yourself better, learning to recognize what you enjoy doing. While I may not be an expert in happiness, I know what makes us unhappy – doing things that we find uninteresting. We procrastinate, we mope, and then we power through. But, none of that is enjoyable. As a college professor, I see students all the time who are majoring in what their parents think they should do, not what they are naturally interested in. If they are lucky enough to switch majors, they find their studies more interesting and enjoyable, their grades go up, and they often find their calling.


In her April podcast, Gretchen encourages listeners to remember what they did for fun when they were 10 years old. She suggests it’s a clue to what they’ll enjoy doing now, for work or for leisure. When you are 10, you are less driven by what you need to do, and more by what you like to do.


From a scientific perspective, she is not far off in her recommendations. A 2005 scientific review by Low, Yoon, Roberts and Rounds found that vocational interests is perhaps most stable individual differences construct in psychology. While 10 is perhaps a little early, interests do stabilize as early as 12 years old, meaning that what we find interesting and enjoyable then is what we are likely to find passion in today.


When I was 12, I spent hours a day on a baseball simulation game, playing games with cards and dice. What I found most interesting was rearranging players into new teams, and then playing entire seasons just to see if players simulated performance matched their actual performance. Today, I score highest on the vocational interests of enterprising (creating leagues) and investigative (matching simulated and real performance).


Today, my interests are met daily as a co-founder of jobZology®, the Science behind Careers That Fit. And, my challenge to you is to take 5 minutes to remember what you enjoyed doing … when you were 12. If that doesn’t seem to align with what you do in your daily life, I encourage you to visit our Solutions for Individuals page and take our career assessments, learn more about your interests and values, and perhaps explore new careers that fit.

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