When author Gretchen Rubin embarked on a yearlong “Happiness Project” to figure out what true happiness looks like and how to actually — realistically — achieve it, the experience led her to some powerful revelations. Among them are Rubin’s practical “secrets to adulthood,” the principles she’s managed to grasp as she has become an adult.
Even though some secrets on the list may not be particularly profound, each one becomes a true revelation once you finally figure it out for yourself. And together, these principles help move you toward a happier life.
Though Rubin acknowledges that her list of secrets is evolving and, as she tells Oprah during an interview on “SuperSoul Sunday,” others may have different things on their own list, there are still three major secrets that seem to be universal.
1. PEOPLE DON’T NOTICE YOUR MISTAKES AS MUCH AS YOU THINK THEY DO.
Everyone stumbles in life, some more than others. But regardless of the scale of a screw-up, many of us end up feeling as if there’s a massive spotlight on our missteps and flaws. It’s an incredibly common concern, but Rubin has learned that it’s mostly unfounded.
“We all feel like everyone’s paying attention to us,” she says. “But they’re paying attention to a lot of other things.”
Even someone as well known as Oprah has come to realize this. “Every time somebody would say something about me that wasn’t true, I would get so upset,” she admits. “It was Quincy Jones who said to me one time this exact law of adulthood. He said, ‘Baby if you knew how little people were thinking about you, you wouldn’t even be upset.'”
2. IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP.
You may understand this idea in principle, but welcoming it into your life as a practice is a real game-changer. And yet, asking for help is something that many adults — including Rubin — have a hard time doing.
“I don’t understand why I struggle with this so much,” she says. “It’s OK to ask for help. And usually, when you ask for help, you get help. Things get easier when you ask for help.”
3. HAPPINESS DOESN’T ALWAYS MAKE YOU FEEL HAPPY.
Strange, but true, Rubin says. As an example of this, she points to a story from a man who had been spending a lot of time at the bedside of his very sick father.
“His father had been a terrible father, so they didn’t have a loving relationship. It was no fun to go to the hospital. And [the son] was saying, ‘I don’t know why I’m doing this,'” Rubin says. “Well, he wanted to be a good son. So, in one way, it was making him happy because he was being a good son.”
This shift in your view of happiness is important to keep in mind. “People act like happiness is always going to send us skipping down the street. It doesn’t always work out that way,” Rubin says.