Gretchen Rubin is a favorite author of mine on the topics of happiness and habits. In my post “Habits Good Or Bad: They Affect Our Happiness,” I reviewed her book Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits (highly recommended!), and I occasionally listen to her podcast “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.”
In a recent, very short episode: “A Little Happier: There’s No Magic, One-Size-Fits-All Solution for Happiness or Good Habits,” Gretchen reminded me of a truth I feel is so important it’s worth repeating:
Obvious, I know, but time and again, we knock ourselves out trying to like books or music—or activities or opinions, people or places—we dislike or even hate just because someone else likes them and perhaps thinks we should like them too. This recently came to mind in reading the “Summer Reading Lists” of various bloggers and authors.
Life is too short!
Part of my fervor for encouraging you to connect with yourself and understand yourself better is so you’ll know—really know—what makes you happy and what doesn’t. Then you can step into that reality and use it as a filter to prioritize your time and your emotional energy.
I loved Gretchen’s reference to a story from Greek mythology in which a character named Procrustes was a bandit who hijacked travelers and made them fit into his iron bed. If they were too short, he stretched out their bodies. If they were too tall, he chopped off their feet. This has led to the term Procrustean and the notion of lying down in a Procrustean bed, which means the attempt to force conformity to an arbitrary standard. Gretchen Rubin believes, as do I, that too often “we try to fit ourselves into someone else’s idea of what we should do, instead of setting up our circumstances to fit ourselves.”
I’m learning to navigate the tension between that voice saying, “You should do this!” and the deep inner knowledge that it is not the best use of my time.
I wish I could tell you I always make the wisest decision. I don’t, but trying to be more conscious and intentional about aligning our inner values with our actions is always a worthy endeavor.
How do you avoid lying down in the Procrustean bed—forcing your square pegs into round holes? I’d love to hear your tricks and strategies for staying true to your deepest self.