The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

"I Focused on Who I Wasn't By My Mid-Thirties, Instead of Focusing on Who I Am"

A Happiness Interview With Melanie Notkin!

Melanie-Notkin

Interview: Melanie Notkin.

One reason that this blog has brought me so much happiness is that blogging has widened my circle of friends so much. I met Melanie Notkin because we're both interested in using social media to engage with readers, and I'm very excited for her this week -- her first book just hit the shelves, Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids. In it, she shines a light on relationships that bring a tremendous amount of love and happiness -- the bond among "aunties" and their nieces, nephews, god-children, etc.

I knew Melanie has done a lot of thinking about happiness, so I was eager to hear what she had to say.

Gretchen: What's a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Melanie: I call my nephew and nieces to hear the sound of their voices. Nothing puts a smile on my face faster than that.

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What's something you know now about happiness that you didn't know when you were 18 years old?
When I was a teenager, I thought happiness was an automatic result of popularity. Today I know it’s the reverse; popularity is often a result of happiness.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you've found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to "Enjoy the fun of failure.")
“Keep going.” A close friend reminds me of this when I share a success… reminding me that there’s more where that came from if I just keep going with a positive attitude.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
I know what used to detract from my happiness. I focused on who I wasn’t by my mid-thirties (a wife, a mother) instead of focusing on who I am (a devoted aunt, a business owner). Once I began referring to myself in the positive (I’m not childless, I’m “childfull” because I choose to fill my life with children to love) that I quickly realized that happiness is self-defined. You just need the right words to rewrite happiness for yourself if life didn’t go as planned. That's why I launched SavvyAuntie.com in 2008 and wrote Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids. So many women have discovered their incredible value as aunts and godmothers and the invaluable role they play in a child's life. That makes them - and me - very happy.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Every day. I practice letting things go…. Not giving up on success, but rather understanding, knowing and believing that cause and effect are not always immediately directly related or visible. If I do something that I believe will make me happy, and yet it fails, I believe the success will come from an unexpected source in the future. Letting go of my perceived beliefs of what I think should make me happy, versus believing that all efforts result in eventual greater happiness, is my greatest “work.” Happiness is undeniable because I don't stop believing in it.

* I was very interesting in this post by Austin Kleon, How to steal like an artist (and 9 other things nobody told me). I don't agree with every item, but many of them rang true, and it's a very thought-provoking piece.

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Curious about the book, The Happiness Project? (Can't resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).
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Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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