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  • feedwordpress 09:00:16 on 2019/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Laura Gassner Otting, Limitless, success   

    “I Think the Best Antidote to a Rut Is Action, So I Try to Remind Myself that Anything Beats Nothing.” 

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    Interview: Laura Gassner Otting

    Laura Gassner Otting founded the Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, and has been involved in many nonprofit boards around the country. She writes and speaks frequently about the world of mission-driven work and getting "unstuck" in our lives. As she describes herself: "I help people discover how they align what they do with who they are, to achieve limitless potential."

    As if that's not enough to keep her busy, she has also just published a new book: Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Laura about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Laura: I hang out with “framily,” those people who aren’t the family I was born to—they are lovely but geographically distant—but the friends I have made as an adult who have become my close knit kibbutz. These are the people who know my hopes and dreams, who see my stress and anxiety, who cheer me on during my successes and pick me up during my failures. They don’t keep score, they don’t play the comparison gave, they know we are all on our own path. They bathe in emotional abundance, rather than scarcity. I am better for the fact that they are in my life, and I work hard every day to make sure that I uplift them in return.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Ever the gold star chaser, I was entirely certain that if I just collected all the right degrees and titles, I’d be happy. But it wasn’t until I was much older, fueled by my own journey and also twenty years of studying, recruiting, and stewarding leaders through massive career shifts, that I realized that success as externally (and often myopically) defined, didn’t equal happiness. It wasn’t until I realized that we need to create our own definition of success, and lean into that specifically, that the success we achieve will truly bring us the happiness we seek.

    In your new book, Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Life Your Best Life, you have a different take on success, and its role in bringing happiness. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Over the course of my research, what I’ve learned is that success doesn’t bring happiness when it’s merely us following someone else’s path to someone else’s definition of success. It’s why Lean In didn’t ring true for so many; some were angry about the privilege that Sheryl Sandberg used to achieve her success. I didn’t blame her for that; frankly it would've been folly not to use it. My issue wasn’t how she achieved success, but how she defined it, as this one unflinching, myopic view of the fastest and most expedient path to the corner office.

    What I now know is that happiness through work comes from consonance, from when the “what you do” matches the “who you are.” Each of our true definitions of success will be a personalized rubric of calling, connection, contribution, and control.

    • Calling is a gravitational pull towards a goal larger than yourself—a business you want to build, a leader who inspires you, a societal ill you wish to remedy, a cause you wish to serve.
    • Connection gives you sightlines into how your everyday work serves that calling by solving the problem at hand, growing the company’s bottom line, or reaching that goal.
    • Contribution is an understanding of how this job, this brand, this paycheck contributes to the community you want to belong, the person you want to be, or the lifestyle you’d like to live.
    • Control reflects how you are able to influence your connection to that calling in order to have some say in the assignment of projects, deadlines, colleagues, and clients; offer input into shared goals; and do work that contributes to your career trajectory and earnings.

    We will all want and need these in different amounts at different ages and stages throughout our lives. I’ve set up a quiz that people can take to understand how much of each of these elements they want in their lives, and how much of each they’d like to have. And, of course, it gives some immediately actionable tips on changes to make right here, right now to get unstuck and become limitless. That quiz is at www.LimitlessAssessment.com.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    When I turned 39 years old, I walked into my kids’ elementary school and saw the principal, whom I hadn’t seen in a few months. “Ellen,” I said, “You look amazing. Either you’ve been really sick, or there’s a new man in your life, and you look too good to have been really sick!” And she replied, “There is a new man in my life, and his name is Mike. Coach Mike.”

    And she dragged me to a boot camp where I spent six weeks trying to run the first mile of my life. (Seriously, I’d had 634,598 excuses to get out of P.E. throughout my childhood and the only reason I was picked last for every team was because there wasn’t a position after last.) But then I did it. I ran my first mile without stopping.

    Fast forward nine years, and I’ve run three marathons and row on a competitive team. Whenever the coach calls out, “OK, athletes, next we’re going to…” I get giddy. Still can’t believe anyone would think of me as an athlete, and loving the multitudes within myself that I am discovering as a result of letting myself be (very) uncomfortable in the middle of my otherwise comfortable life.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    I am an Upholder. The last thing I do before I go to bed is check my schedule for the next day, and mentally walk through and schedule in time to complete my tasks, be present for others, and take steps towards my personal and professional goals. My husband likes to joke that “If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist.” To wit, I schedule in shower time after a workout, picking up my kids, and answering email, all things which (eek, the kids!) would either be forgotten or expand across the day (gah, email!) if unchecked.

    And, really, there’s nothing like clear expectations and a full set of data when it comes to making plans and dreaming big dreams, right?

    Oh, and yeah, I’m that person who puts the thing on my to-do list that I have done, even if it wasn’t on there before. Nothing is more beautiful than an organized day and a clean slate morning.

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    I am the human embodiment of Newton’s First Law of Physics: a body in motion stays in motion. So when I’m in a groove, I’m golden. But when travel, bad eating, sickness, injury waylay me, I’m at risk of falling off the path. That said, I think the best antidote to rut is action, so I try to remind myself that anything beats nothing, and then I call a friend and ask them to join me the next day in The Thing I Need to Do. Accountability always gets me back on track, even when everything in my core is clinging to malaise.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Show up. Shut up. Do the work. (Pretty Upholder of me, huh?)

    For me, it’s about being fully present, getting better by listening and learning, and doing the hard yards in the dark that nobody sees (or cares about) so that I can show up in a way for my message, my family, my community, and my causes.

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    At the risk of being so cheesy and fangirly: The Happiness Project. [Awwww thanks!]

    When The Happiness Project first came out, I scoffed and thought, “What does this women of privilege know about being happy? Her life must be really happy already.” But then I thought, “Well, I’m pretty privileged and I’m not happy.” So I bought the book.

    And then, on pretty much the first page, you called yourself out about the privilege, and from that moment on, you had my heart.

    I made my husband read it the second I finished it, and even though this would normally not be his thing, he dutifully read it for me—perhaps because he’d not seen me so animated about a book in quite some time—and we began to immediately implement the changes you outlined. This book changed our lives because it changed the way we looked at our lives, and what they could be, and how we use our privilege and the choices we made every day to be happy.

    So, I’ve been waiting a long time to say this, but: thank you.

    In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    I’m on a crusade to get us to stop listening to the messengers riding in on the Four Horsemen of the Success Apocalypse: balance, purpose, happiness, and passion.

    Purpose! This idea that the only careers that matter are ones that fix the world, the one that demand the shirt off our backs, the ones where service is only service if it also means sacrifice.

    Balance! This fleeting, ephemeral, impossible to reach idea that work and life must be perfectly separate and always equal to one another, as if work and life should have nothing to do with one another.

    Happiness! That terrible phrase that kills our dreams before they even leave our mouths, “I’ll be happy when…” I’ll be happy when I go on vacation. I’ll be happy when I pay off my debt. I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when I find a new job. Why can’t we be happy now?

    Passion! We’ve all seen her. That beautiful, perfectly beach waved flaxen haired beauty, staring off into the sunset over the dunes or, um, Coachella. “Follow Your Dreams!” It’s the spoken word illegitimate sister of the Live Love Laugh tattoo!

    The four horsemen set up a false choice. A binary choice between whether or not we have purpose or are pushing paper, whether or not we have perfect balance or the edges of our lives bleed together, whether we are happy by these false standards, or whether we have passion or are miserable sell-outs. I’m calling bull on all of it. The four horsemen build a create a false foundation on which we build a life, and then we realize that that life was meant for someone else. It’s no wonder we can’t live boldly into that life.

    You can’t be insatiably hungry for other people’s goals, for other people’s definitions of success. So, what does success look like for me? What would make me truly happy? If we could all, collectively, say, “Screw the Joneses!” and fail at living into everyone else’s expectations, so that we can make room for our own.

    Besides, why are we taking advice from girls in flower crowns, anyway?!?

    limitless book

  • gretchenrubin 16:00:58 on 2017/07/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , success,   

    A Little Happier: Don’t Check Every Box. 

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    One of my most important Secrets of Adulthood is: The opposite of a profound truth is also true.

    Examples: I keep an empty shelf; I also keep a junk drawer. I try to accept myself, and also expect more from myself. If I want to keep going, I must allow myself to stop.

    Last week, in “A Little Happier,” I talked about some valuable advice I got from my law-school roommate’s ex-boyfriend, to “Check every box.” That idea has helped me a lot during my career.

    Many listeners wrote to remind me of another important idea: Don‘t check every box!

    Don’t imagine that I have to check every box before I apply for a job or try something new.  It’s important to stretch, to challenge ourselves, not to limit our sense of possibility because we think that we just don’t have enough credentials.

    We don’t have to check every box.

    Excellent advice. Thank you, listeners.

    This mini-episode is brought to you by The Happiness Project — my #1 New York Times bestselling book that stayed on the list for two years. Intrigued? Read a sample chapter here, on “Boost Energy.”

    Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:


     Happier listening!


    The post A Little Happier: Don’t Check Every Box. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 16:00:02 on 2017/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , success,   

    A Little Happier: More Advice about How to Be Successful–Check Every Box. 

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    Last week, I talked about some excellent advice I got very indirectly — from my law-school roommate’s ex-boyfriend. You never know where good advice will come from.

    Here’s something else he told me: Try to check every box. If you want a job or a position, make yourself the easy, non-controversial, inevitable choice by meeting every criteria possible.

    This advice sounds rather obvious, but I’ve been surprised by how often it has come in handy.

    This mini-episode is brought to you by The Happiness Project — my #1 New York Times bestselling book that stayed on the list for two years. Intrigued? Read a sample chapter here, on “Boost Energy.”

    Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:


     Happier listening!

    The post A Little Happier: More Advice about How to Be Successful–Check Every Box. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • gretchenrubin 16:17:47 on 2017/06/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , success   

    A Little Happier: My Former Roommate’s Ex-Boyfriend’s Lesson in How to Be Successful. 

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    As I think back on the great advice I’ve received over the years, I’m surprised to realize that some of the best advice came from very random sources — books I skimmed, people I hardly knew.

    Like my former law-school roommate’s ex-boyfriend’s advice. It has guided me for years — and I never even met the guy! And yet I’ve thought about his advice so many times: “Successful people are willing to do things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do.”

    What do you think of that advice — do you agree?

    And have you ever picked up important advice from an unlikely source?

    I mention the “Happiness Newsletter,” my free email newsletter. Every few weeks, I’ll send you highlights from my blog, Facebook Page, podcast, and great articles that caught my attention.
    Click here to subscribe to my free newsletter..

    Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:


     Happier listening!

    The post A Little Happier: My Former Roommate’s Ex-Boyfriend’s Lesson in How to Be Successful. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • feedwordpress 19:18:02 on 2016/12/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , success, , , ,   

    9 Tips if You’re Making Work-Related New Year’s Resolutions. 

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    The new year is here, and for many of us, that means new year’s resolutions. And many of us make resolutions related to our work lives.

    Now Questioners, I know you object to the arbitrariness of the January 1 date; Obligers, I know you may have given up making resolutions because you’ve struggled in the past; and Rebels, I know you may not want to bind yourself in advance. But some people do want to make resolutions. (Don’t know where you fit in the “Four Tendencies” framework, i.e.,  if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Look here.)

    For instance, some common work-related resolutions include “I want to broaden my horizons,” “I want to do a better job with record-keeping,” “I want to network,” “I want to find a mentor,” and “I want to expand my skills.”

    One key to consistent progress is to make a behavior into a habit. Habits are freeing and energizing, because they save us from the difficult, draining business of making decisions and exercising our self-control.

    Habits matter, because research shows that about 40% of everyday life is shaped by habits. If we have habits that work for us, we’re far more likely to be happier, healthier, and more productive.

    In my book Better Than Before, I discuss the twenty-one different strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. I know, twenty-one sounds like a lot to manage — but it’s helpful that there are so many, because some of these strategies work for some people, and not others. But we all have a big menu from which to pick.

    So how might you make a habit of actions that will help you succeed at work? Consider these strategies:

    1. Use the Strategy of Clarity, and be specific about what you’re asking of yourself.

    Resolutions like “network more” or “research new opportunities” are too vague. Put your resolution into the form of a concrete, measurable, manageable action, such as “Every month, go to at least two events with networking opportunities” or “Spend one hour every Friday afternoon updating my time sheets and expenses.” Being specific helps you figure out what to do, and it also makes it possible to…

    2. Use the Strategy of Monitoring, and monitor your habit.

    Monitoring is almost uncanny in its power. Research shows that simply by monitoring a behavior, we tend to do a much better job of it, whether that’s how fast we’re driving, how much we’re eating, how many cold calls we’re making, or how many instructional videos we’re watching. Keep track, and you’ll push yourself in the right direction.

    3. Use the Strategy of Scheduling, and schedule time for your habit.

    Something like “Research that company this week” is a goal that can keep getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Even if it’s important, it’s just not urgent. So schedule a specific time for research, for learning, for following up, and give it a slot on your calendar. But it’s crucial to remember that…

    4. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

    When you schedule time to do certain work, you should do that work, and nothing else. No filing, no cleaning, no research, no checking emails. Do that work, or stare at the ceiling. Otherwise, you may work and work and work, and never get around to doing the very thing you set out to do.

    5. Use the Strategy of Distinctions, and take time to think big.

    In the rigors of everyday life, it can be hard to step back and see what matters most.  Where do you want to be in two years? How could you develop your skills to make your work more interesting and yourself more valuable? Some people prefer to do this kind of thinking alone, with just a pad of paper; others prefer to talk it out, with a few trusted co-workers or an old friend; others might hire a coach. Or…

    6. Use the Strategy of Distinctions, and take time to think small.

    Sometimes people get overwhelmed when they try to make grand plans or ask huge questions; it’s also useful to focus on small, manageable steps that you can incorporate into your life immediately.

    7. Use the Strategy of Clarity, and ask yourself: Whom do you envy?

    Envy is an uncomfortable emotion, but it’s instructive. If you envy someone, that person has something you wish you had. Do you envy your friend who gets to travel all the time—or the friend who never has to travel? Do you envy your co-worker who’s taking night class toward getting an MBA, or who gets to make lots of presentations? Envy can help show us how we want to grow and change.

    8. Use the Strategy of Other People, and spend time with people who have the habits  that you want to emulate.

    Studies show that we tend to pick up habits from the people around us, so choose your company wisely. If you know that some of your co-workers cultivate habits that help them succeed at work, go out of your way to spend time with them, and you’ll more easily pick up those habits, yourself.

    9. Use the Strategy of the Four Tendencies and the Strategy of Accountability, if it works for you.

    If you’re an Obliger — that is, if you readily meet other people’s expectations, but struggle to meet your expectations for yourself — the answer, the solution, the key element is external accountability. Rebels, on the other hand, often do worse when they’re being held accountable. Figure out your Tendency and plug in accountability as necessary.

    The most important thing to remember about habit change? We must shape our habits to suit ourselves—our own nature, our own interests, our own strengths. When we understand ourselves, we can apply the twenty-one strategies with the greatest success, and we can also help other people to change their habits.

    It’s not hard to change your habits, when you know what to do. And it matters. When we change our habits, we change our lives.

    The post 9 Tips if You’re Making Work-Related New Year’s Resolutions. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

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