Templeton.org is in English. Only a few pages are translated into other languages.


Usted está viendo Templeton.org en español. Tenga en cuenta que solamente hemos traducido algunas páginas a su idioma. El resto permanecen en inglés.


Você está vendo Templeton.org em Português. Apenas algumas páginas do site são traduzidas para o seu idioma. As páginas restantes são apenas em Inglês.


أنت تشاهد Templeton.org باللغة العربية. تتم ترجمة بعض صفحات الموقع فقط إلى لغتك. الصفحات المتبقية هي باللغة الإنجليزية فقط.

Skip to main content
Back to Templeton Ideas

The Templeton Ideas Podcast is a show about the most awe-inspiring ideas in our world and the people who investigate them.

Gretchen Rubin is a New York Times bestselling author, podcaster, and entrepreneur who is known for thought-provoking investigations into happiness and human nature. She began her career in law, even clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor before pivoting to a career as a writer. Gretchen joins the podcast to discuss how she became a writer, the books and spiritual teachers that have inspired her, and how a case of pink eye led her to investigate the human senses.

Gretchen’s new book, Life in Five Senses, is available on April 18th.

Transcripts of our episodes are made available as soon as possible. They are not fully edited for grammar or spelling.

See all podcast episodes.

THOMAS BURNETT: When you look back on your childhood, were there any episodes or moments where you thought, I’m gonna put a decade or two into focusing specifically on happiness?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: What an interesting question, not happiness specifically, but one thing that I’ve experienced my whole life is that I’ll get intensely interested in a subject and I’ll go off and I’ll do a lot of research and I’ll take notes.

I have all these notes about the Salem witchcraft that I did in like third grade or something. And so this idea of becoming extremely interested and then wanting to go deeper, deeper, deeper, and take notes to sort of read up on a subject and master it is something that I’ve always experienced.

I love to read and I love writing and although when I was a child, I didn’t really imagine myself as a writer, I kept elaborate, commonplace books of my favorite quotations. I think that started in like fifth grade, and I still have them right in my office right now, right above my head as my whole shelf of these going way back. And I think underlying it was a deep interest in human nature. I think anyone who loves to read novels, a lot of it is seeing how novels explore human nature. And I’ve always loved science and history and biography, which are also aspects of human nature, but I think it took me a long time to understand what that meant for me personally. I was just sort of in that swimming pool of ideas without really understanding how it would add up to something for me, that took a lot longer.

THOMAS BURNETT: Tell me what initially attracted you to go into law school. What was the inspiration there?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: I went to law school for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t know what else to do with myself, and I thought, well, I’m good at research and writing. It’s a great education. I can always change my mind later. It’ll give me a lot of options. My father is a super happy lawyer, so I had the model of someone in my life who was a lawyer and really loved it. And so I, I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I thought, well go to law school.

So I drifted into law school and I warn people about that, because for me, it worked out great. I’m so happy that I went to law school. But often when we drift into decisions, it doesn’t always end up well. And looking back, I wish I had pushed myself to make a more mindful choice because it’s definitely not the greatest way to go about making major life decisions for sure.

THOMAS BURNETT: Let’s talk a little bit about your legal career, it sounded like there were elements of it that were very exciting. As you were considering pivoting, did people confront you in saying that you’d be throwing your life away if you make this change? Did you find some strong resistance or were people more encouraging?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: I feel really fortunate that the people around me were very encouraging, as my father said of himself, like at a certain point you go from being a coach to a cheerleader. And so they were just like, this is great if you wanna try it. My husband, we met in law school, he was a lawyer and then he switched into finance at the same time that I was trying to switch into writing. I remember there was a day where we got our notices from the New York State Bar Association, because  we were both members of the bar asking us to pay our bar fees, which are quite expensive.

And I said to him, ooh, should we pay our bar fees? And he is like, why would we pay our bar fees? And I was like, okay, we’re doing this now. I know I could just go back and pay up our missing bar fees and figure it out. But at the time it felt, you know, very decisive. But you know, now that I’m a parent myself, I realize how tempting it is as a parent or just as anybody around someone else to think, I don’t want you to feel bad. I don’t want you to feel discouraged. I want you to be safe and happy. But the problem is we’re not very good at knowing what’s gonna make someone safe and happy. And in fact, my father said something that, it’s funny when I repeated it to other, people thought it sounded kind of undermining, but in fact it was very, very reassuring to me because I was doing the work for my first book. And he said, well darling, you might not hit it out of the park the first time.

And to me that was very encouraging because he was saying, even if this book doesn't succeed, that doesn't mean that your decision has been wrong or that you've made a mistake.

He’s like, you know what? Things take a long time. It may take a while. And so I was actually very encouraged by that, by thinking like, okay, you know, I may have to work at this, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve taken a wrong path. So I do feel very, very fortunate that people around me were so encouraging.

THOMAS BURNETT: What was your first writing project upon making the clean break with law?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Well, I feel like I was fortunate because when I was clerking for Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, I had become seized with a passion for this subject of power, money, fame, sex.

I had just been like walking on the Capitol grounds and I asked myself a rhetorical question, you know, like, what am I interested in, that everybody in the world is interested. And I thought, well, power, money, fame, sex. It was like power, money, fame, sex. And that’s when I started just researching and taking notes. And then it got bigger and bigger, and I just went deeper and deeper. And finally I thought, well, this is the kind of thing a person would do if they were gonna be writing a book, and maybe I could be the person to write that book. And so the moment of my great, great epiphany was power, money, fame, sex.

And my first published book was called Power, Money, Fame, Sex: A User’s Guide. And it’s like this sardonic, but accurate kind of how to. Which turns out to be like very good preparation for writing about happiness and kind of the reverse. And so that was my first book.

THOMAS BURNETT: With your book, the Happiness Project and the blog, I guess, that you started concurrently as you were working on the book, you use yourself as the person of experimentation, trying out a lot of ideas, but in the aftermath of the book being published, selling lots of copies, a lot of people reading your blog, you’ve gotten lots of feedback from, I imagine, hundreds of thousands of people have reached out to you to ask their questions, give their impressions. What have you learned about happiness from the feedback that you’ve been getting in the wake of you’re embarking on this project and making yourself the subject matter and the point of the experiment.

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Yeah. Well, I like to myself in the subject matter because what I find is that it’s extremely easy to give excellent advice as long as you are not trying to take it. And many people, when they give their advice, I think that sounds like great advice, but I don’t know if you’ve ever met humans, because I don’t think that’s gonna work for people.

Or maybe that works for you, but I don’t think that’s gonna work for everyone. Just look around. So I think that by focusing on myself, I kind of stay very realistic. And of course I’m very idiosyncratic, so some stuff works for me that wouldn’t work for other people and vice versa. One thing I’ve learned is that there is no magic one size fits all solution. And so we really all have to do our own happiness project, thinking about our own nature, our own temperament, our own circumstances, our own values.

The other thing is, what’s really great about what I’ve been studying is that each of my books leads inevitably to the next book. Because when I wrote The Happiness Project, all these people came up to me and they said, well, how did you get yourself to do all those things? And I would say, well, you know, I just, if I thought something would make me happier, I would do it. And then if it did make me happier, I would just keep doing it. And then they would look to me very puzzled, and they would say, but how did you get yourself to do it. And I thought, well, that’s odd because they’re experiencing a challenge that I’m not experiencing what’s going on. And I realize that a lot of times when people are talking about a happiness challenge, they’re really talking about the problem of forming a habit. They know perfectly well they would be happier if they slept more or read more or spent more time reading out loud to their children, or less time on their screens or volunteering or whatever. But for one reason or another, they have trouble forming the habit. And so that’s what led me to write my book Better Than Before, which is all about habit formation.

Once we’ve decided we want to do an action, how do we make it into a habit? Well then that led me to a book called About the Four Tendencies because in writing about habits, I stumbled across this kind of truth, sort of like a periodic table of the elements for people, where people really fall into these very distinct categories in terms of like how they approach expectations, which turns out to have a lot of relevance to how people can effectively change their habits. Though it has a lot of implications for other things. And if anybody wants to know, The Four Tendencies divides people into upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels. And if somebody wants to find out what they are, they can just go to quiz.gretchenruben.com and take a quiz and get a little report on what they are.

And then with Life in Five Senses, I was just, at a certain point I was thinking, you know, I’ve got my podcast Happier With Gretchen Ruben, and you know, I’m always thinking about these experiments I can do on myself and try out, and it’s all so much fun, but I felt like, gosh, there’s just something missing. There’s something that I’m overlooking and I don’t know what it is. And that’s when I realized it was connecting to the world through my five senses. So again, it’s sort of like with each step I see more ahead of me that, but not always in a way that I can expect.

If you look back at the Happiness Project, there’s all kinds of clues that I would one day write a book called Life in Five Senses and study my senses.  But of course, at the time I did not see that theme myself. I didn’t understand that aspect of my own experience. And then all of a sudden when this spotlight went onto it, everything lit up in a new way.

THOMAS BURNETT: Since you mentioned your new book, Life In Five Senses, I wonder if you can tell me a story about how pink eye  led you to writing a book and embarking on a year-long project.

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Yeah, yeah it was a very inconspicuous moment of my life or an epiphany. Yeah, so I got pink eye and I’m one of these people that is fairly prone to pink eye, and so, you know, at first I was like, okay, I’ll just wait this out, but it persisted. So I finally went to the eye doctor. You know, he confirmed my diagnosis and gave me some drops. But then as I was walking out the door, he said very offhandedly like, well, you know, be sure to come in for your checkup soon, because as you know, you’re at much greater risk for losing your sight. And I was like, wait, what? I did not know that. What, what are you talking about? And he said, oh yeah. Well, you’re very extremely nearsighted and that means you’re more at risk for a detached retina. And if that happens, we wanna catch it right away because it can really cause a loss of vision. And as it happened, I had a friend who had recently lost vision to a detached retina, so this was very real to me.

So I was sort of shocked by this. And of course, intellectually I realized at any time this could happen to me. And I, and I realized of course too, that I could have a happy and fulfilled, meaningful life if I did lose one of my senses or my senses. But for some reason that just penetrated to me in that moment. And I was just thinking like, oh my gosh, like what does this mean? And I live in New York City, so I was walking home from the eye doctor. And as I stepped out onto the sidewalk, it was this extraordinary experience, like nothing I’ve ever had happened to me before where it was like every knob in my brain just shot up to 11 and I could hear everything and smell everything. Almost like a psychedelic experience and I was walking home, and I just couldn’t take it all in. And I realized like it’s all there all the time. And I’d been taking it for granted, like I was walking around, but I wasn’t seeing what was in front of me. I wasn’t hearing what was happening to me. And yet I could lose it and at any time, and I would just feel so full of regret if I thought, oh my gosh, like why didn’t I look at the trees against the sky when I could, you know, instead of just like walking around in sort of this absent-minded fog all the time. And so just that short walk really shook me to the core and it showed me that this missing element of my life was this connection to like rich vivid in the moment experience of my five senses in my body. And then I just became, absolutely determined to try to bring that element into my life in a really powerful way.

THOMAS BURNETT: Another aspect of the book that just knocked my socks off was your commitment to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art every day or nearly every day. What happens to you when you go in the Met now? How do you see the world differently based on doing that?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Well, it’s like if you have passages of books that you like read and reread, like I have some books where I’ll just go and I’ll just reread one page because I just purely love it. And there are things in the Met where I’m like, I just go visit them just because I just love to see them so much.

But you know, one thing I hadn’t realized about the Met is how much it changes. Like I knew that exhibits came and went, but even things in the permanent collection get swapped out. Much more than I realized when I only went there occasionally. So I’m always a little bit worried, like, like my favorite thing, if I had to pick one thing in the whole Met, it’s probably a statue called God Horus Protecting King Nectanebo II. And I’m always sort of like, ooh will the day come when that thing vanishes and something else takes its place. I hope not because, yeah, I visited every.

THOMAS BURNETT: You mentioned also in your book that in addition to your senses being a great source of joy, they can also be a source of temptation. And I wondered if you got some extra insights into the dark side of sensory perception.

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Yeah. So one thing I discovered is that when one sense is very, very gratified, it kind of extends to all the senses. And so you can substitute one sense for another if you’re trying to ward off a particular temptation. So very typically it’s like, okay, it’s the middle of the afternoon and you just have that urge for something sweet in your mouth or like a bag of something salty and crunchy, but you know, that’s probably not a healthy choice. But if you substitute a different sense, then that might go away. So for instance, like I love the sense of smell, so go seek out something that that has a smell that you love, whether that’s a bottle of vanilla or a perfume or something like fresh towels or whatever it is and really like, engage with that sense. Or maybe if there’s music that you love or you like listening to new music, say to yourself, okay, instead of having that unhealthy snack, I’m gonna go listen to one of my favorite songs that I haven’t listened to in a while. And there’s something about satisfying one sense where then the other senses don’t clamor as much.

But another thing, this was something that had me mystified me for years. I mean, I couldn’t figure this out. So I’m a person who has an extreme sweet tooth, and I was just very bored by being nagged all the time by the sweet tooth. It was just very boring and draining to constantly have this voice saying, “1, 2, 3 more, more, now, later, you deserve it, it’s your birthday,” you know? And then finally I realized, and I write about this in Better Than Before, that I can just stop eating sugar. And if I stopped eating sugar altogether, then my desire to eat sweets would fall away. And I write about that, about being an abstainer where it’s easier for me to stop things altogether than to indulge a little bit. So I’m an abstainer. Not everybody’s like that. Some people are moderators, but I’m an abstainer.

But the thing that puzzled me and I, and people ask me about all the time is they say, but how is that even possible? Like you say, it wasn’t that hard. How can that be true? We’re surrounded by all these cues for all these like tempting sweets and you know, you walk by bakeries and it’s in your feet and you’re just constantly getting cued to have all this stuff, so why doesn’t that stuff bother you? And I thought, I don’t know. That is strange. And I kept thinking, well, is there something about my makeup that just makes that easier for me? But then I’ve talked to other people and they’re like, yeah, it’s funny. Like once you stop eating sugar, it’s a lot of times for a lot of people, it’s not as hard as they thought.

While I realized in writing Life in Five Senses the brain, it’s not an objective reporter of just what’s happening around you.

The brain is making decisions and sifting and emphasizing, moving some things to the foreground, moving other things to the background.

And my brain clearly was just like, Hey Gretchen doesn’t need to know about the smell of Auntie Anne’s in the airport or the site of a brownie mix in the grocery store because she doesn’t eat that stuff. That information’s not useful to her. We’re gonna dial those cues back because there’s other information that’s more useful to her. And so those things just kind of faded away. It’s not like I can’t notice them if I pay attention, but they don’t clamor for my attention the way I think other people experience them. It’s kinda like, I don’t know if you’ve ever sort of like learned a new word or had a baby and then all or a puppy and all of a sudden all this information, suddenly you’re like, I never realized how many pet stores there were in my neighborhood. It’s bacause now your brain is like, pet stores are useful. Let’s bring up the pet stores. But if you don’t have a pet, it’s like your brain just lets that stuff fade out. So it was sort of like a longtime mystery that was solved for me.

THOMAS BURNETT: After the break, Gretchen and I talk about the paradox of accepting who you are while also setting high expectations for yourself. And Gretchen also shares her insights on the books and thinkers that have inspired her.


THOMAS BURNETT: At the end of your book, you wrote a statement that made me really step back and ponder. You said, “to be Gretchen, I must accept myself and expect more for myself.” And that sounds like a paradox. And I’m wondering how you deal with that tension? Or maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way.

GRETCHEN RUBIN: No, I think it’s one of the great tensions in a happy life, and I think it does feel sometimes like, well, how, how do I accept myself and yet also expect more for myself? And, and I think that the challenge here is that only I can know for myself what it means to accept myself and what it means to expect more for myself.

Like in my book, Happier At Home, I talked about taking driving lessons because I’m a fearful driver. I’ve been a fearful driver my whole life. And I thought, well, should I just accept myself and say, Gretchen is somebody who just doesn’t like to drive and stop driving and accept myself? Or is this an area where I should expect more from myself and think, well, I could really push myself to like engage with driving and do it even though I don’t like to. And much to my dismay, I was like, yeah, this isn’t expecting more for myself. Like I can ask this of myself. Were there other things like I’m not gonna push myself to like learn to play the piano. I’m like, that is not Gretchen. That doesn’t interest me. I wouldn’t be good at that. I would not find that satisfying. I’m just gonna accept myself that I’m not a person who cares about playing a musical instrument and that isn’t accept myself. But often it’s, we have to really think through that because it is a tension.

THOMAS BURNETT: I know you’re a prolific reader. Is there a certain book or couple of books that you have front and center in your bookshelf that have changed you more than others?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Dozens. But if I had to say like the ones, the few, one is Story of a Soul, which is the spiritual memoir of St. Teresa is my spiritual teacher, even though I’m not even Catholic, it is not a book for everyone. I’ve read this book many, many times. I’ve read every biography of St. Therese of Lisieux. I think about her all the time.

Another book that completely changed the way I see the world is a book called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. He talks about why people respond well to certain environments, whether that’s an office or a home, or a park, or a city, and it’s not things like your chandelier should be X number of inches off your dining room table, it’s things like half wild garden, staircases, stage, sleeping to the east, terrace overlooking life, ceilings at different heights, and it just completely changed the way that I see the world by just giving me this completely different architecture of understanding. So I love that book.

I love everything by Samuel Johnson. Again, he’s not for everybody, but uh, I feel like, you know, you and I talk about science all the time, Tom, you know the research. We love it. But then I think I read someone like Samuel Johnson and I feel like he has a deep insight into human nature, just through the power of his observation. And he says in one sentence a thing that I’ve seen 30 research articles trying to get their minds around. He’s the one that that showed me that I should stop eating sugar. Somebody offered him some wine and he said, I can’t take a little. Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult. And I thought, well, that’s me. I can have none, but I can’t have a little bit. And so Samuel Johnson gives me a lot of insights into human nature.

And then George Orwell, I would say is just as a writer, I think he’s the one who’s writing and, and the clarity and unexpected nature of his thinking and his reasoning is just like something that I go back to over and over again. There are essays of his that I’ve read 20, 30 times. I’ll type out parts of them just so that I can understand them better.

And anybody doing practical happiness work, gotta read autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. So charming, so wonderful, so timeless. He’s definitely a spiritual teacher for me too, and there’s, and there’s a portrait of him in the Met, so I sometimes go look at him. It’s my spiritual teacher.

THOMAS BURNETT: To circle back to St. Therese of Lisieux. I bet a lot of our listeners haven’t heard of her. Could you just briefly mention who she is and why so many people find her inspirational?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Yes. So I stumbled across St. Therese because I was reading Thomas Merton’s, you know, towering masterpiece Seven Storey Mountain. And he’s a very kind of grouchy, misanthropic person and he was mentioning with great reverence St. Therese, who’s also called The Little Flower. And so I thought, oh, that’s interesting of Thomas Merton’s talking about the little flower I gotta check it out. So then I read Story of a Soul.

So St. Therese of Lisieux  is a saint in the Catholic church. She’s actually a doctor of the church, which means she’s part of this like elite category of Super saints. And she died at the age of 23 of tuberculosis in a cloistered convent, which she had gone to the Pope to petition to enter early. So she entered this convent at the age of 16. She was cloistered, which means that once she entered, she did not leave. And interestingly, several of her biological sisters, were her sisters in religion. And her mother Superior was her sister, and her sister and mother Superior ordered her to write her spiritual memoir. So it’s full of sort of stories of being a child and her moments of spiritual conversion. But what St. Terese’s kind of known for, she’s known as the little flower and Little flower because she said she was a little flower of Jesus, not a rose or a lily, but like a wildflower that would grow under his feet. And so she was about doing great things in kind of an ordinary way. She wanted to be a martyr. She wanted to convert souls, but she did it in a little way, and that was considered to be her great gift. And so St. Therese in my mind, stands for, can we transform our everyday lives with sort of this transcendent view?

And she’s also very funny. You don’t think of a saint as being funny. She really, she was very funny, which very much comes through in the memoir and so she’s known for the, her little way. That’s what she’s known for. And one of the great things about like sort of being out in public with your ideas is that every year on St Terese’s Feast Day, people send me all these messages because they know how important St. Therese is to me. And so it’s just this wonderful way of being connected to the world in a way that I had not anticipated.

THOMAS BURNETT: I’ve read that you spent some time with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is that right? Just speaking of Super Saints, very holy people, did you get a sense of what distinguishes him from the rest of us?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: What an interesting question. Again, one of the things that really caught my attention is his sense of humor. He was just cracking himself up. People often talk about his lightheartedness and that Buddhist generally have a kind of lightheartedness, and I was very struck by that because I always think of kind of in this reverent and serious, solemn way I would think, and he himself does not comport himself in that way. That was what was most striking to me.

THOMAS BURNETT: I watched a documentary of him interacting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the two of them teased each other like they were kids at the playground.

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Yes! If you can like lightheartedly tease each other, point out the absurdities of everyday life to see the comical side of things, it brings people together and it makes difficult things seem easier. I feel like that is true spiritual mastery. And so it’s not surprising that you would see these great masters employing it.

THOMAS BURNETT: Do you have any advice in terms of being able to see where we’re sort of approaching our limits and where we come up on those borders and where to exercise caution and where to push ourselves harder?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Yeah, if you’re in that kind of situation, I think a really, really helpful way, a very clarifying idea is to choose the bigger life. Only you know, what is the bigger life for. You’re Tom and you’re thinking, oh, maybe I’ll move to Peru. And I was like, well, Tom, choose the bigger life. Well, for some people, the bigger life might be staying because you’re like, well then I’m gonna grow my network here, I have all these projects here, I wanna do this, I wanna do that. And if I go, I’m just gonna be starting over. It’s really gonna be a very small life for me. Or you might think, oh, the bigger life for me would be this big adventure and this new place and this new people and really mastering this whole new city. Only you know what the bigger life is.

And what’s great about this framework of thinking is I think a lot of times, I’ve certainly experienced this and I’ve talked to other people where the pros and cons seem very equally balanced. Or you’re like, I can’t decide, is this an accept myself or am I letting myself stay in my comfort zone? Or am I really pushing myself outside of the natural limits of my character in a way that’s not authentic? How do you, how do you think that through? But if you choose to pick your life often, it’s very clear. A small example in my life was getting a dog. So my daughters really, really wanted a dog. My husband was like, eh, if they want a dog, I’ll get a dog. And I really did not wanna get a dog. I’ve read all the research about how happy dogs make people, but I was like, it’s too much work. It’s all this time. It’s so much responsibility. I already have two kids. And then I thought, well choose the bigger life. What’s the bigger life here? And instantly I was like, well, the bigger life is the life with a dog. Now that would not be true for everyone because some people could say like, well, if I don’t have a dog, I could travel and dogs are expensive. If I had that money, I could do this or I could do that. Or I’ll have a dog in another season of life, but now is not the season of my life to get a dog. The bigger life is not getting a dog now. But for me the answer was clear, choose the bigger life.

THOMAS BURNETT: Well, I’m glad I asked because yeah, certain kinds of question prompts can elucidate what feels muddled and impossible. But it’s that question from the outside sometimes it comes in from a friend or a book that you’re reading and like, well that makes it clear. Looking at where your life is now, apropos to choosing a bigger life, your childhood self, what would she be surprised about or delighted to discover about where, where your life is now?

GRETCHEN RUBIN: My childhood self would be full of delight and wonder because I do all day long what I like to do as a kid, as my professional life. I mean, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. If I didn’t have a professional life, this is exactly what I do in my free time. I read a lot. I take notes, I make sense of what I think by writing. I can’t figure out what I think unless I write about it. As a child, I thought people wrote novels or plays or poetry, or they were journalists or they were academics. I didn’t really know that I could be the kind of writer that I am now. And of course now they’re all these other ways of getting your words done to the world that didn’t even exist, like podcasts. You know, like I would’ve loved to know that I could have the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, but of course, podcasts didn’t exist. I would’ve loved to known that I could have my blog and like publish my own articles whenever I felt like it, but that didn’t exist.

One of the best pieces of advice that I think a person can think about is what do you do when you’re just on your own, what do you do? Because people think, well, what I do in my free time is what everybody does for fun, and that’s just not true. What I did for fun was copy quotations for my favorite books. That’s not what everybody does for fun. I have a friend where she said she would spend hours and hours talking into like a pretend microphone in front of the mirror, and now she’s a TV news anchor. She’s like, well, everybody likes to do that. I’m like, I never did that as a kid. And if there’s something that you never do, is it likely that it would be interesting for you to do that as a profession? Maybe. But it’s worth thinking about. And so I feel very fortunate and I’m sure my childhood self would be, would be very reassured to know that this is a job that a person could have. That childhood self did not know that.

THOMAS BURNETT: Well Gretchen, thank you for taking time to talk to me today. It was very fun. I hope that our listeners will grab themselves a copy of the Five Senses and try out some of these experiments on themselves. I will definitely go to the Met the next time I’m in New York.

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Oh, good. Well thank you so much. I enjoyed our conversation so much.

ABBY PONTICELLO: You’ve been listening to Templeton Ideas from the John Templeton Foundation where we fund research and tell stories that inspire people with awe and wonder.

We’re proud to support leading scientists, philosophers, and theologians from around the world. Learn about the latest discoveries related to black holes, complexity, forgiveness, and free will at templeton.org/news. If you like what you’ve heard so far. Follow us and leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts.

Our program was produced by Jacob Lewis with Great Feeling Studios. Our theme song is by Dan Burns. Our staff includes Thomas Burnett, Abby Ponticello, Benjamin Carlson, David Nassar, Gerald Nelson, Alyssa Settefrati, and Juliette Plummer.