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I Focused on Who I Wasn’t By My Mid-30s

Melanie-NotkinOne 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.

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-30s (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 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.

Curious about the book? Check it out: The Happiness Project (Can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller). Read sample chapters or watch the one-minute book video. You can also listen to a sample of the audiobook.

I Focused on Who I Wasn’t By My Mid-30s

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Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the award-winning author of The Happiness Project, a #1 New York Times bestseller. You can also watch the one-minute book video. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central.

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APA Reference
Rubin, G. (2018). I Focused on Who I Wasn’t By My Mid-30s. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 12 May 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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