Gretchen Rubin on Being Yourself, Thank-You Notes, and Scrambled Eggs

by Melissa Kirsch
Originally Published: 

The last time I met Gretchen Rubin for coffee, she held me rapt with an irresistible quiz in which she determined which of her Four Tendencies—Obliger, Questioner, Upholder or Rebel—I embodied, and we discussed how my tendency (I’m an Obliger) contributed to my ability to make and keep habits. She’s packed her new book, Better Than Before, with strategies for how we can build good habits and break bad ones, depending on our character types. This is the kind of book that people are going to give to everyone they know—it’s kind of revolutionary to discover your tendency, to identify others’, and to see the ways in which these categories both help and hinder us in our daily lives.

To celebrate the publication of her new book, we gave Gretchen a quiz of our own—the Mid Questionnaire. It doesn’t determine any specific things about her personality, but it certainly helped us get to know her better.

1. What’s something you want to learn how to do?

For several years, I have had a secret hankering to have a podcast. See below!

2. What’s a trip you’ve been meaning to take?

I’d love to go back to London, a city I really admire.

3. Who do you owe a thank you note to? (Here’s your chance.)

I need to send a heartfelt thank-you note to Andy Bowers, of Slate and now chief content officer of Panoply, a great new podcasting network. When he was thinking of people who might want to start a podcast, he thought of me—and I certainly was enthusiastic about the idea! I just launched “Happier with Gretchen Rubin,” a podcast about happiness and good habits that I do with my sister, Elizabeth Craft. It has been a ton of fun, really exciting, and Andy has made the whole experience easy and rewarding. So thank you, Andy!

4. You’re 12 years old. What are you doing on a Friday night?

Is my memory correct that Friday night was The Love Boat/Fantasy Island night? If so, that’s what I was doing.

5. Who did you make your first mix tape for? What songs were on it?

I have to admit, it was for myself—music for running. For years I made myself running mixes. Whenever I found a run-worthy song, I was so happy.

6. What’s the one childhood story about you that you’re sick of hearing at family gatherings?

Growing up, each Christmas my sister and I got to pick out a Christmas-tree ornament of our own, for our collection. I still have every single one. But many years ago, I tried to move my sister’s glass “partridge in a pear tree” ornament to give my own ornament better placement. I dropped her ornament, it shattered, and I’ve heard about it ever since. Though I must say, she’s been giving me grief about that mishap for it so long that now it’s turned into a kind of happy holiday ritual.

7. What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?

“Be Gretchen.”

8. What’s the one thing you make better than anybody?

I make great scrambled eggs.

9. What’s your motto? Or if you don’t have one, what’s your theme song?

My motto is “Be Gretchen.” Also “The days are long, but the years are short.” Of everything I’ve ever written, I think this one-minute video, “The Years Are Short,” resonates most with people.

10. What’s the one movie or TV show that makes you feel better?

Ah, The Office—American version. It gets funnier every time.

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