Leadership

The key to your happiness depends on these 2 things, according to self-help expert Gretchen Rubin

Believe it or not, the key to being happier and more successful may already be in your possession.

Although people may point to a variety of things that contribute to a happy life, renowned happiness expert Gretchen Rubin tells CNBC Make It that you can focus on these two things: strong relationships and self-knowledge.

"Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree that a key—maybe the key—to a happy life is strong relationships," Rubin says.

Rubin has explored this topic through her New York Times bestsellers "The Four Tendencies" and "The Happiness Project," among other books, and her weekly podcast "Happier with Gretchen Rubin."

She is also a member of Oprah Winfrey's SuperSoul 100, an exclusive group of 100 leaders "using their voices and talent to elevate humanity," which also features Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington and Adam Grant.

Rubin points out that as humans, we need to feel intimate enduring bonds, have the ability to confide in others, feel like we can give support an receive support, as well as feel like we belong.

"So anything that we do in our life that either broadens our relationships or deepens our relationships is something that's going to make us happier," she says.

If you're not sure where to start, Rubin recommends going to your office happy hour, showing up to a friend's wedding or joining a book club.

Rubins says that the second component to living a happier life is having self-knowledge.

She acknowledges this isn't a new or original idea, pointing out that "Know thyself" is even carved on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi built in ancient Greece.

"It's ancient advice because it's so powerful and so true," she says.

Knowing yourself involves knowing your own interests, values and temperament. Once you know that, you can build your life around the things that are true for you instead of what you wish were true or what other people expect from you, Rubin says.

But she also points out that this isn't an easy task to tackle.

"The challenge of self-awareness is that it is a constant challenge," Rubin says. "It's not something that you can figure out and then be done, because we're changing all the time. Our circumstances change, our lives change."

Rubin adds that self-awareness can also be difficult or painful because it means acknowledging painful truths about yourself, "but it really is the key to a happier life."

She instead encourages you to ask yourself indirect questions that reveal more about yourself than you might realize.

Some examples of these questions Rubins recommends include:

  • "What do I lie about?" This reveals where your actions and values aren't lining up.
  • "Whom do I envy?" This reveals what someone else has that you actually wish you had.
  • "What did I do for fun when I was ten years old?" The answer to this is usually something that you would still enjoy now if you can figure out a way to incorporate it into your life.

"These kinds of indirect questions can be helpful because while self-knowledge is so important, it's a relentless thing that we have to be doing all the time," Rubin says.

"Once we know that then we can really use that to build a happier lives life for ourselves," Rubin adds.

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