Frankly I have mixed feelings about Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. Although it’s a satisfactory entry point into what you could call applied positive psychology, I find that I actively dislike many of her “Moment of Happiness” quotes of the day (still can’t bring myself to unsubscribe from the emails though because at least they are some food for thought?) And I am so deeply skeptical of devoting so much time and attention to the explicit goal of becoming happy, per se.
But there is one real gem of a tip buried in her corpus that has the potential to be a real game changer for me, and maybe for you too. Rubin calls this happiness commandment “spending out.” It’s a little difficult to describe explicitly, and explained through examples. I really fully understood one of Rubin’s non-spending-out traps as soon as she mentioned it: re-using razor blades way too many times. Some more of my non-spending-out weaknesses: splurging on decent clothes and hair products and makeup but never using them because my life is kinda casual, allowing clean sheets to sit in the drawer while the ones on my bed become downright grimy, filling Evernote and spiral notebooks and everywhere else with zillions of writing ideas and then never writing a damn thing.
Spending out is more of an attitude adjustment than a behavior. I don’t like this word because it’s pretty woo-woo but when you spend out, you move in the world with an “abundance” mindset. Rather than assuming, on some level, that shit is scarce and you have to conserve, conserve, conserve, spending out is a behavior predicated on the belief (however firmly or tenuously you hold it at present) that your life is, and will continue to be, full of goodness.
When it comes to razor blades or hair product or whatever, there’s just no good reason to act as if these things are in short supply, even if your animal brain is nudging you in that direction. You are a competent adult committed to adding value to the world and receiving value in return, and that is likely to be sufficient to fund ample razor blade purchases in the future.
And when it comes to ideas, hoarding them is actually counterproductive. When you put ideas down, work them out, and let them mingle, you end up with many more and better ideas than that with which you started, and more motivation too.
I quit grad school over a year and a half ago. Spent most of the first year reading books and blogs about entrepreneurial stuff and being underemployed at a dead-end job that still left me accruing debt and exhausted besides. I thought that I couldn’t and shouldn’t start spending out, with ideas especially, until after I clawed my way into a significantly less precarious professional and financial situation.
Now, I believe that the spending out must come first. Humans don’t do well, energetically and creatively and productivity-wise, when we’re operating from a place of stress and worry. Even just physiologically, the cards are stacked against your mind then, you know… cortisol and whatever. You may not be able to just flat-out decide to be less scarcity-minded. But spending out as much as you can, every day, doesn’t require a blind faith in the universe’s magical abundance. Rather, it’ll actually become a proximate cause of creating a stimulating flow of stuff (and ideas, and activities, and people) through your life.