Work/Life Balance

Advice from a Lawyer Who Pursued Happiness: Sleep More and Join a Group


A lawyer who spent a year following the experts’ advice on how to be happy has boiled down some of her findings.

Sleep more. Join a group.

That’s the advice of Gretchen Rubin, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog about her findings and her new book, The Happiness Project, due to be published in December.

Rubin went to Harvard Law School and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. But she told the Law Blog she didn’t give her legal career much thought. “There’s a whole notion of ‘drift’ that I think a lot of people fall into with law school. They don’t decide, necessarily, to go to law school, but they drift into it, really for lack of a better idea. And I think that’s one of the reasons so many lawyers are unhappy,” she said. “That’s what happened to me. I drifted into it.”

After she began working at the Federal Communications Commission, Rubin kept thinking that she really wanted to be a writer. She tried it, and was successful, publishing several books. She began blogging about her attempt to test drive the wisdom about happiness, relying on advice “from Aristotle to Martin Seligman to Thoreau to Oprah.”

The Law Blog asked Rubin if she had one secret, above all others, that was key to happiness. Rubin said meeting with a group every six weeks or so can be a big driver of happiness. For her part, Rubin started a group to read and discuss children’s literature. “But it doesn’t have to be a book group,” she told Law Blog. “It could be a poker game or a get together to talk about fly fishing or just sit and watch Gossip Girl and talk about it.”

Rubin also said she believes in the power of sleep. “Recent studies have showed that two of the top reasons people are unhappy at work are because they have tight deadlines and because they don’t get enough sleep,” she said. “I think a lot of people, a lot of lawyers, get used to the feeling of being tired all the time. They just adjust to it. But sleep is really a key to happiness.”

Rubin has blogged about her happiness pursuit at The Happiness Project.

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