Gretchen Rubin (@gretchenrubin) is the co-host of the Happier podcast and wrote New York Times bestsellers Outer Order, Inner Calm, The Four Tendencies, Better Than Before, and The Happiness Project.
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ZAK: Gretchen Rubin is back with another absolute gem on drift.
GRETCHEN: So, drift is the decision that we make by not deciding or by making the decision that is just the easiest and causes the least friction. You know, I go to law school because I'm good at research and writing. I become a doctor because both my parents are doctors. I get married because all my friends are getting married. I take this job because someone offers me this job. We're drifting because we're not making an intentional choice. We're not deciding what we're going after. We're just doing the thing that comes most easily. Now, what can be deceptive about the word drift is it sounds like the easy way or the lazy way but drift is often accompanies with a tremendous amount of work. I drifted into law school because I thought, well, my father's really happy as a lawyer, maybe I'll be happy. I'm good at research and writing I can always change my mind later. It's a great education. It'll keep my options open and I don't know what else to do with myself. So drift isn't always the easy way but it's the way that makes us make the non-choice choice. And sometimes drift works out find and people drift into situations and careers that they're happy with. But a lot of times drift doesn't work out that way because we haven't chosen to do something, we've just drifted into it. So, you know, there's a good change that maybe it's not gonna be a great fit.
ZAK: How do we know when we're drifting?
GRETCHEN: One is if you often have the feeling that you're living someone else's life. Or you feel like you're off-track. I was as a lawyer, clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and I was enjoying it tremendously. I felt so lucky to be there and yet I did feel like I wasn't where I was supposed to be. I felt like I was sort of on a lark. On a detour is the only way that I can describe it. It didn't feel like it was the center of my life. Or, if you have a fantasy that something's gonna blow up your life or in a way that would somehow make it impossible for you to continue or if you have a fantasy life where you're constantly day-dreaming. Or, maybe it's just the opposite. Maybe you're very distressed when somebody talks about something that maybe was once interesting to you but now it's like you can't even bare to think about it because it's so emotionally fraught for you, you can't bare it. Or if you get extremely defensive if somebody suggests that what you're doing isn't the right choice or not the only choice. If you're an associate at a law firm and somebody says something like, well, financial security isn't taht important to me. And you become furious at the idea that somebody would say that. It's like, why is that so energized for you? Often, drift is just feeling like I just did the obvious thing at every turn. I just did the thing that everybody expected for me or that I expected for myself and I took the obvious choice. Often, that is drift.
ZAK: Just so you know. If you are drifting. That's ok.
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