A happiness expert says changing your life for the better starts with an uncomfortable question

"What do I want out of life?" is the kind of question that's so vague, and yields such broad answers, that it's practically useless. Happiness? Success? A puppy?

If you're trying to craft a more fulfilling existence, you're going to have to get a little more specific — and subtle — with your introspection.

On an episode of Blinkist's Simplify podcast, host Caitlin Schiller spoke with happiness expert and bestselling author Gretchen Rubin about some tricks for knowing yourself better. One such trick? Ask yourself: Who do I envy?

Here's Rubin:

"Envy is an emotion that's extremely unpleasant to experience. It's kind of a shameful emotion, so we often don't even want to admit to ourselves that we envy somebody.

"We might say that we resent them, or we're angry at them, or we'll make fun of them even, rather than admit that we envy them.

"But when we envy somebody, it's actually a super helpful emotion because it tells you that somebody has something that you wish that you had yourself. And a lot of times, once you acknowledge that truth to yourself you can take steps to get it."

In other words: Instead of asking yourself directly what it is you want, listen to what your emotions may already be telling you.

Related: Career advice you should know

10 jobs that will make you happy and rich
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10 jobs that will make you happy and rich

10. Director of IT

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.05

Average salary: $115,643

Directors of IT manage the information technology strategy of an organization, assuming responsibility for the hardware and software used to achieve the organization's objectives.

9. Product manager

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.12

Average salary: $120,229

Product managers are responsible for promoting or introducing a product or service to the public. Typically they will assemble advertising teams, meet with account representatives, and give presentations.

8. Vice president (VP) of sales

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.22

Average salary: $162,600

VPs of sales, who are accountable to the company's president on all sales matters, will ensure the company is meeting its sales projections and oversee a department of sales managers.

7. Senior manager

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.297

Average salary: $110,292

Senior managers are responsible for overseeing groups of employees or departments within a business or organization. They perform necessary duties related to planning, organizing, and coordinating events, production, or other purposes of the business's nature.

6. Senior software engineer

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.31

Average salary: $91,664

Senior software engineers are experienced in creating programs that allow users to carry out certain tasks on a computer or developing operating systems for devices and networks.

5. Accounting manager

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.31

Average salary: $97,886

Accounting managers are charged with oversight of financial reporting practices ranging from standard ledger preparation to end-of-year auditing.

4. Business development manager

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.31

Average salary: $93,846

Business development managers are in charge of handling and reaching out to the prospective clients for a company through hospitality and regular contact.

3. Senior engineer

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.51

Average salary: $100,630

Senior engineers are experienced in designing systems, structures, and materials and researching ways to create or improve objects.

2. Directional driller

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.59

Average salary: $178,155

Directional drillers handle the machinery used in hydraulic fracturing to drill an oil well sideways or horizontally to get oil out of the ground.

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

1. Chief technology officer (CTO)

Bliss score (out of 5): 3.72

Average salary: $150,100

CTOs are in charge of helping companies improve their information systems.


Rubin gave an example of a friend who was always making fun of a coworker that blabbed about her vacations. "Then she [Rubin's friend] was like, 'Wait a minute! I totally envy her! I love to travel. I wish I was organized enough to plan these cool trips. Why don't I? ... So that envy was like a big red siren going off."

Rubin knows firsthand the power of envy. She's previously written: "When I was considering switching from law to writing, I noticed that when I read in my college magazine about people who had great law careers, I felt a mild interest; when I read about people who had great writing careers, I felt sick with envy. That was an important clue."

The broader theme behind asking yourself "Who do I envy?" is the importance of leaning into — not resisting — your feelings. (One psychologist calls it "showing up" to your emotions.)

Related: Here are some of the happiest animals ever

21 animals that are so happy they can't even stand it
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21 animals that are so happy they can't even stand it
Found these loaves of bread taking a mid day horizontal life pause 😴
tongue rolling: not only is it a special talent, it also creates a funnel that sends treats straight to your tummy.
Peke a Boo!
Happy tongue out Tuesday 😝 #corgi #tongueouttuesday #shades #sunglasses #cool
"Boo! It's not whack-a-mole." ----- Posted another photo on Dada's Facebook. Thanks. #dog #longhaired #chihuahua #girl #happy #face #instagramers
BUB watching a yogurt commercial. #lilbub
I'm so in love with nature. Btw, mommy next time do focus on me. Hur~
snugglypuff 😌💤 #softasbutta
Ginny's home spa day! Ginny likes to treat herself like this for all the hard work she does... although it's worth noting Ginny considers having to move to find a comfy spot to nap in as "hard work". #treatyoself
ooooohhh maaah god theez weather iz amaaaaaayzeeeen! I ♥️ fall! Can we keep it? #ginger #walks #lovingfall #hudsonriver #crazy #overexcited #weird #ilovedthisface #precious #priceless #gin #weird #pomeranian @tquerido
Best friends at their favorite puppy play class 😘🐾 #tbt
Log cabin #chuckit ball fun
Hope everyone is doing great! 😄🐶❤️
Don't screw it up for us @skythequeen .. Mom's in a good mood and I spy steak in our appetizer bowls.
Say Whattt 🐶👅
wish you were here 🌴
好happy啊~ #kikokenxandy #goldenretriever #petstagram #犬バカ部 #寶錢 #retriever #instapets #大錢 #薯女 #いぬ #dog #wanko #amore #goldenstagram #犬 #pet #錢妹妹 #golden #inu #furryfriends #petsagram #イヌ #furry #goldensofinstagram #ilovemydog #doglover #goldens_ofinstagram #instadog
This is my entry for @pitterpatterfurryfeet and the best close up close up contest #BestCloseUpsContest ❤️
Harlow and Indiana are just a couple of ghouls from Salt Lake City, Utah. Harlow likes snow skiing and Indiana likes sightseeing. Do any of you live in their neck of the woods?!

As Rubin pointed out, envy can be uncomfortable, and it's tempting to try to tamp it down. But if you accept that someone else has a thing you'd like to have, you'll be in a better position to eventually get it.

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