Sandra Day O'Connor's Secret to Happiness

Sandra Day O'Connor's Secret to Happiness

Sandra Day O'Connor's Secret to Happiness

How to be happier.
April 27 2009 6:12 AM

Sandra Day O'Connor's Secret to Happiness

Years ago, when I was a lawyer, I clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor—which was one of those rare, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime work experiences. There are many reasons that I don’t regret law school and my years as a lawyer before becoming a writer, and the chance to work for Justice O’Connor is one of them.

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The other day, I was on the phone with O'Connor. We were talking about her terrific new site, Our Courts , which teaches children about civics, and she’d also visited my Web site .

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"I can tell you what I believe is the secret to a happy life," she said.

"What’s that, Justice?" I asked. (Side note: When you speak directly to a Justice, you address him or her as "Justice"—e.g., "Justice, the cert petitions are here." This, I always thought, must act as a frequent reminder to them about the value they are supposed to embody!) "What’s your secret?"

"Work worth doing," she answered firmly.

"What about relationships?" I asked. From what I can tell, looking at modern science and ancient philosophy, if you had to pick a single factor as the one most likely to lead to a happy life, having strong relationships would be a strong candidate. Of course, most people form a lot of strong relationships at work.

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"No," she said in her brisk way. "Work worth doing—that’s all you really need."

"Can I quote you?" I asked.

"Yes, yes," she said.

Work worth doing. What do you think? Is that the one thing you need for a happy life?

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just e-mail me at grubin, then the "at" sign, then gretchenrubin dot com . (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write "Resolutions Chart" in the subject line.