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  • gretchenrubin 14:37:32 on 2018/08/07 Permalink
    Tags: aims, , , , Labor Day, , ,   

    Try Using Labor Day as a Catalyst to Think About Your Work Life. #HappierLaborDay 

    If you listen to the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, you've heard me mention the idea of "Happier Labor Day."

    In the United States, Labor Day falls on September 3 this year.

    Labor Day celebrates the contributions and achievements of workers to the strength and prosperity of the country. It also unofficially marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new year (as I write about in Happier at Home, September is the other January).

    This year, just as Valentine’s Day is a day to think about your romantic relationship, and New Year’s Day is a day to think about what you want to achieve in the upcoming year, try using Labor Day as a day to think about your own labor – your own work life.

    How could you be happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative in your work life?

    What do you want to accomplish in your upcoming year of work?

    We can think about this issue at any time during the year of course – yes, Questioners, this is arbitrary – but I've found that something that can be done at any time is often done at no time.

    We can think about what we could do better, what we might want to change, how we could grow, whether that’s to do a side hustle, write a spec script, go to a networking event, avoid the vending machines, update a resume and start looking for a new job.

    It could be something as big as switching careers or something as mundane as cleaning out your desk.

    For example, do you want to choose a one-word theme for your work aims? Last year, my theme was “Re-Purpose.”

    If you could magically achieve one aim in your work life over the next year, what would it be? Would you magically learn a new software program, get a new boss, or switch careers?

    In your work life, do you use a piece of technology or equipment that’s obsolete, but you haven’t pushed yourself to deal with the hassle of replacement? Want to check it off the list? Excellent tools make work so much easier and more pleasant.

    Post your ideas, questions, reflections about using “Labor Day” as a catalyst here in the comments, or post to #HappierLaborDay, or leave a message at (774)277-9336 (77 HAPPY 336), or send an email or voice memo to podcast@gretchenrubin.

    We’re doing this across the Onward Project podcasts. Side Hustle School is going to talk about this issue, and so is Happier in Hollywood. We all come to it from a different perspective.

    In the tumult of everyday life, it can be hard to find an occasion to step back and ask ourselves the big questions. Labor Day can be an opportunity to reflect.

  • feedwordpress 11:35:04 on 2018/07/31 Permalink
    Tags: , Best of, , Elizabeth Craft, , Happier Podcast, , podcast episodes, the four tendencies, Try This at Home   

    Want to Start Listening to the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” Podcast? Consider These Episodes. 

    Of course, I love every episode of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast—but if I had to choose just a few, here are some episodes that have resonated most with listeners, Elizabeth, and me.

    My personal favorites will always include the two sisterly clutter-clearing episodes. In episode 10, we did a recording live from Elizabeth’s messy closet, as I helped her clear clothes clutter. In episode 160, we tackled her messy home office. I love to clear clutter, and much to my delight, Elizabeth is very messy. If you’re interested in clutter-clearing, stay tuned for my book Outer Order, Inner Calm, which is coming out in March 2019.

    Listeners (and we) loved the idea of creating a list of "18 for 2018." We introduce the idea in episodes 147 and 149, do a deep dive in episode 152, and in Very Special Episode 170, Elizabeth and I each give a personal update of how we’re doing on our own lists.

    In episode 154, Elizabeth and I challenged ourselves to wear "clothes" for a month. We thought this was our private problem, so we were very encouraged to find that many people struggle with this issue.

    People responded to the Try This at Home to "Create a 'ta-da' list" as discussed in episode 134. Here's a post where I talk about the to-do list, why a to-do list doesn’t work for everyone, and alternatives, such as the "to-day list," "could-do list," "might-could list."

    If you want something a little wacky, we had a great time doing our "unplugged" episode 150. We recorded an ordinary phone conversation between the two of us.

    In episode 130, we discussed the seven myths of happiness: Happy people are annoying and stupid; A "treat" will cheer you up; It’s selfish to try to be happier; and four others. In my book The Happiness Project, I address these myths as part of my exploration of making my life happier.

    In episode 122, I asked for advice from kids and parents about how to deal with my daughter Eliza’s imminent departure for college. In episode 125, we did a deep dive on the great advice and insights that listeners gave us. Fast forward: Eliza had a great freshman year in college, in part because of all great suggestions we got.

    If you’re intrigued with the "Four Tendencies"—my personality framework that divides people into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels—check out episode 120, where we discussed listener questions about the Four Tendencies. (Don’t know your Tendency? You can take the short free quiz here.) If you still want to learn still more after listening to our discussions, check out my book The Four Tendencies.

    A common and serious happiness stumbling block is loneliness. We devote episode 110 to the question, "Are you lonely?" and return to do a deep dive into the subject in episode 115.

    Some very popular Try This at Home suggestions include episode 79’s "Revive a dormant friendship" and episode 26’s "Pick a one-word theme for the year."

    My imagination was fired by listeners’ enthusiastic response to episode 71’s "Choose a signature color." We followed up with a deep dive into color in episode 75. In fact, I’ve become so interested in color that I’m writing a little book, My Color Pilgrimage. I can’t learn enough about color.

    In episode 39, Elizabeth talks about the experience of getting fired. She’s been fired more than once! If you enjoy hearing her talk about her crazy experiences in Hollywood, check out Happier in Hollywood, the weekly podcast she does with her writing partner Sarah Fain.

    Speaking of Hollywood, in episode 137, I went with Elizabeth at her office on the Disney lot, and in episode 60, I visited a sound stage where she was working. Lots of fabulousness.

    In episode 24, I talk about how my family really wanted a dog, but I couldn’t decide whether or not we should get one—so I ask listeners for advice. In episode 27, all is revealed.

    Way back in episode 3, we talk about two issues that struck a chord with listeners: the Try This at Home of "Make Your Bed" and the Happiness Stumbling Block of "Resisting the Evil Donut-Bringer." This last idea proved to be very controversial. We talk about the evil donut-bringer in many subsequent episodes.

    In episode 2, we talk about our family "update," an idea from our mother which people have loved.

    Well, I could keep going, but I’ll stop here.

    It’s been thrilling to get such a warm response from listeners. Each week I’m fascinated to see how people respond to the ideas and suggestions from the most recent episode. If you’re a long-time listener, you may have noticed how over time, we’ve started incorporating more and more ideas from the audience. That’s because people have such brilliant, insightful, thought-provoking commentary, we can’t resist including it.

    If you like the show, and if you have the time and the inclination, it really is a tremendous help to us if you subscribe to the show, and if you take the time to rate and review it. This kind of endorsement helps other listeners find the show. You can find instructions about subscribing, rating, and reviewing here.

    Making this podcast is one of the joys of my life, and I know Elizabeth feels the same way. Onward and upward!

  • gretchenrubin 12:00:50 on 2018/07/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , knowledge,   

    25 Secrets of Adulthood that I’ve Learned the Hard Way. 

    With time and experience, life teaches us all lessons. I keep a running list of my "Secrets of Adulthood" -- the things I've learned, the hard way. (For instance, here are my Secrets of Adulthood for Habits.)

    I write about these in my books, I talk about them in my podcast "Happier," I think about them all the time. There's something about distilling an idea or observation into a proper "Secret of Adulthood" that makes it easier for me to remember.

    1. What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.
    2. For the most part, I'm very much like other people, but our differences are very important.
    3. Hell is other people; Heaven is other people.
    4. Every medicine can become poison. (Email, caffeine, social media, work, treats...)
    5. I manage what I monitor. So if something's important to me, I should figure out a way to monitor it.
    6. Never let myself get too hungry, too sleepy, or too cold. And never pass up the chance to use a bathroom.
    7. I bring my own weather to the picnic.
    8. Just because something is important to me doesn't mean that it's important to someone else.
    9. A stumble may prevent a fall. This relates to the Strategy of Safeguards in my book Better Than Before.
    10. One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself. This is one of my Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness.
    11. Outer order contributes to inner calm. I'm finishing up a little book with this title. Stay tuned.
    12. I can't expect to be motivated by motivation. This realization was a big inspiration for my forthcoming book The Four Tendencies.
    13. It's easier to change my circumstances than to change myself.
    14. Things often get harder before they get easier.
    15. The things that go wrong often make the best memories. My mother told me this, to calm me down before my wedding weekend.
    16. Choose the bigger life.
    17. Turning a computer on and off often fixes a glitch.
    18. When I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. This relates to the fun and helpful Strategy of Treats.
    19. What's fun for other people might not be fun for me--and vice versa.
    20. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Cribbed from Voltaire.
    21. Now is now. I write about this in the conclusion of my book Happier at Home -- which, I must say, is one of the best things I've written in my whole life.
    22. If I need to remember something, write it down. How many times have I regretted remembering this Secret of Adulthood?
    23. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.
    24. There is no wizard. (I will explain this in an upcoming episode of "A Little Happier.")
    25. The days are long, but the years are short.

    What are your Secrets of Adulthood? I'd love to add many more to my list!

  • feedwordpress 10:00:36 on 2018/07/19 Permalink
    Tags: , hormones, , Randi Epstein,   

    “It’s Important to Recharge My Inner Battery. To Be On-the-Go, I Need Down Time.” 

    Interview: Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D., M.P.H.

    I've known Randi for a long time; we're both members of a writers' group that has been a joy to me over the years. I remember when she first started talking about the idea for her current book, so I'm thrilled that Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything is now hitting the shelves. Metabolism, behavior, sleep, mood swings, the immune system, fighting, fleeing, puberty, many aspects of our lives are controlled by hormones. It's a fascinating, important subject.

    She also wrote the terrific book Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank.

    When she's not writing books, Randi Epstein is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and a lecturer at Yale University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Psychology Today blog, among others.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Randi about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Randi: For years, I’ve been running in Central Park. What used to be fast-paced is now slow and contemplative. But either way, it’s time to think. I don’t do the “To-Do lists” but allow myself time to just think big picture things. No headphones, rarely with partners, just silence and nature. And one little trick (that I’m embarrassed to admit): Sometimes I’ll sing a few lines from Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” in my head. I don’t know all the words, so I’m singing the same few lines over and over. It’s very empowering. I really should learn a few more phrases.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Randi: It’s important to recharge my inner battery. In order to be on-the-go, I need down time, which can be a long bath or getting absorbed in a novel.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or your readers -- most?

    Randi: I write about hormones, which is a relatively new field with huge advances. Think about this: When my grandmother was born in 1900, the word “hormone” didn’t exist. (We didn’t call hormones “hormones” until 1905.) By the time Grandma was diagnosed with her hormone ailment, doctors could spot her hormone defect and measure hormones down to the billionth of a gram. That’s an amazing leap in our understanding in a relatively short time span. (Grandma had Addison’s disease, same disease that John F. Kennedy had. It’s treatable with cortisone pills.)

    Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

    Randi: I’m a nibbler. So If I’m stressed (working on a chapter, etc.), I’ll keep crunchy foods around, but those calories and that feeling of being way too full adds up. I’m talking granola, nuts, chocolate, carrots.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Randi: Exercising outside. There’s something about being in nature, looking up at the trees. It’s moving meditation, to get away from the onslaught of news and just remember to, well, smell the roses. Or really in my case, it’s not roses but the enormous big trees in Central Park. I also like cooking. I’m not sure if there’s anything productive about it, but I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Food, particularly dinner parties, make people happy. I love cooking for my family and friends. I’m not a gourmet chef by any means, but I enjoy trying new recipes and tweaking old ones. It makes me happy to bring together friends in a homey atmosphere. I love baking fun desserts for the famil .

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Randi: My kids think I drink too much. Water, that is. I think it’s important to be hydrated so I make sure I always have a water bottle filled with water in my backpack. I’ve also cut out soda—and now I don’t even like that taste.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Randi: I would not have known but I’m an Obliger. Maybe that’s from raising for children and focusing on them. All mothers do that—we put our children’s needs first. [Gretchen: Randi, you and I can talk more about this later!]

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Randi: This isn’t quite “health scare,” but a health glitch: I was diagnosed with “age-related knee degeneration,” a fancy name for saying my knees aren’t what they used to be—probably from years of long-distance running. So my knees are more like rusty hinges—and I want to avoid surgery or further deterioration. That’s forced me “listen” to my body. Exercise is more about quiet time than racing to a finish line.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Randi: Laughter is the best medicine.

    Gretchen: Tell us a bit more about your recent book, Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything.

    Randi: I’m so proud of this book, not just because it has fun stories in the history of medicine and current advances, but because I think there is so much confusion about what’s real and what’s hype. I hope that readers will grab my book and feel more informed about making healthy decisions. That they will be able to distinguish hucksters from heroes. And I’d love to get their feedback about anything that surprised them as they dove into it.

    Aroused by Randi Hutter Epstein

  • feedwordpress 09:00:29 on 2018/07/17 Permalink
    Tags: announcement, audiobook, , , , recording   

    Announcement: I’ve Re-Recorded the Happier at Home audiobook 

    Announcement! I’ve re-recorded the audiobook of Happier at Home, and it’s available for order.

    Up until now, the Happier at Home audiobook was read by a professional reader, and over the years, many listeners have written to me to tell me—in no uncertain terms—that they thought that I should’ve read it myself.

    The fact is, back when Happier at Home was first being published, a writer friend argued very persuasively that listeners enjoy books more when audiobooks are read by professional actors. Writers, she said, have no experience or training in reading aloud and just don’t provide as good an experience as a trained professional.

    I found out later that she was married to an actor, which might have explained her view. In any event, since that time I’ve learned that with a memoir-style book like Happier at Home, most readers very much prefer to hear it read by the author.

    This is especially true now that people know my voice from the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.

    Because I’ve heard from so many people on this issue, I asked my publisher if I could re-record it myself, and so I did.

    HAH recording 1

    I always enjoy the recording process. It’s interesting to go back through the book I’ve written and read every word aloud. One time, I got to sit in the studio recently occupied by the legendary Jim Dale when he’d been recording (under heavy security) one of the Harry Potter books.

    This recording session was particularly interesting, because it has been several years since I read Happier at Home.

    I was particularly struck by the chapter for the month of March, "Family," when I wrote about how much I wanted to do some project in collaboration with my sister Elizabeth. I describe how we hoped to write a young-adult novel about the Eleusinian Mysteries. Well, we never did manage to write that novel (though I still think it’s a great idea), but we did manage to figure out a way to collaborate—in a big way. Our podcast Happier is a much bigger shared project than we’d ever envisioned as possible.

    I’d forgotten that I literally mention the example of the Satellite Sisterswho also have a podcast, and one of whom, Liz Dolan, has been a guest on our podcast! Full circle. I’ve experienced such a crazy fulfillment of that March resolution to "Collaborate with my sister."

    HAH recording
    The engineer showed me how my voice looks.

    Another part that I especially loved revisiting was the section in the chapter for February, "Body," when I wrote about the resolution to "Embrace good smells." My passion for the sense of smell and fragrance started at this time, and has only grown in the passing years.

    As painful as it is to realize, I’d sort of forgotten about how we always used to say "Eleanor has a heart full of love." Thank goodness I wrote that down, it’s in the book, so I know I’ll never forget that sweet memory.

    I could go on and on.

    Fun facts:

    It took me 15 hours in the studio to record Happier at Home.

    I held a pillow in front of my stomach the entire time, to muffle "stomach noises." (I was reassured by the fact that they had the pillow handy—I must not be the only one with this issue!)

    HAH recording 2

    As happens every time I record an audiobook, I learned that I’ve been unknowingly mispronouncing a lot of words, such as many people’s names, plus Eleusis, Eleusinian, minutiae, pomander, and—biggest surprise—tumult.

    I was interested to trace, again, how my motif runs through the book. In English class at school, you may have wondered, "Come on, do writers actually think about things like motifs?" Well, I do! Happier at Home has a blaring motif; if you’ve read the book, did you notice it? This motif appears on the first and last pages of the book, and is repeated many times. Hint: it’s the last word of the book.

    I love all my books equally, but my sister Elizabeth says that Happier at Home is her favorite of all my books.

    Want to know more about Happier at Home?

    You can read a description of the book here.

    You can watch the one-minute video "Ten Ways to be Happier at Home" here. Some are serious; some are a bit goofy. Can you guess which suggestion has proved most controversial?

    You might also enjoy the Behind-the-Scenes video or the Behind-the-Scenes extra (email me to request it). Yes, you can know the true story of "artisanal pickles." All is revealed.

    I know many book groups read Happier at Home, and if you’d like one-page discussion guide (also aimed at spirituality book groups, Bible study groups, and the like), email me to request it.

    Note: this new recording of Happier at Home is considered a different item, so if you already have the earlier version of the audiobook, you’d need to purchase this new version; the audiobook won’t automatically update.

  • feedwordpress 10:00:34 on 2018/07/12 Permalink
    Tags: , Lucy Maddox   

    “As I’ve Got Older I’ve Started to Embrace JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) as Well as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).” 

    Interview: Lucy Maddox.

    Dr. Lucy Maddox is a consultant clinical psychologist, lecturer, and writer.

    She's just published an intriguing new book, Blueprint: How Our Childhood Makes Us Who We Are. She argues that our adult selves are rooted in our childhood selves, and explains how to get insights into our current personality, relationships, and daily life  by understanding this influence. The book uses cutting-edge research, everyday experience, and clinical examples to examine that central puzzle: who are we, and how did we become who we are.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Lucy about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Lucy: Ooh, there are a few. Not that I always manage to do all of them but they are all things that definitely help when I do. Regular writing makes me feel happier, regular mindfulness makes me feel calmer, regular exercise makes me feel more alive and regular sleep just makes me feel more human!

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Lucy: The importance of the basics: sleep, eating well, and not cramming too much in. I find it hard to say no to shiny opportunities and always have done, but as I’ve got older I have started to embrace JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) as well as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or your readers -- most?

    Lucy: One of the things that led me to write my book Blueprint: How Our Childhood Makes Us Who We Are, was that I was teaching on child development and was constantly surprised by how few of the really juicy experiments from this area we are taught about in school. Everyone has been a child and there’s lots in child psychology that can help us understand ourselves as grown ups, yet most people aren’t taught about the classic psychology experiments, unlike the way we are taught about classic physics studies like Newton’s apple or Archimedes’ bathtub. I wanted to explain child development and psychology in clearly accessible language for anyone interested in how they’ve become who they are, and also reassure people that although our childhoods are important not everything is set in stone.

    Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

    Lucy: Making myself too busy is the main one.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Lucy: Probably the overall habit of balance, if I can call that a habit--trying to do enough fun things I like but also enough cosy things and having enough space where nothing is planned in.

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Lucy: I’m a sucker for a list or a star chart. One thing which helps me to achieve something I want to is writing lists and ticking things off. I employed this when I was writing my book--I had a spreadsheet of the chapters and coloured a box in yellow each time I completed a draft or green when I finished the final copy. This is a bit like what happens in NaNoWriMo, or national novel writing month, when you have to write a certain amount of words each day and your online bar graph changes colour when you achieve it.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Lucy: I love the books and the podcast but with my psychologist hat on I struggle to accept the Tendencies without more of an evidence base on how reliable they are. I think you would say that this makes me a Questioner, and that’s what your quiz called me too.

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

    Lucy: I find it harder to stick to exercise or eating well when I’m travelling a lot, especially for work, and also harder to guard time for writing.

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Lucy: For me, not so much. I see keeping healthy habits as a process rather than an event. There’s a classic theory on motivation by Prochaska and Diclemente who described the ‘stages of change’. They didn’t see these as a linear process, but as a cycle, that we can loop back around. This was a really new idea back in the late seventies and early eighties when they first wrote about it, even though it's now very much accepted.

    They thought it all starts with pre-contemplation, where we aren't even thinking about making a change, then progresses through contemplation - where we become aware of something being problematic but don't do anything differently, to preparation for a change, then finally taking action, and then maybe hardest of all trying to maintain that change. It's really hard to stick to a change in behaviour so often we relapse back into our old way of being, but we might cycle through those initial stages much quicker the next time round.

    I like the way they describe this as a cycle, which means we don’t have to beat ourselves up if we do fall off the wagon, but instead just climb back on. I also like the way they include a phase where we might not even be consciously aware of the need to change. Sometimes looking back at decisions I’ve made to change something I can think of a reason why, but it’s not always totally clear at the time.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    Lucy: Actually something my Dad once said to me: “everything is fixable.” I sometimes think of that if I’m feeling a bit panicked about something. I find it really reassuring. I also really like the phrase “adventure is waiting”--it tends to make me feel more excited about new opportunities and less scared. Another thing I say to reassure myself if I catch myself worrying over something is to try to put things in perspective by asking myself if anyone is going to be hurt as a result of whatever it is. If not then it’s sometimes possible to shrink the worry down a bit. In a similar vein, on getting things in perspective, there’s something called the Overview Effect, which astronauts experience when they look back at the Earth all small and feel that day-to-day human problems are insignificant. There are some meditations which try to bring about a similar kind of feeling, by talking you through a guided visualisation which zooms out so you see how small we really are in the wider context of the universe.

    Blueprint by Lucy Maddox

  • Crystal Ellefsen 12:00:30 on 2018/07/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , young adult books   

    A Selection of 9 Young-Adult Novels That I Read Over and Over 

    I love to read. And I love to read children's and young-adult novels. In fact, I'm in three (yes, three) book groups where we read only "kidlit."

    And I love to re-read. I'm sure I've read some of my favorite books at least twenty times.

    In case you're interested in reading some YA novels, here is a list of some of my favorites. I've read all of them at least twice, and some of them many more times than that.

    Now, I must add, this is a very haphazard list of my favorites. There are so many books that I've read and re-read. I wanted this list to include some very well-known books, and also some that are less well-known, for people who are looking for something they may not have known about.

    1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    2. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

    Buy from IndieBoundBarnes & Noble; Amazon

    3. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

    Buy from WORDBarnes & Noble; Amazon

    4.  Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    5. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    6. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon.

    7. The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden

    Buy from Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    8. Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt

    (Wow, I really dislike the new cover; ignore that.)

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    9. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    What's the difference, you may ask, among a work of children's literature, a work of adult literature, and a work of young-adult literature? In my three children's literature reading groups, this question often comes up. And there's no clear answer.

    And the sorting of books changes over time. Catcher in the Rye and Jane Eyre are now often shelved with young-adult literature, though they started out as novels for adults.

    What books have you read over and over?

  • feedwordpress 10:00:14 on 2018/06/28 Permalink
    Tags: Alex Salkever, , , Vivek Wadhwa,   

    “Reading Is the Best Habit for Lifelong Learning, and It Helps with Other Skills like Concentration and Meditation.” 

    Interview: Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever.

    Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering, has written several books and been a columnist for Fortune, the Washington Post and other noted publications.

    Alex Salkever is an author and technology executive who formerly served as technology editor at BusinessWeek and as a visiting researcher at Duke University. He advises technology companies on product, strategy and marketing and is a regular columnist for Fortune.

    The two paired up to write the book The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Can Change the Future.

    Now they've teamed up again to write a new book: Your Happiness Was Hacked: Why Tech Is Winning the Battle to Control Your Brain--and How to Fight Back.

    In it, they examine the question of how technology influences our thoughts and behaviors. They focus on the four key areas of Love, Work, Self, and Society and document problems caused by technology--and then suggest strategies to take back control of technology.

    I was eager to hear from Alex and Vivek about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Alex: This may sound strange, but doing the dishes! It’s a structured activity and I have a specific way of doing it that gives me some comfort. Every dish type has its place. And I have a routine around washing dishes - the small spoons go in the same basket, the desert bowls fit into the upper rack on right. More conventionally, I love going walking or jogging in the redwood forest near my house. If I am close to an ocean, I try to go surfing to clear my head. It’s my passion. I sometimes get my best ideas out there. And I can honestly say I have never gotten out of the water less happy than when I got into the water. In general, it's a question I ask - do I feel happier and more fulfilled after I do something. If the answer is consistently “No” then I try to curtail that activity. If the answer is “Yes!” I try to do more of that activity.

    Vivek: For me, going for a hike and getting off the grid is really crucial in keeping me healthy and productive. I also meditate daily to slow down my brain, which naturally runs at a really high speed. I make sure to spend some time every week disconnected and on a trail. And there is the question of happiness: spending as much time as possible with family is the best route for me.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Alex: Don’t beat up on yourself if you don’t succeed in building healthy habits. Establishing and maintaining healthy habits is very hard, really a lifelong process that never stops. But make sure the habits you prioritize the highest and work the hardest to fulfill are the ones that make you happiest. When I was living in Hawaii as a recent college graduate, I made it a priority to get in the water and go surfing at least five days per week. I was often busy building a writing career which eventually took me to BusinessWeek and into books. But come 4 pm, I was in the water and to this day some of my happiest memories are with me. That lesson - prioritize what is the most important - is something I wish I had known when I was very young. I would have worried a lot less and probably had more fun.

    Vivek: You should follow your heart. It is easy to follow your mind or your hunger, but that little voice inside guides you on practically everything if you listen to it. This comes into play the most in happiness, when you are having to make decisions about what is right and wrong. There are choices we have to make every day that need to be based on our values.

    Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

    Alex: Oh, definitely. Compulsively checking texts. In the book, I write about how I almost killed a group of cyclists while texting and driving on this dangerous coastal highway north of San Francisco. It was the stupidest thing. How could I risk so much just to read a text? But I’m not that different than tens of millions of people. (I’ve since set a new habit of putting my phone away when I get behind the wheel). I get distracted by shiny objects on the internet and have to work hard to stay focused. I struggle to not check email and read random news on the internet (usually on Hacker News). And I have to work hard to put down the smartphone and leave it alone, or in a drawer. I can honestly say my technology addiction is my worst bad habit - it pushes me towards doing the “urgent” or tackling the “noisy” task rather than working on what’s really important. I never met anyone who said they wish they had spent more time answering emails or looking at pictures on Facebook. And I personally find the less time I spend with technology, the more happy I am (to a certain point - I need technology to earn a living, of course).

    Vivek: I’m like Alex. I had a heart attack a few years ago driven in part by my technology-induced stress levels (I write about that in the book). So I have to work hard to disconnect and not feel like I need to respond to things quickly. I’ve gotten much better at it, though, and have built some systems around it. Like I don’t even bother to check voice mails a lot of the time and I post to social media but I don’t read that much on social media; it’s not the best use of time. Technology really is an addiction, that you have to manage--and overcome!

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you?

    Alex: Spending time with my children. I try to do it every day, for at least a few hours. Usually playing sports or talking. Reading is next. I think that reading is the best habit for lifelong learning and it helps with other skills like concentration and meditation.

    Vivek: Meditation and mindfulness.

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Alex: A healthy habit I started a year ago that has stuck is running in the morning when I wake up. It was a hard one to get going. I like running but am not really a morning person. I also have a bad habit of staying up late to read and sometimes I get creative inspiration at night. I’m not a night owl but I’m not a lark, either. I did a few things. First, I started laying out my running clothes - socks, shorts, shoes, t-shirt - every evening before I went to bed. That removed a mental barrier which may seem insignificant but actually was a key obstacle. I am a time counter so if it took me five minutes to gather my clothes, in my mind I would subtract five minutes from my running time and sometimes that took me below the threshold of where it was worthwhile to run. Second, I would write down a mini activity diary for the next day and would list in the “Exercise” section the run I planned. This was both an affirmation and a commitment. Third, I switched my running routine to places where I love to run. There are a few trails near my house that go through forests of oak, laurel and redwoods and one stunning trail down to the Pacific Ocean past hills of wildflowers. It takes a few minutes extra to drive to those trailheads. I don’t have enough time to get to them by running and get to work. But running in those beautiful places makes it so much more pleasurable that it feels like a real reward. Lastly, after my run I would stop at my favorite coffee shop and buy an Americano, my favorite coffee drink. By putting these pieces together - planning and reward - it helped me turn a resolution into a pretty robust habit that’s stuck for a year.

    Vivek: I try to switch off all technology by 9 PM and get to bed by 10 PM. And then I wake as early as I can. It is easy to watch late shows and stay connected, but early to bed and early to rise is the best habit of all.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger

    Vivek: According to the quiz, I am a Questioner. I won’t dispute this!

    Alex: The quiz results describe me as a “Questioner” and parts of that definitely make sense. I crave perfect information and am a perfectionist in many realms. I also think I have parts of Rebel and Obliger in me. I really don’t like getting bossed around and told what to do. I definitely resist external expectations and relish the role of non-traditionalist. I have trouble working for people I don’t respect. But I am an “Obliger” too in that sometimes I struggle to advocate for myself and I may coddle my children and my employees to much. I respect and prioritize my duties to others over what might make me happier and saner. But at least with family, I think that’s the only way to live - family comes first.

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or to stay happy?

    Alex: I would say lack of sleep is the biggest problem. Everything else breaks down when I get less than six hours and less than seven is not great either. You can ask my wife. I am more likely to get angry, to get depressed, to say silly things. I am less patient. I have trouble eating healthy and sticking to exercise regimes. Sleep is the linchpin. I only realized this, ironically, after I left a heavy-duty job as a vice president at Mozilla, where I was expected to be always on. That meant never enough sleep. Once I left and took some time off, for the first time since college I made it a point to get enough sleep. It was like a light went on. I could actually feel the difference between six and seven hours, and see how negatively it affected my day.

    Vivek: It is always sleep that is the problem!

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare?

    Vivek: I’ll take this one. I was on a family vacation, a cruise in Mexico. I was a startup CEO and constantly checking in on work via email. On the cruise I couldn’t get any internet access and it was killing me! Literally, I found out. I started to get some chest pains. At first I ignored them. As I climbed the pyramid of Chichén Itzá, in the Mayan ruins on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the pains became increasingly severe, and I began to feel nauseous. The views were stupendous. People dreamed for their whole lives of visiting this location and walking up these steps. Yet, amid the majesty of one of the greatest civilizations ever, my mind was on….when I can check my email? On the flight home, the chest pains and nausea turned into a shooting electric current in my left arm. My wife Tavinder insisted we go straight to the doctor. I said, no, I needed to go home and check email. Fortunately, my wife prevailed. We landed and drove straight to the hospital. I literally blacked out as he entered the emergency room, and sat propped up in a wheelchair while they registered me. My next memory was of waking up after lifesaving surgery for a massive heart attack. Had I waited another hour or two, my doctors said, I would have been dead. None of my emails would have mattered. That day woke me up and I decided to leave the world of startups and become an academic and teacher - to teach and assist others rather than try to make money as my primary goal. It was the best decision I have ever made.

    Alex: My story pales next to Vivek’s. For me, it was reading a website that tallied up how many times you will see your parents before they die. The number was a lot less than I had imagined it would be - my parents live on the East Coast. And I started doing the math on how many times I would see all my dear friends. It was very sobering. I vowed from that day to prioritize relationships and spending time with people over anything else in my life. I bailed on corporate America (I may go back, but only on my terms) and created a life where I spend time every day with my children and my wife, and see my parents and friends more. I’ve been much happier since I made these changes.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful? Or a particular book that has stayed with you?

    Alex: “Put yourself in their shoes.” It helps me focus on empathy and stop thinking about myself.

    Vivek: Always give more than you take.

  • gretchenrubin 12:00:05 on 2018/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , cookbooks, Julian Barnes, , outer order,   

    Do You Like to Buy Cookbooks? Consider This List About How to Avoid Making Mistakes. 

    I'm not a cook myself, but I'm interested in the five senses, and I often choose library books very impulsively, so I recently picked up a little book by Julian Barnes, The Pedant in the Kitchen.

    In it, he writes a funny list about how to avoid making mistakes when buying cookbooks. Even though I myself don't have an issue with being tempted to buy cookbooks, I thought this was an amusing and helpful reminder of how we make mistakes in our purchases.

    He suggests:

    1. Never buy a cookbook because of its pictures. Nothing will look as good when you cook it.
    2. Never buy cookbooks with tricky layouts.
    3. Avoid cookbooks that are too general or too narrow. For instance, skip books like Great Dishes of the World or Waffle Wonderment.
    4. Never buy a cookbook written by the chef of a restaurant where you've just eaten. Barnes notes, "Remember, that's why you went to the restaurant in the first place—to eat their cooking, not your own feebler version of it."
    5. Never buy a cookbook focused on using a piece of equipment if you don't own that equipment.
    6. Resist anthologies of regional recipes bought as a souvenir.
    7. Resist books of famous historical recipes, especially in facsimile editions. (Gretchen: Always avoid facsimile editions! I've learned that the hard way.)
    8. Never replace a beloved old favorite with the new, updated, edition; you'll always use your original.
    9. Never buy a cookbook for a charity fundraiser. Give the cover price directly to the charity; they'll get more money, and you won't have to cull out the cookbook later.
    10. Remember that many cookbook writers have only one good cookbook in them.

    I'm working on my book Outer Order, Inner Calm, and one thing is clear—the best way to fight clutter is never to create it. If you're not going to make good use of a cookbook, it's easier to decide not to buy it than to figure out what to do with it once it's in your house!

    Do you love to buy cookbooks? My husband sure does. And they take up a lot of room.

    What further precautions would you add to this list?

  • feedwordpress 10:00:07 on 2018/06/21 Permalink
    Tags: , Getting Back to Happy, , Marc and Angel Chernoff   

    “The Tiny Actions Were Manageable, and the Daily Ritual of Writing Helped Keep Us on Track.” 

    Interview: Marc and Angel Chernoff.

    Marc and Angel Chernoff are the creators of Marc & Angel Hack Life, which Forbes called "one of the most popular personal development blogs." Through their writing, coaching, and live events, they've spent the past decade sharing their ideas for how to get unstuck in order to find happiness and success.

    They're also the authors of the new New York Times bestseller Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Marc and Angel about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Marc and Angel: Just over a decade ago, we struggled to cope through the most painful season of our lives thus far — this was our lightning bolt — a season that included losing two loved ones to suicide and illness, family-related betrayal, job loss, financial instability, and more. And it all happened quickly, too, back-to-back. The pain of this season knocked us down hard for a couple pf years straight. At times, we felt like we had zero strength left to push onward. And that’s actually why we started writing on our blog in the first place. When we were at the lowest point in our lives, we used the blog as a public outlet and accountability journal. We wrote about our pain, our losses, the lessons we were learning, and the actions we knew we needed to hold ourselves accountable to, if we wanted to get through it all.

    As we navigated our new reality one day at a time, one blog post at a time — facing the pain and investigating it, instead of distracting ourselves from it — we stumbled across morsels of strength and wisdom that we began to collect and build on. We gradually learned how to catch ourselves in negative states of emotional turmoil, so we could overcome the emotions that had once overcome us. We literally pushed ourselves as hard as we could to take one tiny action step after another — one honest conversation, one 5-minute workout, one 5-minute meditation, etc., and then we’d write about it. It wasn’t easy, but the tiny actions were manageable, and the daily ritual of writing about them helped keep us on track.

    It was this painful season of our lives that ultimately changed the trajectory of our lives, gradually leading us into the personal development coaching and writing work we do today.

    What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    More than one comes to mind, but the simplest and most effective one that has worked wonders in our lives over the past decade is a 5-minute evening gratitude journaling exercise.

    Every evening before you go to bed, write down three things that went well during the day and their causes.  Simply provide a short, causal explanation for each good thing.

    That’s it. Too often people spend tens of thousands of dollars on expensive electronics, big homes, fancy cars and lavish vacations hoping for a boost of happiness. This is a free alternative, and it really works.

    What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    It took us quite a long while to figure out that discomfort can be a good thing — that discomfort can open great windows of opportunity. When we were younger we ran from discomfort constantly. We were in search of an easy life, and of course we never found it. We found the opposite.

    Over the years we’ve learned that the best things in life are often the hardest to come by, at least initially. And when you shy away from difficulty and discomfort, you miss out on them entirely. For example, mastering a new skill is hard. Healing from grief is hard. Building a business is hard. Writing a book is hard. A marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Staying healthy is hard. But all are amazing and worth every bit of effort you can muster.

    If you get good at handling discomfort, you can do almost anything you put your mind to in the long run.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit — or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    We’ve literally implemented dozens of healthy habits over the years — daily exercise, daily journaling, daily meditation, and more. Adding and stacking these habits happened one at a time. Here’s the general steps we took with each.

    We picked one new habit at a time, and we started very small — just five minutes a day in most cases.
    We initiated social accountability and motivation through Facebook and asked friends and family to check in with us on a daily basis to make sure we were on track.

    We set up simple triggers for our habits — for example, a trigger might be walking into our home after work — and then we’d perform the new habit consciously every time the trigger happened.

    We tracked the tiny bits of progress we made each day by putting a checkmark on a wall calendar every single time we completed a daily habit. The goal was to never break the chain of daily checkmarks on the calendar.

    Once we felt comfortable with five minutes a day (perhaps after 30-60 days of doing the habit), we’d increase it to seven minutes a day, then ten minutes, and so forth.

    That’s really all there is to it — at least that’s the simplified baseline of how habit change has worked in our lives.

     Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Marc and Angel: This is one of our favorite (self-created) morning reminders. We literally read this out loud at our breakfast table every morning. Doing so helps us keep things in perspective:

    Look around,
    And be thankful right now.
    For your health,
    Your family,
    Your friends,
    And your home.
    Nothing lasts forever.

    Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

    Marc and Angel: Attaching ourselves to our ideals. This is a negative habit that still brings significant stress and anxiety into our lives sometimes. We’ve gotten better at managing this over the years, of course, but it’s an ongoing practice.

    Truth be told, most of the things we as human beings desperately try to hold on to, as if they’re real, solid, everlasting fixtures in our lives, aren’t really there. Or if they are there in some form, they’re changing, fluid, impermanent, or simply imagined in our minds. Life gets a lot easier to deal with when we understand this.

    Imagine you’re blindfolded and treading water in the center of a large swimming pool, and you’re struggling desperately to grab the edge of the pool that you think is nearby, but in reality it’s not — it’s far away. Trying to grab that imaginary edge is stressing you out, and tiring you out, as you splash around aimlessly trying to holding on to something that isn’t there.

    That’s “attaching.”

    Now imagine you pause, take a deep breath, and realize that there’s nothing nearby to hold on to. Just water around you. You can continue to struggle with grabbing at something that doesn’t exist, or you can accept that there’s only water around you, and relax, and float.

    That’s letting go.

    On a daily basis, when we feel our inner stress and anxiety levels rising, we challenge ourselves to consciously ask:

    What are you desperately trying to hold on to right now?
    How is it affecting you?

    Then we imagine the things we’re trying to hold on to don’t really exist.

    We envision ourselves letting go … and just floating.

    But again, this is a practice we have to work at persistently.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Marc and Angel: We both took the quiz, and we’re both Upholders. Interestingly enough, though, both of us are convinced that we were once Obligers. The life experiences and “practicing” we sustained over the past ten years undoubtedly shifted us from the inside out. At least that’s how we see it.

    [Gretchen: For what it's worth, I think Marc and Angel are both Obligers who have created external accountability (such as their blog) that's so pervasive in their lives that they feel as though they're Upholders.]

    Getting Back to Happy by Marc and Angel Chernoff

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