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  • gretchenrubin 12:00:28 on 2018/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    Want to Give the Gift of a Book This Holiday Season? A Gift Guide for All Kinds of Readers. 

    It's holiday time! And that means it's time to choose gifts for the people in our lives. Which can be fun, but can also be frustrating and difficult.

    One of the best gifts to give is a book. How I love books. Plus they're easy to wrap, easy to transport, and easy to re-gift if necessary.

    But that leads to the question...what book?

    Here are some suggestions for different categories of gift-recipients, with suggestions of books that I love.

    If I'd made this list last week, or if I did it next week, I'm sure I'd come up with an entirely different list. I love so many books, it's hard to pick out a few. But this is a start.

    For a new parent: Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott

    For the parent of small children: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

    For a person interested in spirituality: Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather

    For a person who loves celebrity memoirs: Born Standing Up, Steve Martin

    For someone who loves to cook: Home Cooking, Laurie Colwin

    For a fisherman: A River Runs Through It, Norman McLean

    For a history lover: Their Finest Hour, Winston Churchill

    For someone who loves a great study of character: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

    For a nature-lover: Into the Wild, John Krakauer

    For a person who's interested in sports and leadership: The Captain Class, Sam Walker

    For someone who loves fantasy: American Gods, Neil Gaiman

    For someone who loves to write: A Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf

    For someone who loves science fiction: Lord of Light, Robert Zelazny

    Book that changed my life: Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes (Want to read my interview with Gary Taubes? Request it here.)

    Book that was made into a movie, and both are brilliant: Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk

    Book that I played hooky from work to stay home to read: The Stand, Stephen King (I recommend the standard, not the unabridged, version)

    Book that people keep telling me to read: Bad Blood, John Carreyrou

    For someone who's starting to date or looking for a job: First Impressions, Ann Demarais and Valerie White

    For someone with a short attention span or who loves very short stories: Revenge of the Lawn, Richard Brautigan

    For someone who loves essays: Selected EssaysGeorge Orwell

    For a person interested in human nature: The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

    For a person interested in film: In the Blink of an Eye, Walter Murch

    For a person interested in friendship: Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett

    For a person interested in journalism: The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm

    For a person who loves a twist at the end: The End of the Affair, Graham Greene

     

    If you're buying a book for a child or young-adult, check out my list of 81 Favorite Works of Children's and Young-Adult Literature. So many good books!

    Of course, I can't resist recommending my own books.

    If you're giving one of my books as a gift, and want to put in a free, personalized bookplate to make it more special, sign up here to request one. Feel free to request as many as you want (within reason). Alas, because of mailing costs, I can offer this to people in the U.S. and Canada only. Sorry about that!

    If you'd like to see what I've read, follow me on Goodreads. Or look on Facebook, where every Sunday night, on #GretchenRubinReads, I post a photo of the books I've read that week.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, I've changed my reading habits so that now, if I don't like a book, I stop reading it. So if you see a book listed in Goodreads or on Facebook, you know that I liked a book well enough to finish it.

    I love to choose, give, and receive books!

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:29 on 2018/11/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , guide, , , ,   

    Gift Guide for Kids in College and Middle School, Suggested by My Daughters 

    One of the great joys of life is giving people gifts that they want and need—and a big happiness stumbling block is not having any good ideas for what such a gift might be.

    I decided to ask my daughters what they'd suggest, for people wanting to buy gifts for children their age.

    My older daughter Eliza is a sophomore in college. She suggests:

    • temporary tattoos (such as these)
    • fun flip-flops for the shower
    • Command hooks of various kinds
    • twinkle lights
    • nice pens
    • a smart speaker
    • soft blanket
    • fun keychain
    • bean bag or inflatable chair (I have to admit, I had no idea what an "inflatable chair" was, but Eliza explained that it's something like this.)
    • a fun collapsible umbrella
    • gift card to Starbucks or food places

    My younger daughter Eleanor is in middle school. She made the point that this is a tough age for gift-giving, because kids are too old for toys but too young for many items that adults would enjoy.

    She suggests:

    If you're looking for unexpected, delightful gifts for recipients of any age, check out the MoMa Gift Store.

    What are your suggestions for good gifts for these ages?

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:21 on 2018/10/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Obligers, , self care,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: “How Can I Make More Time for Self-Care?” 

    People often ask me, "How do I make more time for myself? How do I put myself first?"

    And when I hear that question, I think: OBLIGER!

    Obligers think that everyone struggles with this question, but in fact, it's a much bigger challenge for Obligers than it is for Upholders, Questioners, or Rebels. Each of these other Tendencies benefits from its own safeguard.

    (Don't know what I'm talking about with those terms—Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, Rebel? Take my quick, free "Four Tendencies" quiz here or read about my personality framework here.)

    Sometimes this Obliger challenge takes the form of "I'm so busy putting other people first, I don't have time for myself."

    Sometimes it looks more like "I give 110% to my patients, I can't possibly find time to exercise" or "With my grueling travel schedule, there's no way I could eat healthier."

    However this issue is framed, it boils down to the Obliger pattern: meeting outer expectations but struggling to meet inner expectations.

    And the solution is always the same: create outer accountability for meeting inner expectations.

    This is the answer. This is crucial. Don't work on motivation, priorities, clarity, will-power, none of that! Work on creating outer accountability.

    Creating Outer Accountability for Self-care

    So, how might an Obliger create outer accountability for "self-care" type activities? Or how might someone around an Obliger help that person to do that?

    Want to read more? Join a book group; read what your children are reading in school so you can have family discussions.

    Want to exercise more? Work out with a trainer; take a class; go for a walk with a friend who will be annoyed if you don't show up; take your dog for a walk and remind yourself that your dog really benefits from the exercise.

    Want to eat more healthfully? Think of how disappointed your future-self will be if you keep eating junk food; think of how much healthier others will be if you don't bring junk food into your home or office.

    Want to give yourself a treat, like a massage or a tennis lesson? Remember, "If I give more to myself, I can give more to others. If I let myself get too drained and exhausted, I won't be able to be a good family member/colleague/employee/boss/friend. I need to put my own oxygen mask first."

    Want to quit smoking? Think of your duty to be a role model for others; think about the fact that by smoking, you're pouring money into the pockets of the tobacco companies who will use that money to get more people addicted to cigarettes; think of how others depend on you to be healthy.

    Want to make time to see friends? Create a regular appointment (have lunch every first Monday of the month) so that people expect you to show up at a certain time; tell your family or friends "I'm making a commitment to spend more time with friends" so that you feel an obligation to follow through—even if only to model the behavior for others that it's important to keep our promises to ourselves.

    Want to work on your novel? Join a writing group where every member holds each other accountable for a certain amount of writing; tell your kids, "You have your work, I have my work. If you don't see me working on my novel, you don't have to do your homework."

    Note that these strategies might not work very well with other Tendencies.

    As an UPHOLDER/Questioner, I resist ideas like, "I need to take care of myself so I can care for others." I care for myself because that's what I want and need—not because of others.

    Likewise, a Rebel might resist the idea of having a regular meet-up with friends. Typically, Rebels don't like to feel constrained by a calendar.

    If you want to go deeper into the Four Tendencies, read the book The Four Tendencies or take my online video course.

    If you need outer accountability—for self-care or for anything—you can also launch or join an accountability group on my free app, the Better app. It's a place for questions, discussions, and observations about the Four Tendencies, and also a place to create an accountability group for whatever aim you're trying to reach.

    I'm astonished by the ingenuity and imagination that Obligers use in creating outer accountability for themselves. Brilliant solutions! It's really not that hard to do, once you realize that outer accountability is what's necessary.

    Have you come up with any great ways to give yourself outer accountability?

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:00:48 on 2018/09/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , workshop   

    You Asked for It: You Got It: Announcing the Four Tendencies Workshop! 

    Ever since I first introduced the idea of the Four Tendencies, people have asked me for more and more information.

    After I created the free Quiz to tell people whether they're Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, or Rebels, people wanted more information.

    When I wrote Better Than Before, my book about how to make and break habits, I devoted the very first chapter to the Four Tendencies. But people wanted more.

    So I decided to write a whole book about the Four Tendencies, called (spoiler alert) The Four Tendencies. But people wanted more.

    So I created a free app, the Better app, where people can post questions, create accountability, swap strategies, and generally commiserate about the Four Tendencies. But people wanted more.

    So I created a video course for people who wanted to go deeper into the nuances of the Four Tendencies. But people still wanted more!

    I keep hearing from readers and listeners who want to hold workshops about the Four Tendencies.

    Some people are excited about the framework and want to spread the information to their team, clients, or employees.  They know that by taking the Four Tendencies into account, they can communicate more effectively, end procrastination, understand resistance, and generally get things done more easily.

    So...here it is! The Four Tendencies Workshop.

    This workshop is for you if you’d like to present an in-person workshop with a group of adults to teach them about my Four Tendencies personality framework.

    This workshop is designed for small-to-large groups of adults who want to learn how the Four Tendencies can help them improve their relationships with clients, co-workers, patients, students, trainees, friends, or family—as well as prevent conflict, improve procrastination, address burnout, promote understanding, and persuade effectively.

    Rather than just presenting the information from The Four Tendencies book, this workshop offers scenarios and opportunities to practice applying knowledge in pairs or small groups. It's a fun, high-energy, and very engaging experience.

    To facilitate this workshop, you don’t need expertise—only a knowledge of the participants and their goals, and a willingness to explore with them the applications of the Four Tendencies.

    Whether you’re a health-care professional, an in-house educator at a large corporation, an independent consultant helping small organizations with team building, a coach, pastor, teacher, or manager, this workshop provides all the materials you need to lead your group through a 1-, 2-, or 3-hour workshop about the Four Tendencies framework.

    Click here to learn more or register now.

    Note: If you're looking for a way to dive deeper into the Four Tendencies framework as an individual, then you'll want to consider my Four Tendencies video course (now open for enrollment!); this workshop was created for in-person group facilitators.

    I'm so happy to be able to offer this resource for people. And, I will give myself a gold star: this launch means I can cross another item off my "18 for 2018" list. #15 is accomplished!

    I hope you and your group find the workshop useful.

     

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:32 on 2018/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Stephen McCauley,   

    Have You Invoked Any of These Loopholes to Let Yourself Off the Hook? 

    I've very happy: I've discovered a new novelist whose work I love. I just finished Stephen McCauley's new book My Ex-Life, and I plan to work my way through all his novels. It's such a treat to discover a new writer.

    One of the many things that interested me in My Ex-Life was the depiction of the main character Julie's thoughts about smoking marijuana.

    Julie is getting a divorce from Henry, renting out rooms in her house on Airbnb, and the parent of a teenager. She smokes more pot than she should.

    As part of my work for Better Than Before, my book on how we make or break habits, I became very interested in the Strategy of Loophole-Spottinghow do we spot the loopholes that we invoke to let ourselves off the hook, when we want to indulge in a habit that we know we shouldn't?

    Julie is a master of loopholes. Do any of these justifications sound familiar?

    "She pulled out a joint. Anxiously awaiting for Henry to berate her wasn't doing anyone any good, and since she'd stopped smoking pot, it mattered less if she occasionally got stoned. Her slips were meaningless, parenthetical."

    "Rain was predicted for tomorrow, so why not enjoy the lovely evening in a calm frame of mind? Weather was a useful excuse for so many things in life."

    "She sat in the chair next to him...and pulled out a joint. 'Don't judge me,' she said. 'I stopped smoking a while ago, but I keep a little around to prove to myself I don't need it.'"

    The tricky thing about loopholes is that we often invoke them without even realizing it—we let ourselves off the hook so fast and with such confidence that we don't feel the pain of breaking our word to ourselves.

    By contrast, when we consciously realize that we're invoking a loophole, we're more able to resist.

    Eventually, Julie stops smoking pot.

    There are ten categories of loopholes, and most of us have a few favorites that we deploy most frequently.

    I most often invoke the false-choice loophole and the one-coin loophole. How about you?

    If you'd like to learn more about loophole-spotting, and about habit-formation in general, check out my book Better Than Before, where I describe the twenty-one strategies we can use to make or break our habits. (Can't resist mentioning: it was a New York Times bestseller.) You can learn more about the book here.

     
  • 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.

     
  • 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!

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

    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?

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:30:32 on 2018/03/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , identity, , southerner,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: Why Did I List “Southerner” as a Possibly Negative Identity? 

    Since Better Than Before, my book about habit change, hit the shelves, I’ve received several emails from loyal Southerners asking me about my inclusion of the identity of "Southerner" in the following passage discussing identity.

    Better Than Before identifies the 21 strategies we can use to make or break our habits, and in my chapter on the importance of the "Strategy of Identity," I write:

    We can get locked into identities that aren’t good for us: "a workaholic," "a perfectionist," "a Southerner," "the responsible one." As part of the Strategies of the Four Tendencies and Distinctions, I’d worked to identify different personality categories to which I belonged, but these kinds of labels should help me understand myself more deeply, not limit my sense of identity. Someone wrote on my site, "Food and eating used to play a big part in my identity until I realized that my baking and being a ‘baker’ was resulting in being overweight. So I had to let that identity go."

    In this passage, I’m not suggesting that "Southerner" is necessarily a negative identity, but one that might be negative for a particular person – it might also be a positive identity; this just depends on a particular person. For some people, identifying as "the responsible one" might give them a sense of pride and purpose, and for others, identifying as "the responsible one" might feel constraining and burdensome.

    Now, why did I include "Southerner" in this list of examples? Well, because while I was writing this book – and, I must admit, unmercifully quizzing my friends about their habits – a good friend mentioned it.

    As I discuss at length in Better Than Before, I had many discussions with one friend whose identity as "Italian" had been in conflict with her desire to eat and drink more healthfully.

    Along the same lines, another friend told me that the identity of being "Southern" was tied up, for him, with the idea of sweet tea, fried foods, pie, and the idea that a polite person would never turn down food that was offered. He wanted to change his eating habits, and he realized he had to figure out, "How can I live up to my Southern identity in a way that allows me to eat more healthfully?" Once he was able to see how this aspect of his identity was making it hard to stick to the good habits he wanted to cultivate, he was able to find many ways to be a true Southerner, and honor his Southern traditions, with less sweet tea.

    Most identities have both positive and negative sides. In my observation, the problem arises when we don’t see how an identity is influencing our habits; if we don’t see this factor, we can’t think through it and possibly alter the habits that flow from it. We can embrace an identity, yet shape that identity.

    As with me. My identity as a "real book-lover" made me assume that I had to finish every book I started, even if I found it boring. Which is what I did, for decades. But after studying the Strategy of Identity, I realized that I could alter my definition of what it meant to be a "real book-lover," with the thought, "If I stop reading a book I don’t like, I’ll have more time to read the books I do enjoy. That habit allows me to be a ‘real book-lover’ in a different way." My identity is the same; I just found a different habit to honor it.

    Usually, when we address the Strategy of Identity for ourselves, we don’t wholly let go of an identity – it was unusual for the "baker" let go of that identity totally – usually, we re-shape the expression of the identity, or decide to let one narrow aspect of that identity go, while holding on to the aspects that we want to keep. I can absolutely remain a real book-lover without finishing every book I start.

    Speaking of the Strategy of Identity, I can’t help but mention one of my favorite examples, which I write about in Better Than Before,. In their fascinating book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath describe how an anti-littering campaign successfully changed the littering habits of Texans, after messages such as "Please Don’t Litter" and "Pitch In" failed. For the campaign, famous Texans such as George Foreman, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, and various sports figures made TV spots with the message "Don’t mess with Texas." The campaign convinced people that true Texans—proud, loyal, tough Texans—protect Texas. During the campaign’s first five years, visible roadside litter dropped 72 percent.

    Our habits reflect our identities. We all have many identities. And we can shape how we honor those identities, so we can create the lives we want.

    Have you experienced this? Is there an area in your life where an important identity made it hard to follow a habit that you wanted to keep?

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:55:19 on 2018/02/24 Permalink
    Tags: , Francoise Gilot, Matisse, , ,   

    Secret of Adulthood: I’m Unique, Just Like Everyone Else. 

    In her memoir Life with Picasso, Francoise Gilot quoted Matisse:

    As Matisse said, "When I look at a fig tree, every leaf has a different design. They all have their own manner of moving in space; yet in their own separate ways, they all cry, 'Fig tree.'"

    It's one of my Secrets of Adulthood: I'm unique, just like everyone else.

    Do you have any favorite memoirs to recommend? I'm in the mood to read a really terrific memoir. Maybe I'll finally read James Boswell's London Journal.

     

     

     
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