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  • feedwordpress 10:00:11 on 2018/03/08 Permalink
    Tags: , Geneen Roth,   

    “I Made a Decision to Stop Complaining. About Anything.” 

    Interview: Geneen Roth.

    Geneen Roth is a bestselling writer of many books who, in her work, examines the relationships among identity, food, spirituality, body image, money, and other aspects of our everyday lives. That is, some of the most some complex and charged issues within the larger subject of happiness.

    She has a new book that has just hit the shelves: This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide.

    I love the idea of a "field guide" to life.

    I couldn’t wait to talk to Geneen Roth about happiness, habits, spirituality, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Geneen: When I wake up every day, within the first five minutes, I counter [what I fondly call] my marriage to negativity by asking myself: What’s not wrong right now? Then I list five things. They could be as simple as: “I woke up today. It’s another day on planet earth! I have eyes to see, ears to hear, a partner sleeping next to me, an irrepressibly silly dog”…and I make sure to not just list those things but to take them in, to feel them, to experience the goodness of them so that I’m not just reciting a checklist. Then, as silly as this sounds, I remind myself to smile right there, right then, not at anything or anyone but just because -- and I notice how that amplifies joy. It always amazes me that the littlest things make the biggest difference.

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

    Geneen: That happiness is not meant for a special few (of which I am not one). That it is possible to cultivate happiness and joy, and that if one’s nervous system is geared toward vigilance about sensing danger instead of noticing beauty or what’s good, it is still possible to develop the capacity for everyday joy. But/and, building a new habit takes consistency and willingness to do it, even when I don’t feel like it. When I want to whine or muck around in how awful it all is, I have to be (and most of the time, I am) willing to stop myself in the middle, to remember what I want more than I want to whine, and to live as if what I’m aiming for—joy, in this instance—is already true. Sometimes living as-if is the best I can do. And that’s good enough.

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

    Geneen: My default orientation to what’s wrong. And so, many times a day—after I do the five minutes in bed as described above—I ask myself, “Am I okay right now?” And since the answer is almost always yes, my nervous system and hyper-vigilance relax. Over and over, for as many times as it takes. As an extension of this habit of focusing on wrongness, I’ve also noticed that I blame myself when things don’t go as planned—or when, according to my mind, they have gone wrong. I have a friend who says he wakes up every day with this mantra: “Something’s wrong and who’s to blame!” I have to pay close attention to this in myself as well. Attention changes everything for me because it makes a separation between what I am seeing and who I am. When I see something, I immediately realize that that which is doing the seeing is not the pattern itself. I realize there is something bigger that exists than this poor, little moi—that I am not my history, but am instead the awareness that is noticing my history--and this cheers me up immensely.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you?

    Geneen: When I am writing a book, the habit of getting to my studio every day is crucial. Otherwise, I putter around in the house, procrastinate, call friends and schmooze on the phone. So I have a sign in my kitchen (since I walk out the kitchen door to my studio) that Nora Roberts has on her desk: Ass in chair. And even though I am dragging and kicking and feeling sorry for myself as I open the kitchen door and head to my studio (because I am certain that all my friends are making plans to go out to lunch at pretty restaurants with potted red geraniums), I am resolute about getting my ass in the chair.

    There are other habits, other routines or disciplines I follow almost every day because I find that structure (i.e., habits) are helpful to my somewhat chaotic mind. (Okay, very chaotic mind). I go to bed by 10 pm, I move my body every day, preferably outside, and I remember, many times a day, to come out of my mind and into my body. To sense my arms and legs, feel my feet on the floor, and to look up and around me. To be, as the Tibetans say, “like a child, astonished at everything.”

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to break an unhealthy habit?

    Geneen: The hardest habit to break has been to stop listening to what I call “the crazy aunt in the attic:” the voice that blares continually, day in and day out, about how I’m not good enough, did it wrong, should have done better. When I notice that I suddenly feel small, diminished, incapable, disappeared, I’ll track back and ask myself what triggered it and what I am telling myself. I’ve gotten very good at seeing that the crazy aunt is having her way with me. Then, I tell her to go out on the lawn, drink tequila and leave me alone. Or simply, that I am walking out of the attic and into the rest of the house (that is my body, my life) and so she can keep blaring on but I am not listening to her. I disentangle myself from her clutches and realize that she is not telling the truth.

    The second hardest habit that I have broken, and I realize you only asked about one, but I can’t help myself from mentioning this, is complaining. When I realized two years ago that most of my conversations were (very nice) rants against what was happening that I didn’t want to be happening (i.e, the weather, what someone just said, the politicians, being tired or sick, etc) and that there was nothing to do about it since it already happened, I made a decision to stop complaining. About anything. I gave myself three choices: accept the situation, leave the situation, or do something to change the situation, period. Although I often wanted to complain about not complaining, the truth is that my resolve has had a profound affect: there was an unexpected and almost magical lightness to the days. And there still is.

    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.?

    Geneen: When we lost every cent of our savings in 2008, my immediate reaction was terror and self-blame, fear and hopelessness. My husband and I were never going to get back the money we’d made from thirty years of being self-employed, and I felt despair, shame and totally overwhelmed. Luckily, I had good friends who told me that “Nothing of any value has been lost,” and although I responded that “this was not the time to be spiritual," I realized that if I was going to make it through the night without being frozen with fear, I was going to have to be vigilant NOW about re-focusing my mind on what I did have, not what I didn’t have. On what I could find, not what I had lost. And I realized, almost instantly, that there was goodness and beauty, love and chocolate in abundance. These things had always been there to see, take in, but that I had been disregarding them as I went through the regular day-to-day activities. Within a week, I was happier than I’d ever been. This process taught me something I will never forget: that no situation, no matter how awful it first appears, is unworkable. And just as important, that it is not the situation itself that is causing my suffering, but the stories I am telling myself about it. Radical.

     
  • feedwordpress 19:32:23 on 2018/03/01 Permalink
    Tags: 18 for 2018, , , , ,   

    I Wrote My “18 for 2018” List. Now It’s Time to See How I’m Doing So Far 

    In episodes 149 and 152 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, my sister Elizabeth and I talked about how we created a list of our "18 for 2018" – eighteen things we wanted to get done in 2018.

    Well, we’re a few months into 2018 now, and I thought I’d review my progress so far.

    I note an item as "underway" in two situations: if it’s a repeating action that I’ve done a few or several times, but not so many times that I consider it "completed," or if I’ve successfully started a long project but can’t yet check it off my list.

    1. Start having weekly adventures with Eleanor. [underway]
    2. Fix my headset, runs out of battery really fast. [DONE]
    3. Set up a home studio in this closet for my Facebook show. [underway; I did this, but now seem to be having technical issues with my lighting so not sure whether to "count" it as completed]
    4. Work with Barnaby so he’s better at coming when I call him.
    5. Clean out my massive tote bag collection. Each one is special.[DONE]
    6. Take Eleanor to get her contacts checked.
    7. Start making consistent progress on "Report to the Committee on Exploration" (if you want to read about "Four to Llewelyn's Edge", I describe it here).
    8. Create a work calendar for the year. I have a lot of little projects and I need more structure than usual; trips I need to make. [DONE]
    9. Finish My Color Pilgrimage and figure out what the heck to do with it; similarly, Outer Order, Inner Calm. **[underway]
    10. Tap more into my love of smell. I've fallen out of habit of regularly wearing perfume, smelling my smell collection, burning scented candles. Along those lines... [underway]
    11. Plan perfume field trip with a friend. [underway; I’ve done this once but want to do it several more times over the course of the year]
    12. New phone for camera to improve the video quality of my weekly Facebook show, "Ask Gretchen Rubin Live"[DONE]
    13. Figure out Instagram features and use it regularly. [DONE]
    14. Decide on a cause to give to as a family.
    15. Create the Four Tendencies workshop. [underway]
    16. Deal with the items we want to donate to Housing Works.[underway; the stuff is loaded into our car but not yet dropped off]
    17. I’m creating a list for listeners of the Try This at Homes and Happiness Hacks so far. And I'll update these lists at the end of each year, for people to request. [underway]
    18. Get current with making physical photo albums with Shutterfly. [DONE]

    So I’ve completed finished 6 items. Gold stars for me.

    I’ve started 8 items.

    And I’ve left 4 items completely untouched.

    What conclusions can I draw from my list so far? First, my schedule is crowded, so I resist items that need to be put onto my calendar.

    I’m more likely to do items – even challenging items – if they’re things that I can sit down and accomplish in one slot of time. This gives me the very great satisfaction of checking something off my list.

    For aims that are underway, it’s helpful to remind myself that I need to keep pressing forward.

    Halfway through the year, Elizabeth and I will do an update on the Happier podcast. But I find that the more frequently I monitor my progress, the more likely I am to get these aims accomplished.

    This is a surprisingly fun exercise, given that it’s just a way of getting myself to do things that I’ve been delaying!

    Are you finding it fun or burdensome to try to meet your New Year’s resolutions, observe your one-word theme for the year, or tackle your "18 for 2018?" 

    Want to share your list on Instagram? Use #18for2018 and #HappierPodcast and tag me: @gretchenrubin

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:30:03 on 2018/02/20 Permalink
    Tags: , elderly, , John Leland   

    “Spend More Time with Friends, Spend More Time in Nature, and Remember that My Job Is Just My Job, Not My Identity.” 

    Interview: John Leland.

    John Leland is a longtime journalist who has been at The New York Times since 2000. He's covered a wide range of topics, among them, retirement and religion.

    He also writes books, and he has a new book that is just hitting the shelves: Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old.

    It's based on a yearlong series he wrote for the Times. If you want to read a great article to get a sense of his project, check out his piece "When Old News Is Good News: the Effect of 6 Elderly New Yorkers on One Middle-Aged Reporter."

    His book is a fascinating look at the lessons he learned about happiness from studying the lives of a group of the "oldest old" (age 85 and older). The people in this group had very different backgrounds and circumstances, but John Leland was able to divine certain lessons about how to be happier -- at any age.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded?

    John: The biggest revelation was how much influence older people – and by extension, all of us – have over how we process the events of our lives. I don’t mean that we have control over them. At some point, bad things will happen to all of us. We’ll lose our jobs or our vision or our parents, we’ll suffer disappointments at work or in front of the mirror. But we have a choice: we can define our lives by these setbacks, or by the opportunities that are still available to us. One of my favorite lessons in the book is from Jonas Mekas, 95, who spent his 20s in Nazi slave labor camps and then UN displaced persons camps. “I don’t leave any space for depression to come in,” he said. “I gravitate more to neutral areas or to positive activities. I’m not interested to film some dark, depressive aspects. I’m more interested in where people come together, they’re singing and dancing, more happy aspects. Why? It’s my nature. I consider that maybe unconsciously I’m thinking that’s what humanity needs more.”

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

    John: The simplest: say hello to people I pass on the streets in the morning. It’s almost literally the least I can do, and it always starts the day off well. Give money to people who need it, and say thanks to anyone providing services, even if they’re just stopping me on the bike path or checking my ID to get into the building at work.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness, health, creativity, or productivity that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    John: I spent my early years not just thinking the glass was half empty, but outraged that the glass wasn’t bigger. I thought this dissatisfaction was the creative force driving my work. And this attitude got me pretty far. But it was a beast that always needed more food, and what it was feeding on was me. I’ve since learned that I’m more productive and creative, not to mention happier, when I’m working collaboratively with others rather than competing with them, trying to serve people’s needs rather than vanquishing injustice. Often that amounts to the same thing, but for different reasons and with a different orientation. It can be a great rush trying to make the bad guys lose. But it’s more rewarding – and more effective – trying to help the good guys win.

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

    John: Years ago I came up with three guidelines to right me when things get rocky: Spend more time with friends; spend more time in nature (loosely defined – a city park does the trick); and remember that my job is just my job, not my identity. I’ve added a few since then, the most helpful of which is not to over-react to things that haven’t happened yet. So many of the things we lose sleep over never come to pass. Or when they do, we discover we can handle them. If you can’t be happy until there’s no longer a storm brewing somewhere, you’ll never be happy. Live your life, have a picnic, and on those days when the rains actually come your way, find a dry spot and some friends to share it. You’ll be surprised by how much coleslaw you can squeeze in.

    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.?

    John: Most of my life I’ve been hearing about the value of gratitude, but I never understood what that meant. Then I met Fred Jones, one of the six elders in my book. Fred was 87 at the time, and struggling to manage the stairs to his walk-up apartment. He grew up poor and black in the South, and over the course of our interviews lost two toes to gangrene. Yet Fred always found reasons to give thanks. When I asked his favorite part of the day, Fred never hesitated: “My favorite part of the day,” he said, “is waking up in the morning and saying, Thank God for another day.” That attitude floored me. I didn’t see what Fred had to be thankful for. Why was he, with all his problems, always in such a good mood, hoping for another 20 or 30 years of life?

    But gradually I got it. Gratitude, for Fred, wasn’t being happy for that new toy he just got or that helping hand when he needed it. Gratitude was how he saw the world: as a place that was always doing things for him – providing warmth and light, food that nourished him, colors to delight him, sounds that soothed. Sex! It meant that he was never lonely because he was always surrounded by benign forces that were working in his favor. Roads! Bridges! Pringles! It was a revelation. Life wasn’t just a battle I had to fight on my own: it was also a bounty I was lucky to receive, hands I was lucky to have supporting me. Life itself was reason to give thanks. And once I understood this, everything became so much easier.

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:00 on 2018/02/17 Permalink
    Tags: , Anton Chekhov, , ,   

    Anton Chekhov’s Letter to His Brother about the 8 Conditions for “Civilized People.” 

    In 1886, Russian playwright and short-story writer Anton Chekhov wrote a letter of advice to his beloved older brother Nikolai, a talented painter and writer who suffered from severe alcoholism.

    Chekhov writes:

    To my mind, civilized people ought to satisfy the following conditions:

    1. They respect the individual and are therefore always indulgent, gentle, polite and compliant. They do not throw a tantrum over a hammer or a lost eraser. When they move in with somebody, they do not act as if they were doing him a favor, and when they move out, they do not say, "How can anyone live with you!"...

    2. Their compassion extends beyond beggars and cats. They are hurt even by things the naked eye can't see. If for instance, Pyotr knows that his father and mother are turning gray and losing sleep over seeing their Pyotr so rarely (and seeing him drunk when he does turn up), then he rushes home to them and sends his vodka to the devil....

    3. They respect the property of others and therefore pay their debts.

    4. They are candid and fear lies like the plague. They do not lie even about the most trivial matters. A lie insults the listener and debases him in the liar's eyes. They don't put on airs, they behave in the street as they do at home, and they do not try to dazzle their inferiors. They know how to keep their mouths shut and they do not force uninvited confidences on people. Out of respect for the ears of others they are more often silent than not.

    5. They do not belittle themselves merely to arouse sympathy. They do not play on people's heartstrings to get them to sigh and fuss over them. They do not say, "No one understands me!" or "I've squandered my talent on trifles!" because this smacks of a cheap effect and is vulgar, false and out-of-date.

    6. They are not preoccupied with vain things. They are not taken in by such false jewels as friendships with celebrities, handshakes with drunken Plevako, ecstasy over the first person they happen to meet at the Salon de Varietes, popularity among the tavern crowd....

    7. If they have talent, they respect it. They sacrifice comfort, women, wine and vanity to it....

    8. They cultivate their aesthetic sensibilities. They cannot stand to fall asleep fully dressed, see a slit in the wall teeming with bedbugs, breathe rotten air, walk on a spittle-laden floor or eat off a kerosene stove. They try their best to tame and ennoble their sexual instinct...

    And so on. That's how civilized people act. If you want to be civilized and not fall below the level of the milieu you belong to, it is not enough to read The Pickwick Papers and memorize a soliloquy from Faust. It is not enough to hail a cab and drive off to Yakimanka Street if all you're going to do is bolt out again a week later.

    You must work at it constantly, day and night. You must never stop reading, studying in depth, exercising your will. Every hour is precious.

    Agree, disagree?

    I love lists, manifestos, personal commandments. If you'd like to see my personal commandments, it's here.

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:23 on 2018/01/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , relatonships,   

    Want to Be Happier in Romance? “Focus on What’s Going Right in the Relationship, Rather than Dwelling on What’s Going Wrong.” 

    Interview: Suzie Pileggi Pawelski and James Pawelski.

    Suzie Pileggi Pawelski and James Pawelski are the co-authors of a new book, Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts

    They're both positive psychology experts, and they're also married to each other -- very fitting, given their subject! In their book, they use the principles of positive psychology to help people figure out how to create thriving romantic relationships.

    I was very interested to hear what they had to say about happiness, habits, and making more loving relationships.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier?

    James: Reading together quietly or playing family games with our adorable seven-year-old son Liam.

    Suzie: Tackling -- or ideally completing -- the New York Times crossword puzzle.

    Gretchen: You’ve highlighted fascinating positive psychology research in your book Happy Together and your Romance & Research workshops you’ve conducted across the world. What has surprised or intrigued you the most?

    In most areas of our lives we understand that it takes hard work to achieve our goals. For example, we don’t just land a job and sit back coasting along thinking it’ll turn into our dream job without effort. Or we don’t buy a gym membership and only go once expecting to have a fitter and more toned body overnight. Instead, we work hard by taking training classes to excel in our career, and training at the gym to help strengthen our body. Yet when it comes to our romantic relationships we seem to think that after meeting our special someone and committing to him or her that “happily ever after” just happens. That’s not the case, except in fairy tales. It’s healthy habits that helps build love over the long term.

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

    Suzie: For optimal health, creativity and productivity having a daily routine that consists of exercise and spending time in nature is crucial for me.  It calms my nerves and helps me to focus better. While I can get by without them, I find that I don’t thrive without these two key habits.

    James: Having a regular sleep schedule and waking early and starting my day with meditation is what makes me feel focused, creative, and productive. These habits are life-fueling. They energize me and provide me with the clarity that I need throughout the day to make the best decisions at work and at home.

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

    One ongoing challenge we have is James’s teaching and speaking schedule. Every few weeks, he teaches weekend classes in the masters program he directs, and he travels frequently to give talks and attend conferences. In light of this schedule, we try to be flexible and plan in advance to figure out how we are going to maintain our healthy habits like regular exercise, reading time, and meditation. One thing we do is try to stay at hotels with gyms or access to outdoor running paths, and we optimize our air time by reading and meditating.

    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.?

    We discovered after getting together that we both had a very similar lightning bolt moment after reading Marty Seligman’s fascinating book Learned Optimism. The book talks about how we have the ability to teach ourselves to choose healthy thoughts, thereby enabling us to choose happiness. The book was what lead each of us on our own individual journey to delve into the science of positive psychology. And it’s what brought us together.

    Gretchen: What is one of the most important habits you recommend in your book to people on how to be “Happy Together?”

    We recommend couples focus on what is going right in the relationship, rather than dwelling on what’s going wrong.  One way to do that is to focus on our partner’s strengths and see your relationship through a lens of strengths. Positive psychology researchers have identified 24 strengths that have been valued across time and cultures that each of us possess to varying degrees. Things like: creativity, zest, love of learning, leadership, kindness, etc. It’s what make us unique. We invite readers to find out what their top five strengths are by taking the free Via Survey that is here on our website.

    Gretchen: How can people actively practice using their strengths every day?

    Once people have discovered their top 5 strengths, commonly referred to as one’s “signature strengths,” we recommend they practice using them in new ways. First, select one of your signature strengths. Next, brainstorm some ways you can use this strength more in your life, and write down a list of specific steps you could take for applying this strength in healthy ways. Use this strength in a new way every day for the next week. Each day, choose a different activity from your list or you could come up with a new idea. The point is to experiment with seven new ways you can use this strength over the course of the week.

    Gretchen: Can you suggest one healthy habit couples can do together to help practice using their strengths?

    We suggest couples go on a “strengths date.” A strengths date is where you pick a top strength of yours (say, zest) and one of your partner’s (say, love of learning). And you organize a date that will enable you each to use your strength. A personal example from our own lives is that we rented Segways to do a guided tour of the historical part of Philadelphia. At the end of the date Suzie’s sense of adventure, or strength of zest, was sated and James’s love of learning was fulfilled.  A mutually satisfying date for both of us! Remember to take turns arranging the dates (or plan them together) -- and the important thing is to have fun while connecting in new ways.

     
  • gretchenrubin 20:43:41 on 2018/01/11 Permalink
    Tags: , Greer Hendricks,   

    “When I Dread a Task, I Remind Myself, ‘The Only Way Past It Is Through It.’” 

    Interview: Greer Hendricks.

    Greer Hendricks is one of my favorite people, and someone who had a huge influence on my life as a writer: she was the first editor to buy one of my books. She and I worked together to publish Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide. What a joy it was to write that book -- and what a joy to work with Greer! We were both early in our careers, and it was such a happy experience.

    She had a long run as a highly successful and respected editor, with more than two decades at Simon & Schuster -- and now she has switched positions, and become the author.

    With her co-author Sarah Pekkanen, she wrote the new psychological thriller, The Wife Between Us. Even before it hit the shelves, this novel generated a huge amount of buzz and excitement, with starred reviews, a movie deal, and comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I just got my copy, and I can't wait to dive in!

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

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

    Greer: Exercise.  I work out first thing in the morning usually seven days a week -- a mixture of running, interval weight training and yoga (which I do with my husband on Sundays).  I find that no matter what curveballs are thrown at me during the day I am much better equipped to handle them if I’ve moved my body.

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

    Greer: I think most 18-year-olds probably think habits = boring, but I now believe that structure can set you free.  If you have habits or an infrastructure in place then you don’t have to spend time making decisions.  For example, my husband and I have coffee together outside the home every Saturday morning.  We devote this time to going over our calendars (with two working parents, two teenagers and two dogs scheduling can be tricky) and various other logistical details -- which ice hockey program seems best for our daughter, how much do want to donate to a particular charity, should we enroll our son in an innovative, but time-consuming allergy study.  I can’t say I look forward to these meetings, but they help our home run more smoothly.  And if we aren’t scrambling around at the last minute to sort out mismatched schedules we have more time for fun things like sneaking in a movie or a boozy brunch.

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

    Greer: Checking social media. After editing a lot of bestselling authors, I’ve now flipped roles: My first book, The Wife Between Us, co-authored with Sarah Pekkanen, one of my former authors, is about to be published, and I found that I was on Facebook and Instagram many times a day. I finally deleted the apps from my phone because they were becoming too distracting.  If I  need to check them I can go to my laptop (strategy of inconvenience).

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

    Greer: I am a firm believer in getting at least 7 hours of sleep, exercising daily and eating fairly healthily.  I think if you have these foundational elements in place it’s easier to be creative productive and happy. I also feel less guilty about the vices I do indulge in pretty regularly: a sweet treat during the day, and a glass of wine or two at the end of the night.

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

    Greer:I think I was actually one of the beta testers on your quiz.  In fact I remember a lunch with you where you asked me a bunch of questions and diagnosed me as an Upholder. I’ve since taken your quiz multiple times and indeed I am an Upholder  Although a part of me still wonders if I’m an Obliger who has just figured out how to uphold my commitments by being accountable to others. I have a writing partner, and we block out a huge chunk of the day to devote to our novels. I have a personal trainer and I plan most of my runs with friends.

    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.?

    Greer: Before I started writing I had been an editor at Simon & Schuster -- as you know since I edited your first book! When I landed my first job I remember asking a more seasoned editor how he got over losing books he wanted to acquire. I simply couldn't imagine that kind of devastation.  As I approached my 20 year anniversary I participated in a heated auction to acquire a new author and the author chose another editor. I was upset, but then I realized part of my dismay wasn’t for the right reasons. I was sad because the selection had bruised my ego, not simply because I felt distraught that I wouldn’t have a chance to edit and publish the book.  That’s when I realized that although I loved my colleagues and many of the authors I’d edited through the years, I needed a change. The joy I had felt for nearly two decades was no longer as vibrant and while I am sure there are many editors who can do their job without that kind of passion, I didn’t want to. I talked over the decision with my husband and gave notice a few weeks later.

    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?

    Greer: The only way past it is through it.  When I dread a task -- filling out tricky insurance forms, a challenging rewrite or a difficult conversation -- I remind myself of these words and forge forward.

    Also, one of my favorite mottos is one I learned from you: accept yourself, and expect more from yourself.  Over the years I have learned to accept that I don’t like to ski or that I am not great with numbers, but to also expect more - to work on making my relationships stronger, to try and conquer some of my fears (driving, for example), and to write a book, which has been a lifelong goal.

     
  • gretchenrubin 19:01:53 on 2018/01/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Agree: Even One Task Fulfilled at Regular Intervals…Can Bring Order into Life as a Whole. 

    "Even one task fulfilled at regular intervals in a man's life can bring order into his life as a whole; everything else hinges upon it. By keeping a record of my experiences I live my life twice over. The past returns to me. The future is always with me."

    -- The Journal of Eugene Delacroix

    Agree, disagree?

    How I love this book!

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:35 on 2017/12/28 Permalink
    Tags: , Courtney Carver, , , simplicity   

    “I Will Not Say ‘Yes’ When My Heart Says ‘No.’” 

    Interview: Courtney Carver.

    I love the subject of clutter-clearing. So, of course, I'm intrigued by the work of Courtney Carver -- her site declares: "Are you overwhelmed with clutter and busyness? It's time to create a life with more clarity, ease, and joy." Wonderful.

    Her new book, Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More is just hitting the shelves.

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

    Courtney: Sugar! I’m so much happier without it but I love it. When I’m in a sugar rut, I’m moodier. When I quit sugar for long periods of time, I'm much happier. Like you, Gretchen, I'm an Abstainer when it comes to sugary treats:  it's easier for me to have none than one. When I've intentionally quit sugar for a period of time, I don't crave it or think about it that much after the first day or two. I love that feeling of not having to decide how much is too much because when I am eating sugar, I don't want one cookie, or one bite of dessert. I want it all. Why do I go back? Just thinking about it makes me less happy.

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

    Courtney: My morning routine fuels better health, creativity, and productivity. It includes some combination of writing, meditation, reading, yoga and walking. Whether I practice my morning routine for 5 minutes or 3 hours, it always allows me to move through the day with more purpose and focus.

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

    Courtney: I created my morning routine through habit stacking, and it has stuck with me for more than 10 years. I started with 5 minutes of yoga. After a week, I stacked 5 minutes of writing. The next week I added 5 minutes of meditation. From there I raised the time of each activity by a minute each week. Once I had a 30-minute routine, I was able to easily swap in new activities or extend the time spent on certain activities.

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

    Courtney: At first I thought I was an Upholder but after taking the quiz, I discovered I’m a Questioner.

    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.?

    Courtney:  In 2006 after months of debilitating vertigo and fatigue I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. After learning how stress can cause MS exacerbations, I decided to quit stress and simplified my entire life. While the changes I made took many years, my decision to prioritize love and health was immediate. I share more about my lightning bolt moment, and the changes MS inspired in my life in my new book, Soulful Simplicity. From changing my diet to becoming debt-free, clutter-free, changing careers and downsizing from a big house to a small apartment, simplicity was at the heart of every change. Living with less has given me the opportunity to create more health and love in my life.

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

    Courtney: I will not say yes when my heart says no.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Courtney: Writing down anything on my mind first thing in the morning makes me happier. It’s my way of clearing mental clutter before starting the day. I don’t share or read what I write so it’s more about the action than what ends up on the page

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

    Courtney: Consistency is more important than intensity. The all or nothing, weekend warrior approach to incorporating healthy habits usually results in burnout. Showing up regularly, even if it's only for a few minutes at a time contributes to creating long-lasting habits. I'm a big fan of habit stacking. For instance, when I created my morning routine, I started with 5 minutes of yoga. After a week, I added 5 minutes of meditation and 5 minutes of writing. Then, I added a minute a week to each activity. It took me weeks to build up to a 30 minute routine, but the method worked. The slow build resulted in a meaningful morning routine that I've been practicing for more than 1o years.

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:06 on 2017/12/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , , review,   

    An Interesting and Useful Exercise: The Year-End Review with Myself. 

    In my book The Happiness Project, I describe how I belong to the three-person group "MGM" where we get together periodically to talk about issues, challenges, hopes, and frustrations related to our careers. I'm the "G" in the MGM, and the Ms are Michael Melcher and Marci Alboher.

    We've been meeting now for a long time -- at least ten years. Many things have changed in our careers, and it's great for each of us to talk in a group that has been following the long arc.

    Several years ago, Michael suggested that we do an exercise: the "Year-End Review, with Yourself." Marci wrote about this idea in this article in the New York Times.

    We did the review several years ago, and it was very helpful. But for whatever reason, we didn't do it again until this year.

    Yesterday, the three of us met for three hours. During that time, we each went through our 2017 calendars and wrote down accomplishments, frustrations, high points, and low points from both our personal and professional lives. We used colored markers, stickers, and great paper to make the exercise more striking.

    Several things jumped out at me from doing this exercise:

    • it's easy to forget how much happens in a single year
    • boy, I had a challenging year--a fun year, but a challenging year
    • writing things down really did allow me to see patterns that I hadn't seen before--for instance, in my case, I realize how much my sister is now integrated into my work as well as my personal life.

    On the "Happier" podcast, in episode 134, Elizabeth and I talk about the power of writing a "ta-da list"--if you're feeling overwhelmed by a to-do list, try making a ta-da list, to remind yourself of what you've already accomplished. Often, we get energy and insight from thinking about what we've already done.

    This is essentially an end-of-year ta-da list.

    Last month, I wrote a post about variations on the to-do list: the to-do list, the could-do list, the ta-da list, the to-day list -- all can be powerful, but different people respond better to different versions.

    After we creating our year-in-review pages, we each made a page for 2018. This was especially great for me, because I'd included this exercise in my "18 for 2018" that Elizabeth and I talked about in episode 147. So I checked that off my list.

    Do you have an exercise -- at work or at home -- to review what the previous year has held for you? For me, it was gratifying and surprising to look back.

    If you want to listen to Michael's terrific new podcast with Michael Terrell, you can find "Meanwhile"--"a podcast to improve your life"--here.

    If you want to read Marci's recent and hugely popular "Modern Love" column from the New York Times, "When Your Uber Driver Brings a Time Machine," it's here.

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:28 on 2017/12/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , Melissa Nicholson   

    Agree? “I Can’t Be the Only One Who Wants to Wear Color in Wintertime.” 

    Interview: Melissa Nicholson.

    The other day I posted about my color adventure in London: getting my colors analyzed. I'm doing everything I can think of to feed my obsession with color. I'm trying to follow that interest anywhere it leads, as a way to get myself to do the novel and challenging things that I know boost happiness.

    In the process, I had a such an interesting conversation with Melissa Nicholson that I asked her to do an interview. She's the founder of Kettlewell, a clothing company that makes clothes based on color analysis, and that reflects her own conviction that color can be a major driver of happiness, energy, and self-presentation.

    She had many fascinating observations and insights into the subject of color -- and also happiness, habits, and self-knowledge. For one thing, she has "perfect pitch" for color -- she can look at a color, and later in the day, exactly recall its hue. I can't imagine having that kind of memory for color.

    (She's British, as you will see from her spelling of color.)

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Melissa: Getting everyone together and dining with friends and family. It could be a Sunday roast at home or dinner out at a new restaurant. Nothing makes me happier.

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

    Melissa: When I was younger I was quite sensitive and easily hurt. Nowadays I don’t worry so much about what people think. I try to find the strengths in people, accept them for who they are, and work with them rather than have expectations that just can’t be met. I find you get a better response from people that way.

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

    Melissa: I tend to replay situations in my head – conversations I’ve had with people, things that have been said. I can be quite overenthusiastic and worry that, on reflection, I’ve shared too much.

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

    Melissa: I start each day with 15 minutes of Pilates. It started after a bout of pneumonia to help with my breathing, and it has now become a part of my daily routine, making me more focused and ready to face the day. I also make sure I drink a large glass of water as soon as I wake up. It’s one of the easiest, quickest things you can do for your health.

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

    Melissa: When I was ill I discovered I had an intolerance to wheat, so I resolved to cut it out of my diet. Consequently, I have less bloating and far fewer colds and weight fluctuations.

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

    Melissa: I’m an Obliger. I like collaboration; I feed off other people. I’m very much a team player.

    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.?

    Melissa: One cold December day, 15 years ago, I was out clothes shopping in London, trying to find something to wear to a Christmas party, and all I could find was black. Having recently had my colours analysed, I suddenly thought, “I can’t be the only one who wants to wear colour in the wintertime,” and went back and told my husband John that I had an idea for a new business. A year later we had moved the family out of London and set up Kettlewell Colours in the West Country.

    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?

    Melissa: Coco Chanel once said: “The best colour in the world is the colour that looks good on you.” I stand by that motto. It underpins everything we do at Kettlewell: we provide the colour choice to enable people to discover their true colours.

     
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