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  • Crystal Ellefsen 09:00:58 on 2018/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , ,   

    30 Tips I Use to Make Myself Happier, Right Now. 

    My book The Happiness Project came out almost ten years ago—wow, that’s hard to believe.

    One of the most important things I learned as part of doing that project, and an idea that I put into practice in my own life all the time, is that I can influence my happiness. Yes of course, sometimes terrible circumstances make it impossible for me to be happy, but it’s almost always possible to be happier, and often with just a few small steps, I can give myself a big boost.

    I try to recognize the fact that I’m feeling blue (oddly, this is often easier said than done) and take action to lift my spirits.

    Here are 30 things I do to make myself happier when I need an immediate boost:

    1. Do ten jumping jacks.
    2. Go outside and look at the sky.
    3. Pet my dog Barnaby. Then…
    4. Text a photo of Barnaby to my family.
    5. Re-read a few chapters of a children’s or YA book in a series I love: Graceling, Harry Potter, Narnia, Melendy Quartet, etc.
    6. Enjoy a beautiful smell.
    7. Do a small good deed for someone else.
    8. Clear some clutter (I can always find some).
    9. Look for a beautiful color in my surroundings.
    10. Call my sister Elizabeth.
    11. Take a minute to be grateful for some basic aspect of my life: elevators, space heaters, Wikipedia.
    12. Send a family update (to learn more about “update,” listen to episode 2 of the Happier podcast).
    13. Clean off my desk.
    14. Copy some quotations into my giant trove of quotations.
    15. Look at my TimeHop app.
    16. Make sure I’m not cold, hot, thirsty, hungry, need to go to the bathroom, or experiencing mild discomfort: in other words, treat myself like a toddler.
    17. Re-copy my to-do list, so it’s fresh and clean.
    18. Go to the library.
    19. Watch an episode of The Office (American version).
    20. Make the positive argument.
    21. Randomly read a few pages of Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary.
    22. Make myself a cup of coffee.
    23. Make a plan for some future fun: plan an outing, make a date with a friend, add a book to my library list.
    24. Re-read Winston Churchill’s eulogy for Neville Chamberlain.
    25. Tackle some small, nagging task that’s been weighing on my mind.
    26. Move with more energy, put a smile on my face. When I act happier, I’ll feel happier.
    27. Plan to go to bed early. I always feel better in the morning.
    28. Hug a member of my family (whoever’s available).
    29. Allow myself to do some quick research on a subject that has been fascinating me, but is unrelated to my work.
    30. Listen to Nina Simone sing “Feeling Good.”

    In my books—The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, Better Than Before, The Four TendenciesOuter Order Inner Calm, and My Color PilgrimageI write about why these small actions do make me happier.

    It’s great to have a long menu of choices to consult. Of course, everyone’s list is a bit different. My husband’s list would include “Do a crossword puzzle,” for instance.

    What’s on your list?

     
  • feedwordpress 07:00:58 on 2018/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , Dalai Lama, , , hepatitis c, , , , quitting sugar, ,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: What’s Changed in My Life Since “The Happiness Project” Was Published? 

    Zoikes, it’s hard to believe that almost a full decade has passed since The Happiness Project first hit the shelves. In many ways, my life is much the same—and of course, many things have changed as well. The Tenth Anniversary edition is on shelves today. Order a copy here.

    By far the most important thing that happened was that my husband Jamie’s hepatitis C was cured—a medical miracle.

    As I write about in The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Jamie got hepatitis C from a blood transfusion during a heart operation when he was eight years old. You really don’t want to have hepatitis C; eventually, it destroys your liver. Jamie tried many treatments over the years, but nothing worked.

    When a new treatment was approved, Jamie went on it right away, and as of January 9, 2015 (a date we celebrate every year), Jamie was cured. You can read more about it in my post "Today is one of the happiest days of my life. Here’s why."

    Brief service announcement: If you support organ donation, sign the registry at organdonor.gov, tell your family that you’d want to donate your organs, or post a message with #organdonor.

    Other big news: My older daughter Eliza is now off at college! That was a big family milestone. Here's the advice I gave her when she left.

    After much discussion and pleading, my family got a dog, a delightful black cockapoo named Barnaby. If you want to hear me talk about this decision, Elizabeth and I discuss it in episodes 24 and 27 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.

    Speaking of the Happier podcast, launching the podcast has been one of my favorite undertakings from the last ten years. My co-host is my sister Elizabeth Craft, the TV writer and producer who lives in Los Angeles, and together we talk about happiness, habits, and human nature. We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much! We’ve had so many terrific sisterly adventures together because of the show.

    I quit sugar, and really, almost all carbs. (If you want to know more about this change, I write about it in my book Better Than Before.)

    Since The Happiness Project came out, I’ve written four additional books: Happier at Home, Better Than Before, The Four Tendencies, and Outer Order, Inner Calm. (Plus I’ve written My Color Pilgrimage, but it’s still in the manuscript stage.)

    In The Happiness Project, I write about starting a children’s literature reading group. Well, that group got so big that I started a second group, and now even a third group. Yes, I’m in three kid-lit reading groups, and these groups are a giant engine of happiness for me.

    A big personal highlight was getting interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. She recorded the interview at her home in Montecito, so I got to visit "The Promised Land," and I also got to bring my sister Elizabeth with me, on a terrific sisterly adventure. Oprah is so...Oprah. In person, she’s exactly the way I’d imagined her to be. (You can listen to the interview here.)

    Another highlight was meeting the Dalai Lama. In fact, at the end of our meeting, we needed to walk to the other end of the conference center in the rain, so he grabbed my arm to help him stay steady—yes, I walked arm in arm with the Dalai Lama.

    I had dinner with Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman—he’s notable for his work on the psychology of judgment, decision-making, and behavioral economics, subjects that fascinate me. He’s the author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, among countless other accomplishments, and a person I was thrilled to meet.

    One very fun thing that happened—though I had nothing to do with it—was that "The Happiness Project" was an answer on the gameshow Jeopardy!

    Less flashy, but very gratifying, was that my personality framework of "Four Tendencies" was written up in a scientific journal.

    I’ve been on the cover of a few magazines. That’s surreal.

    I’ve also created several interesting projects. One-sentence journals, habit journals, mugs, Page-a-Day calendars, 21 Day Projects—I even designed a coloring book.

    My blog (which I now call my "site," because the very word "blog" seems old-fashioned) has been going strong for more than a decade. To celebrate the tenth anniversary, I created an e-book, The Best of the Happiness Project Blog—that was a lot of fun to put together.

    I started "Ask Gretchen Rubin Live," a weekly show on Facebook. It’s great to get a chance to talk about happiness, habits, and human nature with people in real time.

    I launched the free "Better" app to help people make their lives happier, healthier, more productive and more creative—just search "Better Gretchen Rubin" in the app store. It’s a place where you can join discussions, ask questions, weigh in, and form accountability groups.

    I also created my first video course to help more people harness the power of the Four Tendencies.

    Of everything I’ve written in the last ten years, I think my one-minute video "The Years Are Short" resonates most with people. It was a truth that I felt deeply at the time that I wrote The Happiness Project, and I feel it more deeply with every passing year. The days are long, but the years are short.

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:09 on 2018/10/18 Permalink
    Tags: , Can You Learn to be Lucky?, , Karla Starr, ,   

    “My Life Today Is the Sum Total of My Past Choices.” 

    Interview: Karla Starr.

    Karla Starr has written for O, The Atlantic, Slate, Popular Science, the Guardian, and the Los Angeles Times, and she received the Best Science/Health award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Her first book recently hit the shelves:  Can You Learn to Be Lucky? Why Some People Seem to Win More Often Than Others.

    Karla says, "The best way we can successfully deal with the unknown is by building our own character strengths: our flexibility, empathy, confidence, self-control, curiosity, self-esteem, humility, persistence, belief in our ability to improve, and the ability to simply show up. The key to maximizing luck is simply to maximize what you bring to the table, plug yourself into many outlets, and be open to whatever comes along."

    I couldn’t wait to talk to Karla about happiness, habits, luck, and productivity.

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

    Karla: If I had to pick just one thing, it’s to get enough sleep. It’s the basis of physical and mental health, and I have no problems prioritizing it over everything else. When I go to bed early enough to wake up naturally, I have more energy, my brain works as well as it can, and I feel like a functional human.

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

    Karla: I knew nothing about happiness when I was 18; I just thought it was something for people who had summer houses, Ivy League scholarships, great wardrobes, and perfect test scores. But as it turns out, you can have all of those things and be miserable.

    Two people in the exact same situation can have completely different moods because of what they pay attention to and how they interpret it. Fortunately, we have complete control over those two things. Paying attention to something is what gives it power, which is why practicing gratitude is so important. I had no idea it was that simple.

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

    Karla: How much random, uncontrollable things influence our thoughts, behavior, and habits, which are entirely controllable.

    Small moments can alter our entire life’s trajectory by making us assume that it’s part of a larger pattern. For example, seeing someone try to cut in line at the grocery store can make us assume that they’re a jerk; if we see them later on, we’d probably ignore them or give them a look. But what if they were in a hurry to buy food for a sick friend, and felt awful about cutting in line? We never get a chance to find out if we’re wrong.

    Our brains love patterns, even though this means seeing regularities in the environment that may not actually exist.

    I was surprised to find out how easily this can happen when we get information about ourselves. If a grade school teacher tells us that we’re not cut out for music, we learn that we’re no good. So So we’ll never practice, get more flustered when we do, and assume that improving is harder for us than others—even though getting better takes time for everyone. More often, however, we’ll just quit. We don’t realize how many aspects of our life are self-fulfilling prophecies, and the lengths that people will go to in order to avoid being wrong about themselves and the world, even when it might lead to positive change.

    Our social environments play a huge role. Imagine someone with jaded friends who goes on a few dates that turn out to be bad. They might begin to think of dating as a pointless endeavor, and start acting distant or slightly hostile towards others—the very behavior that drives people away. Over time, they might conclude that they’re fated to be alone, stop giving new people a chance, or never meeting people. Guess what? That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You never learn that you’re wrong.

    Think of a story you might attribute to luck, like getting an offer for your dream job meeting the love of your life, getting your startup funded, or being accepted into your first choice school. We don’t see the lifetime of good habits that went into these moments, like attending networking events every week and keeping in touch with professional contacts for years, or staying positive after years of bad dates. No one posts on Facebook about living off of ramen and having tons of roommates while developing their app, or that they studied for a standardized test every weekend for two years.

    Actions that lead to larger rewards in the future often feel less rewarding in the present, and change itself can be difficult. It can take longer to see those larger fruits of beneficial habits than people realize. Doubting the value of good habits can make people inconsistent enough to never see change, or give up prematurely. Change takes time. Different habitual ways of responding to what happens to us create wildly different life trajectories over time.

    I was surprised to see how many aspects of life are self-fulling prophecies: when people become convinced that certain outcomes won’t happen, we never really try to make them happen. And guess what? We’re right—even if it started because of a random comment.

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

    Karla: I used to think that exercise was torture, and that being athletic just wasn’t in the cards for me. I used the research to turn it around: bit by bit, I made everything associated with a healthy lifestyle as positive and rewarding as possible. I found an activity that I really enjoyed and a coach I connected with. I started befriending people at the gym, got workout clothes that I loved, and focused on how good it felt to get better. My attitude towards health has done a complete 180. I even won a competition at my gym this past year!

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

    Karla: Absolutely no one who knows me will be surprised that I’m a Questioner! I researched my book for years and am obsessed with learning. I hate the feeling of being forced to do something just for the sake of doing it. But if I have a good reason, I have no problem moving time and space for something that I want to do.

    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?

    Karla: "One coin won’t make you rich, but the only way to get rich is by collecting coins." [Gretchen: This is one of my favorite teaching stories! Here's an episode of A Little Happier where I talk about it.] My life today is the sum total of my past choices. Each small action may feel inconsequential, but every one counts. Every smart decision you make adds value to your future self. Books are read and written one word at a time, well-being is improved one healthy decision at a time, relationships are strengthened one kind deed at a time, retirement accounts grow one dollar at a time, and marathons are finished one step at a time. Every extra minute of reading, writing, brownie-skipping, gym-hitting, hugging, thanking, saving, and stepping adds up over time. Everything counts.

    Gretchen: In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Karla: People think that personality traits and intelligence are static, but our brains are much more plastic and malleable than we realize, at any age. Personality traits also depend on the situation we find ourselves in: everyone becomes more conscientious when they’re about to finish a project they really want to complete, or more extroverted when they see a great friend they really want to catch up with. Our lifestyles and social environments shape what we think we’re capable of, especially the habits among people in your social circle. As the narrative we tell ourselves about our life starts to take shape over time, people settle into a story of who we are, and make a habit of putting ourselves in situations where we’re most comfortable.

    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.?

    Karla: Last year, when I was working on my last chapter on the importance and difficulty of open-mindedness, I had a health scare. One of my friends said she’d pray for me, and I replied that it wasn’t a good use of her time. After talking, I ended up testing the advice that I was giving in that chapter: what if I was wrong, and there was a divine presence in the universe? Why was I stubbornly refusing to even consider it? What was the worst that could happen if I was wrong?

    It felt so odd to challenge such a core belief, especially one I’d been writing about for years. But what if the universe wasn’t just made of chaos and randomness—what if coincidences were meaningful? A few days after my scare, I started to act “as if.”

    If you do everything in your power to make your future brighter, stay flexible about the outcome, and have patience that things will eventually work out, they will. Another word for luck is faith.

    can you learn

     
  • feedwordpress 11:00:58 on 2018/10/16 Permalink
    Tags: analysis-paralysis, article, , , , Julie Payette, Questioners, Rebels,   

    Can You Spot the Tendency of Canada’s Governor General? 

    I love seeing the Four Tendencies framework at work in the world.

    A thoughtful reader sent me a link to this fascinating article from Canada’s National Post, “Failure to launch: Inside Julie Payette’s turbulent first year as Governor General” with the note that judging from the article, she figured that Julie Payette was a QUESTIONER/Rebel, and did I agree?

    After reading the article, I absolutely agree.

    Julie Payette was the Canadian Space Agency’s former chief astronaut, former chief operating officer of the Montreal Science Centre, and an engineer—plus she speaks six languages and is a skilled pianist. She’s now in a very different professional role, as Canada’s Governor General. (If you don’t know what this role entails, it becomes very clear in the article.)

    So what kinds of behavior and patterns do we expect to see from Questioners? A drive for efficiency and justification. A love of research and information. A resistance to anything arbitrary. A disdain for arguments like “We’ve always done it this way” or “Because this expert says we have to do it.” A belief in their own judgments. A willingness to stick to their convictions about the best way to do something, even if that means conflict with outer expectations.

    We might also see a dislike for answering others’ questions or providing justifications. We might see analysis-paralysis.

    The article makes a crucial point, and one that we all know from our own experiences: someone can be outstanding in many respects, and yet not suited to a particular role. In my observation, when the core value of a person’s Tendency conflicts with the values of their role, that’s a big problem. If an Upholder works in a place that demands a lot of flexibility and tacit rule-bending, that might be tough. If an Obliger works in a place that requires being a self-starter, that might be tough. If a Rebel works in a place that requires a lot of oversight, coordination, and direction from the top, that might be tough.

    And if a Questioner is working in an environment that’s heavily influenced by tradition and is expected to observe and enforce rules that are somewhat arbitrary, that will be tough.

    The framing paragraph for the article reads: “Payette is perfectly suited to be an astronaut, but much less so for a job defined by strict adherence to convention, and which comes with constant public scrutiny.

    Here are some key passages from the (very long) article:

    “Payette called senior officials within the government, sources said, upset over the expectation she rearrange her schedule to accommodate the ceremony and questioning whether she actually had to be there. Could a Supreme Court justice preside instead?”

    “Payette has been locked in a year-long battle with the expectations and restraints that come with being governor general: demands on her personal time, expectations of how she should dress, what she can say in public and how she should work with politicians, diplomats and bureaucrats.”

    “Payette does not take kindly to the idea of simply rubber-stamping bureaucratic decisions. Unlike her predecessors, she questions much of the advice she receives and the papers put on her desk for signature, they said. It has sometimes been difficult to get timely sign-off from Payette on matters such as approving the awarding of honours like the Order of Canada.”

    “Michael Cox, president of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, said, “We simply got an email saying Her Excellency could not accommodate us this year.” The organization, which minted brand-new medals this year with a design symbolically representing the royal connection, did not receive any explanation, according to Cox.”

    “Some of the tension in the vice-regal community comes simply from Payette’s tendency to question why she should adhere to rules that she considers asinine, and that those surrounding her consider sacrosanct.”

    “In late May, Payette wore her NASA Exceptional Service Medal for an international symposium on honours and heraldry at Rideau Hall. In doing so, she appears to have contravened an Order-in-Council setting out what Governors General can display on their person — what some say is a technical violation of the law, and in a room full of the very people who care more about such rules than anybody else in the world.”

    “The space medal incident, which has become infamous in Canada’s small circle of honours experts, may seem trivial beyond that community. Given that the entire essence of Payette’s job as governor general is ceremonial, her purpose to uphold protocol, to some observers such transgressions raise the question of why Payette accepted the job in the first place.”

    “As remarkable and accomplished as Payette undoubtedly is, it is possible her particular skills, priorities and personality were always going to make her a difficult fit for the role.”

    “The Globe and Mail reported last week that Payette has ruffled the feathers of her security detail, which feels she has put her own safety at risk by keeping them ill-informed of her whereabouts.”

    “In the first six months, I was like, ‘I want her to succeed,’ ” said one long-time observer of the office. “She looks great on paper, her resume says she should be a great success at this, and be able to connect in a way in which other people have not been able to. But it’s been—it’s just the wrong personality for this job.”

    What do you think? To me it sounds like a brilliant Questioner—in a position that cuts against the Questioner Tendency.

    If you want to take my short, free quiz, to find out if you’re a Questioner, Upholder, Obliger, or Rebel, take it here. Almost 1.7 million people have taken it at this point.

    If you want to dive deeper into the Four Tendencies and learn how to harness the strengths and manage the weaknesses or you Tendency, take my new video course.

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:31 on 2018/10/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , KJ Dell'Antonia, ,   

    “Worrying About Something You Fear Doesn’t Prevent It; It Does Keep You from Enjoying What You’re Doing Right Now.” 

    Interview: KJ Dell'Antonia.

    I've known KJ for many years. We first met when she was the editor of Motherlode, the New York Times online section devoted to "adventures in parenting" -- a section that  evolved into Well Family, where she was also a contributing editor.

    While she was there, KJ was my editor when I did a short Motherlode series about my love of picture books -- ah, what a joy it was to write about my favorite picture books! You can read what I wrote about Little Bear, Blueberries for Sal, The Little Engine That Could, or about the picture books that fill me with dread. And after my commentary, you can read KJ's commentary.

    Along with writer, teacher, and education expert Jessica Lahey, KJ also is the co-host of a terrific podcast #AmWriting, all about writing and getting things done. (My sister Elizabeth was a guest on an episode, and so was I.)

    As if all this weren't enough, KJ just published a terrific book: How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute.

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

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

    KJ: I’m a planner. For example, I write every day. I plan when I’ll write the day before (it’s usually first thing after I drop my kids at school in the morning which isn’t really first thing in the morning). If I can’t write then, I decide when I can write. I do the same thing with exercise (I don’t do much but I do it every day). I even block in space for little tasks. Right now, I need to decide how much my car is worth as trade-in. That’s minor and not really work, but it has to get done, and it won’t get done unless I plan a time to do it and then do—so I do.

    Possibly the most relevant side effect of this is that if I don’t plan a time to do something, it probably wasn’t important to me in the first place.

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

    KJ: I didn’t know anything about being happy when I was 18 years old! I thought you found happiness in other people, which, not surprisingly, never, ever worked. So the list of things I know now that I didn’t know then is long, but here’s a favorite—worrying about something you fear doesn’t prevent it, and it does keep you from enjoying whatever you’re doing right now. Plus, when things do go wrong, all we ever want is to be back in our nice cozy ordinary lives again—the ones we spent worrying about things that might go wrong! So, don’t do that.

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

    KJ: My research is in the area of what makes parents happier, or less happy, and most people are surprised by what a consensus there is around what we most hate doing—which is disciplining our kids. Enforcing the rules, getting them to do chores, dealing with them when they screw up—we don’t like that, and we also don’t feel like we know how (which always makes people less happy). I don’t think our own parents felt that way.

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

    KJ: I stew. I pick something I’m worried about and then I worry it to death, or just go over it and over it and over it, especially on a long drive. I just soak in it. I had one setback, two years ago now, that I will STILL sometimes stew over when my brain just needs something to grab onto. Knowing I do it helps, but not enough.

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

    KJ: I plan our entire week every Sunday. I have four kids, I work 30-40 hours a week and I help to manage our horse barn, so our weeks tend to have a lot of moving parts. Planning what’s going to happen when, who’s going to get who where and what we’re going to have for dinner every weeknight is key to my happiness. I’ve learned that I hate it when I feel rushed or harried, and I always feel harried without a plan. That said, it has to be MY plan. Unless I’ve already taken a deep breath and made a decision to just go along with it, I don’t usually like other people’s plans. My plans are better.

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

    KJ: I run a mile every day. I hate running. I hate mandatory exercising, really. I hate having to do anything physical, I hate having a plan to meet someone to work out or a scheduled class. I get bored with nearly every physical activity in about 25 minutes. But obviously I need to do something.

    My husband has a treadmill, and I ‘d been reading about interval training, and I thought, well, I’ll run for three minutes four times with a minute in between. Anybody can run for three minutes, right?

    That turned out to be about a mile, and after a while, the walking minutes in between started dragging the whole thing out. So I decided the mile was my goal. That was a little over two years ago, and now I’m a little compulsive about it. I get up every day and just do it first thing, and then I’m done for the day—and even if I don’t get out of my chair for the whole rest of the day I’ve got that going for me.

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

    KJ: I’m a Rebel, although because I’ve held down jobs (maybe for not very long) and obviously I can get my writing done, it took me a while to figure that out—but nothing else fit. Then I remembered how, even as a kid, I would say to myself “I don’t have to do that (homework, show up to class, not steal stuff). I just choose to, because I don’t want the consequences.” And once I knew, it was so clear—and it really does help me to know. Now, when I actually want to do something, I make sure to remind myself I don’t have to, and I usually don’t set a time. I also use the strategy of making it part of my identity—and I also rebel by defying other people’s expectations that I can’t or won’t do certain things.

    I credit my dad for helping me be a successful Rebel. He’s one himself (with a big Questioner bent), and he’s always setting out to prove people wrong. You say I can’t put myself through college? The hell I can’t! Say I’m not good enough for that job? The hell I’m not!

    It’s kind of a combative approach to life but it works for him. I’m less combative about it, but it works for me, too.

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

    KJ: If I don’t run first thing in the morning, it’s hard for me to do it at all. (If I’ve planned on a time, I usually can, but if there’s no plan beyond “I’ll do it later” it’s not happening. Similarly, If I don’t meditate right after I run, I almost certainly won’t. Clearly pairing works well for me!

    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.? 

    KJ: In one of Laura Vanderkam’s early books, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, she reminds us that most of what we do every day involves some kind of choice. You’re “too busy” to chaperone the field trip but not “too busy” to drive 5 hours round trip to pick up a kitten your family has been waiting for—because you choose the kitten, but not the field trip. (That might just be me.)

    So I stopped saying I was “too busy,” ever—because I’m not too busy. If I want to do it, I’ll find time. If I don’t, I won’t. For the most part, with some exceptions, it’s that simple—and recognizing that changed how I looked at my time, which I think changed my life.

    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?

    KJ: “Decide what to do, then do it.” That’s one of my mantras for parental happiness, from my book How to Be a Happier Parent—but I find it generally applicable. I often feel frozen at the beginning of a project or when faced with a lot of choices. “Decide what to do, then do it,” reminds me just to pick a road or a topic or a small piece of the job and start. You can nearly always change course, but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t start.

    How to be a Happier Parent

     
  • 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?

     
  • feedwordpress 15:20:07 on 2018/09/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    What I Read This Month: September 2018 

    For more than two years now, every Monday morning, I've posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads

    I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve completed.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I now put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

    This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read in August 2018, the full list is here.

    September 2018 Reading

    Turn: The Journal of an Artist by Anne Truitt - artist Anne Truitt wrote three brilliant memoirs; this is the third. I highly recommend all three.

    A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian - by the author of Goodnight, Mr. Tom, a book I discovered recently. I really enjoyed this novel.

    Red, White, Blue by Lea Carpenter - Lea is a friend, so I couldn't wait to read her novel—and it's excellent.

    In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden - this is my second time reading this book, which I love. I love books about a spiritual consciousness.

    A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler - a great story, told beautifully, very thought-provoking. I sense an Anne Tyler phase coming on.

    True Enough by Stephen McCauley - I just discovered McCauley's work. I really enjoyed this novel.

    Property by Lionel Shriver - I love the work of Lionel Shriver. LOVE. I don't usually read short stores, but loved this book, especially the first and last stories.

    The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald - an unusual, fascinating way to approach a novel. I wish I could take a class in which we discussed it.

    Inheritance by Dani Shapiro - couldn't put this memoir down, read it in one or two days. And so timely! The widespread availability of DNA information has personally affected so many people I know.

    Stories of my Life by Katherine Paterson - how I love the work of Katherine Paterson. Odd fact: she and Pearl S. Buck were both the children of missionaries in China.

    Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright - I've read this book about fifty times. I never tire of it. So good.

    Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson - this novel has been on my library list for years, really enjoyed it.

    Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography by Peter Conn - Pearl Buck phase continues. What a life!

    Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright - see above. So, so, so, so, so good.

    Weetzie Bat by Francesca Block - this short YA novel isn't quite like anything I've ever read before. Very interesting.

    The Child Who Never Grew by Pearl S. Buck - more Pearl Buck. This short book, originally published in Ladies' Home Journal if I remember correctly, was ground-breaking. At the time, few parents publicly discussed their children with special needs. Buck was a tireless advocate for this community.

    Who is Rich? by Matthew Klam - I really enjoyed this novel, especially because it was a brilliant portrait of the Four Tendencies. The main character is an Obliger who goes into classic, full Obliger-rebellion. (I wrote more about Rich's Obliger-rebellion in this post.)

    The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics by Bradley Tusk - Bradley is a friend, and it's always especially interesting to read a memoir by someone I know. This is a great one. You can listen to his interview on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast here.

    The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman - my husband had checked this novel out of the library and highly recommended it, so it was delivered into my hands. Very enjoyable. I've been meaning to read Rachman for a while.

    What are you reading this month?

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:12 on 2018/09/27 Permalink
    Tags: , Bradley Tusk, , ,   

    “I Get So Focused on Whatever I’m Doing That I Wake Up at 3 a.m. Just to Check My Email.” 

    Interview: Bradley Tusk.

    Through my husband, Bradley and I have been friends for several years  -- plus we also had the chance to work together briefly on an issue related to organ donation. Bradley has an unusual combination of qualities: he's highly thoughtful and contemplative, highly effective, and extremely comfortable with conflict.

    He's had a very colorful career. Among other roles, he was Deputy Governor of Illinois, campaign manager for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, worked with startups like Uber and Lemonade, and is the founder and CEO of Tusk Holdings, a multi-faceted platform that includes multiple businesses. I knew some of the highlights of his history, but I was excited to learn more of the details by getting my hands on my copy of his new book The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics.

    Because he's thought so much about happiness, habits, and productivity, I couldn't wait to interview Bradley on these subjects.

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

    Bradley: I never end a workday without having finished the day’s to-do list, made the next day’s list and returned or at least dealt with every incoming call, text and email. It’s not like things automatically stop happening once I do those things but it makes it a lot easier to enjoy the evening.

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

    Bradley: That the cliché about “it’s the journey, not the process” ended up being right. I spent way too long chasing specific achievements and then wondering why I wasn’t happier when each one happened. I still have a pretty ambitious list of goals but I now get that the work we do to achieve them is far more interesting, fulfilling and important than that one moment at the end when you check the box. Writing my book – The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups From Death By Politics – also helped me figure this out since it forced me to look back at my life and career and lay out how things happened.

    Gretchen: You’ve had fascinating experiences. What experience surprised or intrigued you – or your readers – most?

    Bradley: That nothing comes easy – and that there’s no secret book of knowledge or answers. Everyone’s mainly making it up as they go along and doing their best. The people who put the most into it, take the most risk, are willing to have the biggest ideas, and are willing to be held accountable tend to be the people who succeed. That was true even when I worked for Mike Bloomberg as his campaign manager. Mike’s a genius but it wasn’t like he inherently just knew everything. He put the work in. Every single day.

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

    Bradley: My kids – like all kids – never got ready for school when they were supposed to. I’d ask nicely half a dozen times and then start yelling. That never actually moved anything along, it just made everyone really upset. I realized what I was doing, spent a lot of time thinking about it, a lot of time working on it in therapy, a lot of time reminding myself and eventually, I stopped doing it altogether. They’re still usually late for school.

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

    Bradley: According to this, a Rebel, which is a relief since I work in technology and am supposed to disrupt things.

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

    Bradley: Boredom is the biggest problem. If I’m really busy and focused on whatever I’m trying to do, I’m usually good. But if I’m bored, that’s when I start causing the kind of trouble that’s counter-productive (although sometimes fun). The other is obsession. I get so focused on whatever I’m doing that I’ll wake up at 3am every morning just to check my email. That’s not healthy – whatever’s on there will still be there at 5am.

    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.?

    Bradley: I spent four years as Deputy Governor of Illinois. My boss was the now incarcerated, frequently insane Rod Blagojevich. About halfway through, I couldn’t take it anymore. I flew home to New York for a week with every intention of never going back. My friend Rob Galligan and I spent around three hours walking through Central Park, talking about why I hated Rod so much. And by the time we were done, I realized the job wasn’t about Rod. He was just an impediment. The job was about the ways we could help people and do things differently and what I could learn from it. Not shockingly, Rob went on to become a very successful therapist.

    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?

    Bradley: There’s a sign on the wall of my kids’ school that says “Character is what you do when no one is watching.” Whether it’s going home to get more bags and then back outside to pick up our dog’s poop off the street or making the extra effort to recycle or tipping every Uber driver even though the trip is over, you’re out of the car and will never see them again, I think about that sign — and do things I don’t really feel like doing — all the time.

    Gretchen: Has a book ever changed your life – if so, which one and why?

    Bradley: When I was in elementary school, I read a novel about politics called Advise and Consent by Alan Drury. The minute I finished the book, I knew I wanted to work in politics. Most of real life in politics wasn’t as exciting as the book but enough of it was that I’m grateful to the librarian who handed it to me.

    Gretchen: In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Bradley: As a venture capitalist, people outside the field tend to focus on the capitalist part and assume the point of the job is to just make as much money as possible. That’s obviously part of it, but every good VC I know cares far more about building new companies, launching new ideas and disrupting the status quo than just making a good return. You don’t become a VC to get rich. You become a VC because you like blowing things up.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:00:28 on 2018/09/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Matt Klam, , , , Who is Rich?   

    A Novel Depicts an Obliger in Deep Obliger-Rebellion (He Has an Affair and Spends All His Money) 

    On a recent trip to Texas, I finished Matt Klam’s novel Who Is Rich? This novel came out in 2017 and got a lot of buzz.

    It’s about the once-famous cartoonist Rich who has stalled out in his career. Every summer, he teaches a week-long class at an arts conference in a beachside town. He’s married with two children, and has also been carrying on an affair for a year with Amy, another teacher at the conference. The novel focuses on what happens during the week of the arts conference when Rich and Amy are there together again.

    I enjoyed the book very much, and I was especially interested to see the Four Tendencies in action. I’m always on the hunt for the Tendencies! This story involves two Obligers: Rich and Amy. Rich’s wife Robin may also be an Obliger, but we don’t see enough of her to judge.

    Rich is definitely an Obliger. He’s having Obliger thoughts and facing Obliger challenges; he shows Obliger strengths and weaknesses. He’s spinning out in major Obliger-rebellion.

    I won’t give away everything that happens, but his Tendency shows most clearly in a few places.

    For instance, he reflects, "People make you do things you don’t want to do." Now of course, all Tendencies have to do things they don’t want to do; this is true for everyone. But it has particular bite for Obligers.

    Rich’s wife Robin is always telling him they need more money; he doesn’t earn enough; they must scrimp and cut back. In an act of deep Obliger-rebellion, Rich buys Robin a $3,000 bracelet, a dollar amount that he knows will wipe out the checking account of their cash-strapped family. He thinks: "From this distance, Robin couldn’t do anything to stop me. I’d worked hard to earn these precious funds to buy a gift she didn’t want or need, to signify my love."

    Then, in further Obliger-rebellion, Rich doesn’t give the bracelet to his wife, but instead gives it to his lover Amy—who, by the way, is a multi-multi-millionaire. (For instance, to play in a softball game, she wears a pair of diamond earrings worth more than $220,000).

    When Obligers enter a state of Obliger-rebellion, they often feel that they’re acting out of character. They’re puzzled by their own actions. As he buys the bracelet, Rich thinks, "I attempted to interpret my irrational action. Had I ever done this kind of thing before? No. A life in the arts requires vigilance and restraint. Was my behavior out of character? Yes, technically, and also terrifyingly, although it was possible that this was merely the culmination of a period of interior deadness and anger, that something had been building for months, or years, that the recent and ongoing stresses had pushed me over the edge."

    Obliger-rebellion is mysterious and important. It blows up a situation—which can be beneficial, absolutely, but can also be destructive.

    Many people have emailed me with examples of the Four Tendencies they’ve spotted in books, TV, and movies. Keep them coming!

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:37 on 2018/09/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , Lisa Kohn, ,   

    “I Just Have to Choose to Notice the Good and Allow Myself to Enjoy It.” 

    Interview: Lisa Kohn.

    Lisa Kohn had a challenging childhood. Her mother was a member of the Unification Church, founded by Sun Myung Moon, and her father was part of the life of New York City's East Village in the 1970s. She was caught between two wildly different worlds, and this shaped the way she saw the world, herself, and other people.

    She's written a memoir of her experience, and how she found the resiliency to surmount the difficulties in her upbringing, in to the moon and back: a childhood under the influence.

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

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

    Lisa: As simple as it might sound, when I actively, intentionally practice mindfulness in a way that makes me notice things that are soothing or joy-creating for me, I am happier. By that I mean when I actively look for the yellow birds that I love - each time I see them I am happier. When I pause and notice the breeze on my skin, or the beautiful day, or the flowers around me, I am happier. When I throw myself into the moment - as I exercise or talk with friends or laugh and play, etc. - any and all of this can consistently make me happier. I just have to choose to notice the good and allow myself to enjoy it.

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

    Lisa: When I was 18 years old, I didn’t even know that I was unhappy, and I didn’t know that I deserved to be, and could be, happy. Because I was raised in a cult - as a Moonie - and 18 was about the age when I started to pull away from the cult, there wasn’t a lot of happiness in my life (or mind or heart) at that point. It took years for me to realize that I could be happy and to figure out ways to allow myself happiness. (I also didn’t know that, at least for me, self-love and self-compassion are at the root of allowing myself happiness and being happy.)

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

    Lisa: I wouldn’t say that I have habits, as in something I do or don’t do every day, but I do have negative thought patterns, or thought habits, that get in the way of my happiness. I can be be a worrier and filled with irrational fears. I can be a people pleaser and lose myself in panic that others will be upset or disappointed. I can push myself too hard and be too strict and rigid with myself. All of these thought patterns get in the way of my happiness. (And all of them are at least somewhat manageable when I go back to questions #1 and 2 and allow myself happiness and find moments and mindfulness that will ease my negative thought patterns.)

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

    Lisa: I have a number of habits that are most important to me. My physical health habits - I exercise in some way nearly every day. I run, practice yoga, lift weights, and move as much as I can. My mental and emotional health habits - I practice yoga roughly three times per week, and I meditate nearly every day. I also make time to sit, notice, practice mindfulness, etc., and I make time for family and friends, because I love to be connected with and to people.

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

    Lisa: I am proud of the fact that I meditate regularly - generally every day. However, the way I was able to build that habit is, perhaps, a bit different from the norm. Because I was raised in unstable environments, I became a very rigid rule follower. (I also believe that is related to my anorexia when I was younger.) In order to build a meditation habit, I had to allow myself to meditate “my way” - not to follow set rules or strict guidelines. I’ve sat quiet at times, sat quiet with a timer at times, sat quiet with a cup of tea at times, and sat quiet with an app making “white noise” in the background, but in all of these, I’ve allowed myself to not be too rigid. If I get rigid, then I worry that my meditation didn’t count, because I somehow did it “wrong.” Allowing myself space and the possibility that there was no right or wrong way to meditate helped me to build my meditation practice/habit.

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

    Lisa: I am clearly an Upholder. I think I was more of an Obliger and also a bit of a Rebel for a while (most likely when I left the Moonies), but I do keep my promises to myself and to (most) others. [Note: from her description of herself in her answers, I wonder if Lisa is actually an Obliger who has figured out ways to meet inner expectations.]

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

    Lisa: I have let travel and others’ expectations and needs get in the way of keeping my habits, but I’ve learned to make my habits my priority, because I am so much happier and better when I do.

    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.?

    Five years ago I was knocked to my knees with insomnia, for longer than I care to admit. I fought it, long and hard, but finally reached a point where I accepted what was and decided that if the rest of my life was going to be just lying on a couch every day, because that was all that I could physically, mentally, and emotionally do, than I was going to be okay with that, and I was going to find a way to be happy, no matter what. The experience changed - and loosened - some of my rigidity and perfectionism/self-non-acceptance.

    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?

    Lisa: I did thoroughly enjoy The Happiness Project. (I’m not just saying that - I kept thinking, “yes, yes.”) Two books that helped me move on most recently are The Gifts of Imperfection (Brene Brown) and Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach). The saying I repeat to myself the most now, when I’m afraid or anxious or hard on myself, is “I choose love.” It eases my heart and mind. I read this anonymous quote years ago in O, and it stayed with me - “When you die God and the angels will hold you accountable for all the pleasures in life that you denied yourself.” And although it’s not a motto or saying, I’ve found that putting my hand on my heart is very, very soothing.

    Gretchen: Tell me about your new memoir.

    My memoir is entitled to the moon and back: a childhood under the influence. It tells my story of growing up in the Moonies (and also in the sordid East Village scene in the 1970s) and gives a glimpse into how I learned that I deserved happiness...and how I could find or build it.

    to the moon and back by Lisa Kohn

     
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