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

    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 12:00:06 on 2017/12/22 Permalink
    Tags: Blog Post, , , 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 17:38:24 on 2017/12/17 Permalink
    Tags: Blog Post, , , , ,   

    Beautiful Color! Coral and Apple-Green and Lavender and Faint Orange, and Indian Blue. 

    From F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby:

    Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing-gowns and ties, and his shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high.

    “I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall.”

    He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher — shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.

    “They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such — such beautiful shirts before.”

    As soon as I started writing about color, I looked up this passage from The Great Gatsby. It's one of my favorite passages about color.

    The question, of course, is -- why is Daisy crying?

    If you know any other beautiful passages describing color, please let me know. Color obsession continues!

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:37 on 2017/12/16 Permalink
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    Use the Four Tendencies to Tackle Your New Year’s Resolutions (Or Not). 

    Because I study happiness, good habits, and human nature, I've done a lot of thinking about New Year's resolutions.

    In fact, when I was identifying the Four Tendencies -- my framework that divides the world into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels -- thinking about various reactions to New Year's resolutions gave me an important insight into how people see the world differently.

    So how do the Four Tendencies respond to New Year's resolutions? How can they meet any challenges they face?

    Obligers:

    Obligers often say, “I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore because I never manage to keep them—I never make time for myself.” They're discouraged because they've tried and failed in the past.

    The solution is easy: Create outer accountability. Want to read more? Join a book group. Want to exercise? Join a class, work out with a trainer, meet a friend who expects company, think of the duty to be a role model for other people...there are hundreds of ways to build outer accountability. And that's what Obligers need. It's not a matter of motivation, setting priorities, putting themselves first; they must have outer accountability to meet inner expectations.

    Questioners:

    Questioners are good at keeping resolutions that they set for themselves, but they usually start them whenever the time seems right. Often, they won't wait for the New Year, because they object that "January 1 is just an arbitrary date. And it's not efficient to wait to do something that I could start now."

    If Questioners struggle, it's usually because they're not convinced that this resolution is the best, most efficient way for them to meet their aim -- or they don't trust the judgment of the person encouraging them to make a change.

    To do a better job of keeping a resolution, they should do their research, get clarity on why they're pursuing a certain aim in a certain way, and reassure themselves that this approach makes the most sense. Questioners sometimes face "analysis-paralysis," when they want perfect information before moving ahead. It's helpful for them to remember, "At a certain point, it's not efficient to keep researching. To get the benefit of my resolution, I need to get started without more delay."

    Rebels:

    Rebels generally don't bind themselves in advance, so a New Year's resolution might not appeal to them. They want to do what they want, in their own way, in their own time -- not because they promised themselves they'd do it.

    On the other hand, some Rebels love the challenge of a New Year's resolution: "My family thinks I can't give up sugar for a year? Well, watch me!" or "Starting January 1, I'm going to work on my novel, and I'm going to finish by December 31st."

    Upholders:

    Upholders often make and keep New Year's resolutions. Upholders are great at this sort of thing.

    People often ask me, "Is it a good idea to make New Year's resolutions?"

    The fact is, there's no one-size-fits-all solution for happiness and good habits. If making a New Year's resolution appeals to you, try it. If you dislike the idea, don't. There's no special magic to it. I think it's great to have milestones that remind us to consider our lives and how we could be happier, and January 1 is a great opportunity for self-reflection, but whether that's the New Year, your birthday, an important anniversary doesn't matter. It's whatever works for you.

    If you want to keep a resolution -- for the New Year, or at any other time -- knowing your Tendency can help you stick to it. This knowledge provides important clues for how to address any challenges that might come up.

    If you're an Obliger, spending a lot of time focusing on motivation won't help. If you're a Rebel, signing up for a class probably won't work. If you're a Questioner, you're not going to follow someone else's program without questions.

    Has understanding your Tendency changed the way you approach New Year's resolutions? I'd love to hear examples about the Four Tendencies in action. If you want to learn more about the Four Tendencies, get a copy of my latest New York Times bestseller, The Four Tendencies.

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:01 on 2017/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: Blog Post, , ,   

    More Gift-Giving Suggestions! 7 of My Favorite Suggestions from the “Happier” Podcast. 

    On the "Happier with Gretchen Rubin" podcast, Elizabeth and I have mentioned several items that might make good gifts. So, in case gift-finding is turning into a Happiness Stumbling Block for you, consider these:

    Flying Wish Paper -- this is so fun to use. You see it fly into the air, and you get to make a wish. Very dramatic. Fun for the whole family, as they say.

    Hard-boiled egg-maker -- how I love my egg cooker! I use it constantly. Hard-boiling eggs is a breeze.

    Tabletopics Family: Questions to Start Great Conversations -- my mother brought this to the holiday table a few years ago, and we've really enjoyed the family conversations it has prompted.

    Electric foot callus remover -- if you want to hear me laugh uncontrollably as Elizabeth describes giving this gift to her mother-in-law, listen here.

    Pads of paper, mugs, post-it notes, etc. personalized with a person's name -- I use Zazzle.com, but I'm sure there are many places to get this done. I learned this tip from Elizabeth's gift-giving habits: adding someone's name, or a personalized image, makes an ordinary gift seem much more special.

    Book weight -- Admittedly, this is a very specialized gift, but for the person who can use it, it's wonderful. It's a weight that will hold a book open to a certain page -- great for people like me, who need to refer to books and take notes. Perhaps if you know someone who is writing a Ph.D., or has to write a lot of papers for school.

    FREE VALUABLE GIFT to give or receive -- PODCASTS! If you already know how to subscribe to podcasts, you can teach someone who doesn't know how, and supply that person a few listening suggestions. In my experience, once people try listening a few times, they love podcasts. And podcasts are free! and easy to use!

    Or, if you don't know how to listen to podcasts, write that on your holiday list. Ask someone to teach you. It's like getting a free subscription to cable TV.

    And of course, I must put in a plug for my own books, journals, calendar, coloring book, mugs, and so forth. In January, I always get a big spike in email from people who received one of my books as a holiday gift -- that's always so fun.

    What are some of your favorite gifts to give?

     
  • gretchenrubin 20:25:46 on 2017/12/12 Permalink
    Tags: Blog Post, , , , ,   

    Need Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas? Here are the 7 Books I Most Often Give as Gifts. 

    I love giving books as gifts -- during the holiday season, and throughout the year. I constantly recommend a million books, but there is a handful of books that I find myself giving over and over, because they've had such an influence on me.

    Here are the seven that I most often give as gifts:

    1. Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes.

    As I write about in Better Than Before, this book changed my life in dramatic ways, and all for the better. It also changed my father's life. I hand this book out constantly. It's easy to read, interesting, and (for me) utterly convincing.

    2. A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander.

    I'm not a visual person, and this book was a revelation to me; it allowed me to understand space and design in an entirely new way.

    3. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte.

    Yes, I know, it's the worst title ever, but it's a gorgeous, brilliant book that changed the way that I think about information. I just gave this book to a friend last week.

    4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

    This is the novel that I give someone who's stuck in the hospital and needs to be distracted. It's so absorbing and exciting.

    5. Selected Essays by George Orwell.

    I admire Orwell's writing tremendously, and am always trying to encourage other people to read his work.

    6. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

    This is by far the most useful and entertaining parenting book that I've ever read. I use the advice to deal more effectively with my daughters, and also with adults. I've probably read it five times.

    7. Open by Andre Agassi.

    I don't know anything about tennis, but I love memoirs, so I read this book because so many people praised it as a memoir. It's a brilliant, fascinating book, but I give it as a gift because it's an astonishingly accurate portrait of an Obliger. Some people make inaccurate assumptions about the Obliger personality, so I often say, "Read Open, and you'll get a very different understanding of how this Tendency can play out." (Don't know what an Obliger is? Read here.)

    I hear from a lot of people who give my books as gifts, and that's always thrilling to hear.

    What books do you most often give as gifts?

    You'll notice that I didn't include any works of children's literature or young-adult literature. That's a whole different category. If you'd like to see my 81 favorite works of kidlit, look here.

     
  • gretchenrubin 13:15:01 on 2017/12/10 Permalink
    Tags: Blog Post, , Edna St. Vincent Millay, ,   

    Ever Get the Feeling that You Just Can’t Contain the Beauty of the World? 

    O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
       Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
       Thy mists, that roll and rise!
    Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
    And all but cry with colour!   That gaunt crag
    To crush!   To lift the lean of that black bluff!
    World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
    Long have I known a glory in it all,
             But never knew I this;
             Here such a passion is
    As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
    Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
    My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
    No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.
    -- Edna St. Vincent Millay, "God's World"
     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:01 on 2017/12/09 Permalink
    Tags: Blog Post, , ,   

    My London Color Adventure, Part II — Getting My “Color Season” Analyzed. 

    The other day, I wrote about my decision to have color adventures while I was visiting London.

    Before I left New York City, I'd made a plan to visit the Lycurgus Cup in the British Museum.

    As reluctant as I usually am to have spontaneous adventures (Upholder), I did have an unplanned color adventure during my visit.

    I got the idea for this adventure from the brilliant journalist Hannah Betts. Talking to Hannah was a fantastic experience, because she's so funny and thought-provoking, and because she knows my work so well. She's a Rebel who has embraced her Tendency in a big way, with great results -- it was very fun (and gratifying) for me to hear about her experiences.

    It turns out that Hannah is also very interested in color, and she convinced me to get my colors analyzed, to discover my "season." You can read her piece about this kind of color analysis here, "What Clothes Season Are You? Are you spring or winter? The 1980s trend of getting your ‘colours’ done is proving a hit with a new generation."

    I'm not very good about making spontaneous plans, or adding new items to an already crowded to-do list, but I thought, "This is a color adventure! I should do it!" She made it easy by telling me exactly how to go about it.

    So I made an appointment with Red Leopard and consultant Ilka Dunn did the color analysis. Spoiler alert: I'm an "Autumn."

    While I was there, I also met Melissa Nicholson, who has a clothing line, Kettlewell, where she creates clothes featuring that reflect this color system.

    It was fascinating to think about color in a new way, and also talk to two people who are as passionate about color as I am. Since I started getting interested in color, I've been surprised to learn that there are many more fellow color-obsessives out there than I thought.

    Talking to these two also made something clear to me about myself: Ilka and Melissa were both highly visual, while I'm not visual at all. One reason I'm drawn to the study of color is that it helps me to key into the visual world, which is a practice that doesn't come naturally to me. But I have to approach color through words -- that's why I'm writing a little book about color! I can only see it by reading and writing about it.

    Are you good at having adventures when you travel?

     
  • gretchenrubin 22:06:09 on 2017/12/08 Permalink
    Tags: Blog Post, , , ,   

    Looking for Holiday Gifts? Consider These Suggestions. (Warning: Blatant Self-Promotion!) 

    'Tis the season to buy presents, and most of us can use some good suggestions. So be warned, I’m going to make a plug for my various creations -- books, journals, calendar, coloring book, and even mugs.

    The Happiness Project was a #1 New York Times bestseller, on the bestseller list for more than two years, translated into more than 30 languages, and was even a question on the quiz show Jeopardy! (Which was quite surreal, I must admit.) I spent a year test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific research, and lessons from pop culture to figure out how to be happier.

    Happier at Home is about how to be...you guessed it...happier at home. Of everything I've ever written, this book is my sister Elizabeth's favorite. Time, possessions, neighborhood, clutter (of course), the sense of smell -- I got to write about so many great subjects in this book. Also a New York Times bestseller.

    Better Than Before is all about how to make or break habits -- so if you know someone who's planning to make 2018 a happier, healthier, more productive year, this book might be a big help. It turns out it's not that hard to change your habits -- when you know how to do it in the way that's right for you. Also a New York Times bestseller.

    The Four Tendencies is my newest book, and is all about a personality framework I discovered. When you know if you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, many things in life become much clearer. And when you know other people's Tendencies, that's a big help as well. Great for health-care professionals, managers, colleagues, teachers, parents, sweethearts. Also a New York Times bestseller.

    Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill -- ah, what a joy it was to write that book! I wrote it thinking, “I want to write an accessible, manageable book about Churchill so that people can learn enough about him to want to tackle the giant biographies.” I wanted everyone to be as interested in Churchill as I was. What I've learned, however, is that the people who enjoy my book most are the people who already know a lot about him. So if you know someone who is a big Churchill fan, he or she might enjoy it. Also a bestseller.

    Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal -- a one-sentence journal is a manageable, realistic way to keep a journal. Writing one single sentence is something that most people can manage, and one sentence is enough to hang on to memories.

    Better Than Before Day-by-Day Journal -- this journal is designed to make it easier to stick to your good habits. There are tips, quotes, trackers, "don't break the chain" boxes, and everything else to make it easier to achieve what you want.

    Happier 2018 Page-a-Day Calendar -- this calendar one page for each day of the year, with a strategy, tip, quotation, or reminder. I like formats that let me read one item a day; it makes it easy to digest information and put it to use. (Some people have asked if the content differs from the 2017 calendar. Yes, it does.)

    Happiness Project Mini Posters: a Coloring Book of 20 Hand-lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame -- I love the trend of adults returning to the love of coloring books -- meditative, creative, fun, and also makes it harder to snack. As someone who is obsessed with color, I love any excuse to pull out my colored pencils or fancy markers.

    Mugs! For a fan of the Happier podcast, I have a "Happier" mug. And for fans of the Four Tendencies, I have a mug for Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel -- each one featuring my favorite motto for that Tendency. For instance, the Rebel motto is, "You can't make me, and neither can I."

    What's the most memorable book you've received as a gift?

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:06 on 2017/12/07 Permalink
    Tags: Blog Post, , ,   

    My London Color Adventure, Part I — the Lycurgus Cup in the British Museum. 

    I'm in London to promote my book The Four Tendencies, and to make my explorations of London even more fun, I decided to have some color-related adventures while I'm here.

    Now why color?

    I spend most of my time reflecting and writing on human nature -- happiness, habits, the Four Tendencies, and so on. But I've e also developed an obsession with the subject of color. My interest in color has become so strong that I'm even going to try to write a little book about color, My Color Pilgrimage.

    Yesterday, I went to the British Museum for the first time -- how had I never been before? And I was able to see for myself the astonishing Lycurgus Cup.

    Most likely, this Roman cup dates from 4th century A.D., and it shows King Lycurgus of Thrace entangled in grapevines, for crimes against Dionysus.

    The cup is extraordinary because it has very unusual color properties: it's the only complete example of "dichroic" glass, which changes color when held up to light.

    When the light is seen in normal light, it looks opaque green. But when light shines through it, it turns red.

    The cup is exhibited with a light that slowly turns on and off, so I could watch the cup turn from brownish-green to red and back again. It's breath-taking.

    Apparently, even though the museum acquired the cup in the 1950s, scientists couldn't figure out how the color change occurred until the 1990s.

    It made me very happy to see the cup itself, and it also made me happy to have a little mission to give shape to my visit. I wasn't just walking around the museum, I was in search of Gallery 41 and the cup. It was also fun to see with my own eyes an object that I'd read about.

    Have you found ways to make visiting a new city more fun?

     
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