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  • feedwordpress 09:00:03 on 2019/05/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, , , Lori Gottlieb, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, mental health, , therapy   

    “The Most Important Habit I’ve Changed Is Going from Being Self-Critical to Being Kind to Myself While Holding Myself Accountable.” 


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    Interview: Lori Gottlieb.

    Lori Gottlieb is a bestselling writer and a practicing psychotherapist. I can't remember how I became aware of her work. Did I meet her at an event? Did I read a magazine story she wrote? Do we have a mutual friend? It's lost in the sands of time, but for some reason, for several years, I've paid particular attention to the career of Lori Gottlieb. I know I read her books Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough and Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self.

    Now she has a new book, an instant New York Times bestseller: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed.

    She also has a weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column in The Atlantic.

    I was eager to hear what she had to say about happiness and good habits.

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

    Lori: Breathing! This might sound strange, but as a therapist, I notice that sometimes people forget to breathe—I mean really replenishing themselves with air. We tend to take shallow, short breaths as we rush through our days, but a simple way to make you happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative is to close your eyes and take a one-minute breathing break (slow, deep breaths) every so often throughout the day. It resets you both physiologically and emotionally. This one easy practice really works wonders!

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

    I’ve discovered that happiness—a lasting sense of peace or contentment—is simply a byproduct of living your life in a fulfilling way. This will mean something different for each person, and that’s important to remember when comparing your own happiness to what you imagine other people’s happiness looks like. (You’re often wrong.) If you live your life with intention—What am I doing and why am I doing it? Am I really trapped doing what I don’t like or are there other options? Am I wasting time today on people or activities that don’t matter?—the happiness follows.

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

    I started to notice that many of my therapy patients were so unkind to themselves. There were these critical voices in their heads that they weren’t even aware of. I had one therapy patient write down everything she said to herself in the course of a few days, and when she came back the next week, she was almost embarrassed to read it to me. “I’m such a bully to myself!” she said. “If I talked this way to any of my friends, I wouldn’t have friends anymore!”

    The more I saw this in my patients, the more I made a concerted effort to be kind to myself. Being kind and having self-compassion doesn’t mean that you don’t take responsibility for your mistakes or what you’d like to do differently. But you don’t have to self-flagellate while you take responsibility. In fact, the kinder you are to yourself, the easier it will be to make the necessary changes.

    Also, having self-compassion breeds compassion for others, so being kinder to yourself also tends to improve the other relationships in your life. Hands down, the single most important habit I’ve changed is going from being self-critical to being kind to myself while still holding myself accountable.

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

    According to the quiz, I’m a Rebel. Not surprising, given that I went from being a film and TV executive to medical student to journalist to therapist! It was a very circuitous route, and people often thought I was crazy to leave what I was doing for something else. But I did what I wanted to do—it was my life to live, after all, not theirs—and in the end, it makes so much sense. Everything I’ve done and continue to do are related to my greatest interests and passions: story and the human condition.

    I went from telling fictional stories (in film and TV) to real people’s stories (in medical school), and then from telling people’s stories (as a journalist) to helping people change their stories (as a therapist).

    If I hadn’t had some “Rebel” in me, I wouldn’t have taken those risks.

    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.?

    In the book, I write about my experience treating a young newlywed who’s diagnosed with breast cancer. Her doctors think she’ll be fine—it’s a very treatable form of cancer—and after surgery and chemotherapy, she is. But then, six months later, on a routine scan they discover a rare, aggressive form of cancer, and they tell her she has only a few years to live.

    “Will you stay with me until I die?” she asks. It was such a profound experience, looking death in the eye with her in way we normally don’t, and it made me consider my own mortality in a new way, a healthier way. We can deny death completely, even though we’re all going to die one day—and most of us have no idea how or when—or we can have some awareness of it so that we can pay more attention to the time we do have.

    There were many lightning bolts moments with her, but one stands out. In a session, she said that because of her illness, she noticed how much other people put things off for the future—I’m going to apply for that job I really want next year; I’ll try dating again after I’m done with this project in the summer; I’ll apologize to my sibling or repair that relationship when I’m not so busy—but what, she wondered, is everyone waiting for? I remember sitting in that session and thinking, “What am I waiting for?” It changed how I approached my daily life—I stopped putting the important things off for “later.”

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

    “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” - Viktor Frankl

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

    I think a common misperception of therapy is that you go in, talk about your childhood ad nauseam, and never leave (or leave years and years later). In my book, I wanted to bring people directly into the therapy room to show them what therapy really is. Therapists will hold up a mirror to you so that you can see your reflection more clearly. We all have blind spots, ways of shooting ourselves in the foot over and over and ending up in the same place because of something we’re doing that we aren’t aware of.

    Therapy is about helping people relate to themselves and others more smoothly so that they don’t have to struggle so much. We all struggle, of course, but we can change our role in it, and our response to it. That what therapy teaches you how to do. And then you leave—our goal is to encourage your independence, to get you not to need us anymore, to be able to manage life’s universal challenges more easily with the insight and tools you gained in therapy. As the late psychotherapist John Weakland famously said, “Before successful therapy, it’s the same damn thing over and over. After successful therapy, it’s one damn thing after another.”

    Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:35 on 2019/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, failure, , It's Great to Suck at Something, Karen Rinaldi,   

    “Happiness Doesn’t Mean We Are Feeling ‘Happy’ All of the Time.” 


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    Interview: Karen Rinaldi.

    Karen Rinaldi has a double bookish identity. She's worked in the publishing industry for decades, and is now the publisher of Harper Wave, an imprint that she founded.

    She's also a writer herself. She wrote the novel The End of Men, and now she has a new non-fiction book with an absolutely great title and premise: (It's Great to) Suck at Something: The Unexpected Joy of Wiping Out and What It Can Teach Us About Patience, Resilience, and the Stuff that Really Matters.

    She makes the case for why it's great to push yourselves, try new things, and find joy in the pursuit rather than the goal.

    I myself have been trying to tap into this kind of joy during my frustrations at trying to learn to play the ukulele!  (#7 on my "19 for 2019" list).

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

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

    Karen: Surfing!

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

    Karen: Happiness doesn’t mean we are feeling “happy” all of the time. We can be “happy” but still experience sadness, frustration, anger, loneliness—which are all part of what it means to be an open-hearted human. Our attachment to those negative feelings is what gets in the way of our happiness. But respecting those more uncomfortable feelings, making room for them, and not judging them allows us to release them and make room for happiness.

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

    Karen: I don’t know yet what my readers think but what surprised me the most while writing my book was that with every deep inquiry, in much of the research and reading, the philosophy and the science—it all kept leading me back to concepts and questions of the divine. I wasn’t expecting to wind up there at each turn, but it was a beautiful and unexpected journey. I was humbled by humankind’s constant search to understand meaning and to grapple with our mortality. This is as true for physicists as it is for poets, for doctors as it is for philosophers.

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit?

    Karen: Yes—I have been able to change a bad habit when I was finally convinced that it was bad (it’s easy enough to lie to ourselves about stuff to keep us at it) and I’ve started new habits with the expectation, understanding, and self-forgiveness that I would fail to uphold it, so that the pressure was eliminated.

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

    Karen: I would consider myself a Rebel, but according to the criteria and the questionnaire, it turns out that I am an Upholder, which I think is funny! It’s probably true and just shows that we like to think of ourselves one way, when we are really something else. Can I be a rebellious Upholder? (Probably not, right?)

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

    Karen: Yes, my tendency to be an Upholder (now I know!) sometimes puts obligations before personal health and happiness. But that said, I’m pretty good at pulling back to focus on what I want, even if it results in actually fulfilling that obligation. I make a habit of asking myself why I am doing something that I might at first resent or resist doing, only to realize that I’m doing it because I want to do it. I make the best decisions when I respect the tension between volition and duty, productivity and rest, and accept that none of it is binary.

    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.?

    Karen: Yes, there are three times specifically in my life when this happened. The first was when I was in my late twenties and struggling with my self-confidence, I was complaining to someone that so-and-so “made me feel stupid.” My friend’s response changed my life. He said, “Karen, no one can make you feel anything.” That one comment gave me agency in my responses to all kinds of things. It still does.

    The second time was when my son was struggling at school—he was eight years old at the time—and a father of one of his classmates said to him, “Rocco, it’s so great to suck at something.” Rocco’s eyes lit up and I think it helped him enormously. I had been five years into my efforts to surf (which I still suck at doing) and John’s comment became my mantra. It allowed me to keep failing but to embrace the joy of it anyway. Rocco became valedictorian of his high school class and I didn’t give up paddling out. That one aha-moment turned into a more than decade-long journey to this book and new way of living for me.

    The third time came with a diagnosis and year-long- everything-gone-wrong battle with breast cancer. I finally understood the age-old wisdom of how “Why me?” is only answered with, “Why not me?” These three experiences were lessons in freedom.

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

    Karen: From Samuel Beckett: “Every tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.” That about sums it up for me. Anything is possible in that framework.

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

    Karen: I wouldn’t say that there is a single book that changed my life, but I couldn’t imagine my life without books. As a reader, editor, and writer, books—or, rather, the intimate communion between writer and reader—have helped me in absolutely every single aspect of my life. Books are like oxygen or water—completely essential.

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

    Karen: If my field is publishing and writing, I would say that, like anything else that looks simple from the outside (surfing, for one)—and all those books out there in the world would indicate otherwise—it’s harder than it looks!

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:32 on 2019/05/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, , , , Nora McInerny, , The Hot Young Widows Club   

    “Our Hearts Are Like the Hogwarts Room of Requirement—They Magically Open Up a New Room Just When We Need It.” 


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    Interview: Nora McInerny

    A few years ago, Nora McInerny went through tremendous period of grief and loss. Within a month, she miscarried her second baby, her father died of cancer, and then her husband Aaron died from a brain tumor. She explains, "These are all really sad stories, but they are not only sad stories. They are love stories and life stories and sometimes even funny stories." She has a terrific podcast, Terrible (Thanks for Asking) with honest talk about sorrow and loss.

    She's written several books, such as It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) and No Happy Endings: A Memoir, and her latest book is The Young Hot Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief.

    As it happens, I have a friend who is a member of this club—though in his case, it's for "young hot widowers." So I was very interested to read Nora's new book.

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

    Nora: I’m from Minnesota where the winters are absurdly long and the days are short. I really couldn’t live without my medical-grade SAD lamp. I’m an early riser, often up by 5:30 am. I blast myself with light while I read or write first thing in the morning. Not only does it help me feel physically better, It also helps my winter depression a ton. Some of my best writing sessions happen while I’m sitting in front of the lamp. I highly recommend them for those of us surviving northern climates.

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

    I didn’t know much about happiness when I was 18 because I was a truly miserable person. I thought happiness meant checking achievement boxes. Get into a “good” college. Check. Move to NY. Check. Work in advertising. Check. It wasn’t until my boyfriend was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor that I decided to start living in the ways that taught me pursuing happiness did not mean the absence of pain. We got married one month after Aaron’s diagnosis and first brain surgery. I knew that happiness meant being with him for as long as I could. Being with him also meant becoming a widowed mother at age 31.

    Happiness can live alongside pain, grief, and sadness. They are not at odds. Though we are often taught that happiness is a perfect, permanent state of being, sometimes saying “yes” to happiness means saying “yes” to a whole bunch of other feelings.

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

    I stopped drinking about two years after my first husband died. I realized that I was using alcohol to cope with grief and that it wasn’t helping or working. It wasn’t particularly hard for me to stop. My dad was a recovering alcoholic, so I know first-hand that it's much more difficult for some people. I realized that I had succumbed to some wine-mom culture peer pressure and thought that drinking rosé was the cool way to deal with grief, but when I interrogated that belief, I realized it was empty for me. I didn’t really enjoy drinking that much and from there I just stopped. Also, drinking made me sleepy, and kind of a jerk!

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

    Lots of things are disruptive to habits, but I find social media an especially appealing and destructive distraction. I can skim through hundreds of positive comments on my work and completely fixate on that one negative review. I know the first and last names of everyone who gave my books a less than four-star review on Amazon because I’m a super healthy, normal person. When I’m deep in the internet rage machine, I hand over my passwords to someone trusted (Hi, Hannah!) and take a break for a week. It feels great.

    There are certain habits I just don’t bend on, no matter what is happening. When I’m in book writing mode, I write 2,000 words a day, five days per week religiously. My writer friend, Jo Piazza, taught me that no one needs to write more than 2,000 words a day. Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth and it’s all garbage. Sometimes I’m inspired and can write for hours. I’ve written four books and countless scripts for my podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking this way and it gets the job done.

    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.?

    My life today is very much the byproduct of a major lightening moment when in 2014 I miscarried a pregnancy, lost my dad to cancer and my husband, Aaron, died of a brain tumor all in a matter of weeks. When losses so profound and at such a dizzying rate struck my life, the very foundation on which I stood shifted. Everything changed. I quit my job after going back to my cubicle seemed impossible. My financial advisor did not recommend this strategy, but gratefully I had a safety net when friends, family, and perfect strangers showed up to make sure my toddler son and I could live. I started my non-profit, Still Kickin, in honor of Aaron. Since then I’ve made over 70 episodes of the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast and written four books. Watching my dad and Aaron die without fulfilling all their creative potential really lit a fire in me to stop waiting for the perfect time to do things and allow myself to take risks because the worst had already happened.

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl. If you can’t learn from a Holocaust Survivor, you are BROKEN.

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

    You might think that what I do—talking to people about the worst and most terrible moments of their lives—is the exact opposite of what The Happiness Project does. But, there is no real way to access happiness without also understanding suffering, which is a universal human experience. Everyone you love is going to die. There’s no way of getting around it, no cheat, no hack, no habit that can save us from that reality and so many other terrible realities. (I’m really fun at parties)!

    There are lots of ways to look at this. One is to simply says, “This is hard.” And it is. You are not obligated to make lemonade from your lemons! Sometimes they are just lemons and they’re sour and it sucks AND we can move on with these life-changing, painful experiences. We can experience grief and joy simultaneously, sometimes even in the same breath. When I met my current husband I thought the part of my heart that loved Aaron would shut down, that there was only room enough to love one person at a time. That could not be further from the truth. Our hearts are like the Hogwarts Room of Requirement—they magically open up a new room just when we need it. This is where we can find new joy and new love. The rest of the castle is still there. We just keep building new wings.

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:54 on 2019/05/02 Permalink
    Tags: A Way to Garden, , , Books, gardening, , Margaret Roach, , ,   

    “I Garden Because I Cannot Help Myself—But It’s the Best Kind of Compulsion.” 


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    Interview: Margaret Roach

    Margaret Roach worked in publishing for many years, at places like the New York TimesNewsday, and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Then at the end of 2007, she left the city and "success" for a life lived much more quietly and closer to nature.

    She's a passionate gardener; has published a popular garden website since 2008; opens her garden for tours a few times a season; writes books; and lectures frequently to help foster an interest in gardening.

    Not only that, she has a highly praised, weekly gardening radio show and podcast called "A Way to Garden," produced at “the smallest NPR station in the nation” in nearby Sharon, Connecticut.

    Her new book A Way to Garden: A Hands-On Primer for Every Season was described this way by Publishers Weekly: "Filled with expert information, this book is less a 'how to' for novices than a meditation on 'why to' for veterans. Those with dirt already under their fingernails will treasure Roach’s in-depth knowledge, wry humor, and reflective look at how seasons in gardening mirror the passage of time."

    I myself love reading gardening books, though I have no interest in gardening, just the way I love reading cooking books, though I have no interest in cooking. A great writer makes these subjects compelling.

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

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

    Margaret: I always say that I garden because I cannot help myself—but it’s the best kind of compulsion. With the garden as my lens on life, I have opened to matters of both science and the spirit, gaining a tiny glimpse of how all the pieces fit in each realm.

    I have written that by becoming a gardener, I accidentally—blessedly—landed myself in a fusion of science lab and Buddhist retreat, a place of nonstop learning and of contemplation, where there is life buzzing to the max and also the deepest stillness. It is from this combined chemistry that I derived the motto of my website and book: “horticultural how-to and ‘woo-woo.’”

    I discovered a connection to plants—and in turn, to nature’s complex interconnections—in my mid-20s, during a time that was anything but happy. I found myself suddenly back at my childhood home, managing the care of my widowed mother, who was barely 50 years old but had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. One can only sit inside and watch so much daytime TV. Miraculously someone gifted me a garden book, and I started ordering plant catalogs and then plants, gradually conducting horticultural therapy on myself in the front yard. Daily contact with the world outdoors has been my life practice since.

    Just go outside, already. Not willing or able to make a garden? Get a pair of binoculars and the eBird.org app, and go chat up some local birds.

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

    That solitude, and stillness, are not to be feared, but rather to be cultivated, because each of us requires the nourishment they provide.

    My impression, perhaps like many other young women of my generation, was that key to fulfillment was finding Mr. Right, like the spirit of that “Jerry McGuire” quote, “You complete me.” (This was decades before that movie, of course.) I chased a lot of boys before it dawned on me: It turns out the “you” in that kind of equation alludes to “yourself,” not another (though loved ones are immense treasures, too).

    Learning to kindle joy in regular doses of solitude, rather than rushing to cram every moment with something or someone, was my best life lesson ever. As a complement to that, I make time to really focus my emotional energies on a few key, years-long and devoted relationships (and yes, I suppose the garden is one of those).

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

    I got a first insight into how my own habit-modification inner thing works at the onset of severe asthma in my 20s, when I became a vegetarian, after being advised to “reduce” intake of animal foods that might contain drugs like antibiotics or hormones. A vegetarian diet evolved and has stuck, but first—after considerable struggling—came the revelation that I am a very black-or-white, on-or-off person when it comes to changing habits. It was simpler for me to give up meat, poultry, fish than to “reduce,” and eat it once in a while. (And yes, I still miss bacon.)

    That it’s easier for me to flip the switch to “off”—to stop something completely rather than limit it—was an important trait to come to recognize and accept, rather than continuing to bang my head against the wall of attempted moderation, and “failures.”

    One other trick I have learned around exercise, which I loathe: I am more likely to show up if I set an appointment involving another person. Though I am happy to do garden chores anytime the weather permits, no urging required, I am highly resistant to formal “exercise”—aerobic workouts or classes at a gym. Making a date, which my brain regards as a contract, means I show up. I won’t let another person down (but I will wriggle out of a workout, endlessly excusing myself, if it’s “just me” scheduled to attend).

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

    The quiz says I am a Questioner. As a career journalist, I suppose that makes sense, but the so-called 5 W’s that used to be taught—of who, what, when, where and why—are at this age mostly centered on the why’s. I’ll admit I can be a bit pesky on this score, but what is life without incessant curiosity? I question, therefore I am. [Gretchen: Hmmm....your answers to some of these questions make me wonder if you're actually an Obliger.]

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

    Though friends long said I was “not Type A but Type AAA,” a being can throttle it up only just so long.

    A decade or so ago, I made a complicated decision to leave the city and my career for my former weekend home and garden, in a rural small town. The incessant stress and skyscraper existence—total disconnection from nature five days a week—just did not nurture me, I had to finally admit. Though I was described as “successful,” I had to acknowledge that the relentlessness back there also eroded my happiness and wellness, because I was fighting my natural rhythm and inclinations.

    The change required that I give up many things, from a salary and benefits to the proximity of some people I love and the city’s amazingness. I wrote a memoir about the transition, called And I Shall Have Some Peace There (a line from a Yeats poem, written about a place in nature that sustained him, as the place I have chosen does for me).

    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.?

    All of the above, or so it seemed that some key decisions were sudden at the time, as if the next step has just occurred to me in that instant. Looking back at most of them from a bit more distance, though, I can see that they were not sudden at all but that I had simply reached an “enough is enough” moment. (No wonder we have multiple expressions for such thresholds, like “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and lately “the tipping point.”)

    The book or conversation or birthday was catalytic, maybe, but I’d been brewing the change beneath the surface for some time. The decision to drop out of my career, and the city, was like that—sudden, and not so sudden at all.

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

    Various ones, but among them is “Keep weeding,” as in: working my way through the tangles that life (and a garden) can present, hoping to stay ahead of becoming engulfed or overwhelmed.

    I guess in the same spirit, I often find myself ending emails or letters with the one-word sentence: “Onward.”

    There is a line from a Wendell Berry poem, too: “All we need is here.” That is what I think of gratefully as I look out the window each day.

    A corollary to that (probably watering down a tenet of Buddhism once stated far more gracefully): “Want what you have, and don’t want what you don’t have.” Simpler said than done, but sound advice worth remembering.

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Jack Kornfield’s 1993 A Path With Heart, the title of which hints at which fork in the road to choose. I think the core lesson I took away was that struggling to make change—trying through some act of will to change—just reinforces patterns of self-judgment, and isn’t helpful (nor does it achieve any transformation, typically).

    Lots of lessons in Kornfield’s teachings are about compassion—including compassion directed at ourselves, which even many of the kindest people I know often forget to cultivate.

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

    I know that a big barrier to trying gardening is the impression that it is too hard, time-consuming, or expensive. But I also know (because hundreds of people tell me so each year) that those who succeed with even one houseplant can experience unexpected, inexplicable elation. Go ahead.

    It should not be a barrier, either, that we are powerless over a lot of what gardening places you face-to-face with—like the weather, or that your subjects are living things (meaning: they may die). In this world of 24/7 connectivity and instant answers from Google and all of it, finding ourselves humbled by forces bigger than ourselves through an undertaking like gardening is a good thing, a reality check, an antidote for hubris. The word humble comes from the Latin humus, for earth or ground. Ready to surrender?

    a way to garden cover

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:18 on 2019/04/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Books, , ,   

    What I Read This Month: April 2019 


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    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 read.

    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 Mach 2019, the full list is here.

    April 2019 Reading:

    The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty -- A friend with similar reading tastes sent this to me as a gift—what a treat! A great book.

    The Book of Delights by Ross Gay -- Wonderful little essays. Elizabeth and I will interview Ross Gay for the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, so stay tuned for that.

    The Beautiful No by Sheri Salata -- And we're also interviewing Sheri Salata! Stay tuned! These are many Secrets of Adulthood that she learned the hard way.

    Chance, Luck, and Destiny by Peter Dickinson -- Yes, more Peter Dickinson. I love thinking about chance, luck, and destiny so couldn't wait to read this book. It's a non-fiction collection of interesting observations of these subjects.

    Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown -- I wrote books called Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill and Forty Ways to Look at JFK so of course I had to read this book. Wonderful. I knew nothing about Princess Margaret so learned a lot, but more importantly, this account contains deep insight into human nature.

    Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected by Nnedi Okorafor -- I love Okorafor's fiction, and was always curious to learn more about her life, so I was thrilled to get the chance to read this memoir. Short and powerful.

    The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons -- Great book, but it was confusing to read it within a few weeks of "The City of Brass." I kept mixing up the two titles.

    Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett -- I've read this book three times. Love it.

    The Silent Strength of Stones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman -- I've read this book three times. I love it. Why does no one ever talk about Nina Kiriki Hoffman's work? I'm a huge raving super-fan of her books. GO READ NINA KIRIKI HOFFMAN.

    Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney -- I admire this book tremendously. You know how reviews say a book is "finely observed," and you think, "What does that even mean?" As I was reading this book, I literally had the thought, "Gosh, this is finely observed."

    Long Life: Essays and Other Writings by Mary Oliver -- The title is "Long Life" and the book is short. Very thought-provoking, with many passages that I copied into my notes (no surprise).

    The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner -- A beautifully written, haunting book. I dog-eared many pages.

    Plain Girl by Virginia Sorensen -- I read this book as a child, and suddenly remembered it and felt compelled to get my hands on it. A wonderful book about an Amish family.

    Midnight Fair by William Mayne -- Odd. Interesting. Not quite sure what to make of this book, but I'm glad I read it. I believe I heard about it in Philip Pullman's Daemon Voices.

    Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses by Paula McLain -- I did an event for San Diego's organization for Court Appointed Special Advocates, and during the lunch, someone recommended this memoir. Fascinating. The writer and her two sisters grew up in foster care.

    Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid -- So many people told me to get this book! A great read.

    Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes -- I love memoirs by comedians, and I love spiritual memoirs, and here is two in one.

    Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs -- My sister Elizabeth told me I had to read this book. An outstanding family memoir.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:18 on 2019/04/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Books, , ,   

    What I Read This Month: April 2019 


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    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 read.

    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 Mach 2019, the full list is here.

    April 2019 Reading:

    The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty -- A friend with similar reading tastes sent this to me as a gift—what a treat! A great book.

    The Book of Delights by Ross Gay -- Wonderful little essays. Elizabeth and I will interview Ross Gay for the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, so stay tuned for that.

    The Beautiful No by Sheri Salata -- And we're also interviewing Sheri Salata! Stay tuned! These are many Secrets of Adulthood that she learned the hard way.

    Chance, Luck, and Destiny by Peter Dickinson -- Yes, more Peter Dickinson. I love thinking about chance, luck, and destiny so couldn't wait to read this book. It's a non-fiction collection of interesting observations of these subjects.

    Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown -- I wrote books called Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill and Forty Ways to Look at JFK so of course I had to read this book. Wonderful. I knew nothing about Princess Margaret so learned a lot, but more importantly, this account contains deep insight into human nature.

    Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected by Nnedi Okorafor -- I love Okorafor's fiction, and was always curious to learn more about her life, so I was thrilled to get the chance to read this memoir. Short and powerful.

    The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons -- Great book, but it was confusing to read it within a few weeks of "The City of Brass." I kept mixing up the two titles.

    Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett -- I've read this book three times. Love it.

    The Silent Strength of Stones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman -- I've read this book three times. I love it. Why does no one ever talk about Nina Kiriki Hoffman's work? I'm a huge raving super-fan of her books. GO READ NINA KIRIKI HOFFMAN.

    Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney -- I admire this book tremendously. You know how reviews say a book is "finely observed," and you think, "What does that even mean?" As I was reading this book, I literally had the thought, "Gosh, this is finely observed."

    Long Life: Essays and Other Writings by Mary Oliver -- The title is "Long Life" and the book is short. Very thought-provoking, with many passages that I copied into my notes (no surprise).

    The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner -- A beautifully written, haunting book. I dog-eared many pages.

    Plain Girl by Virginia Sorensen -- I read this book as a child, and suddenly remembered it and felt compelled to get my hands on it. A wonderful book about an Amish family.

    Midnight Fair by William Mayne -- Odd. Interesting. Not quite sure what to make of this book, but I'm glad I read it. I believe I heard about it in Philip Pullman's Daemon Voices.

    Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses by Paula McLain -- I did an event for San Diego's organization for Court Appointed Special Advocates, and during the lunch, someone recommended this memoir. Fascinating. The writer and her two sisters grew up in foster care.

    Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid -- So many people told me to get this book! A great read.

    Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes -- I love memoirs by comedians, and I love spiritual memoirs, and here is two in one.

    Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs -- My sister Elizabeth told me I had to read this book. An outstanding family memoir.

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:33 on 2019/04/23 Permalink
    Tags: , Books, , , , motherhood, ,   

    Need a Gift for a Mother in Your Life? Some Suggestions. 


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    In the United States, Mother's Day is coming up on May 12.

    I’m a big fan for using dates as milestones, as prompts for reflection or action. People sometimes complain that Mother’s Day is a Hallmark-driven, consumerist holiday—but I think it’s nice to be reminded to think about my mother, and to remember everything she’s done for me, and to send a token of my appreciation.

    Philosophers, religious leaders, and contemporary scientists all agree that gratitude is a key to happiness. Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives; they even feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising. Gratitude brings freedom from envy; when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more. That, in turn, makes it easier to live within your means and also to be generous to others. Gratitude fosters forbearance—it’s harder to feel disappointed, angry, or resentful toward someone when you’re feeling grateful toward him or her.

    Mother's Day is an occasion for gratitude.

    I'm very grateful that I have such a wonderful mother! I don't want to take her for granted, or neglect to show her my appreciation -- so I think it's very helpful to get a nudge at least once a year.

    If you want to read about one of my happiest memories of my mother, look here.

    If you'd like to hear my story about why I'm lucky to have a mother who's lucky, you can listen to this two-minute "A Little Happier" here.

    We can express gratitude in many ways. Phone call, letter, email, text...or we can give a gift.

    If you're looking for a gift for a mother in your life, read on!

    From what I've heard, of the things I've created, these are the most popular gifts:

    1. The Four Tendencies course. This course is something I've created fairly recently, but people seem to love to give it as a gift. I think that's because when you see that someone's Tendency is a big factor in their lives—and perhaps in ways that they don't recognize or that are causing conflict or frustration—it seems like a great gift.

    In this course, you identify your Tendency—whether you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel—and learn how to use that knowledge to make practical changes to create the life you want. And you also learn how to appreciate other people’s Tendencies, and how to support them effectively, to cut down on stress, burn-out, conflict, frustration, and procrastination.

    For people who wouldn't take the course, there's also the book The Four Tendencies.

    2. The Gift of a Podcast.

    Give the gift of a podcast! Go to giftofpodcast.com to download the "gift certificate" and the cheat-sheet of instructions. This makes it easy to give a podcast to someone you know will love it. It's a gift that's free; it's easy; it's an experience not a thing; and there's no limit to the great content in the world of podcasts.

    3. The One-Sentence Journal for Mothers.

    This small journal makes it easy to write one sentence every day, which is a manageable, realistic way for a busy mother to keep a journal. What's surprising is that one sentence is enough to bring back floods of memories, and to capture those little moments we never want to forget.

    On book tour, many people show me their journals and ask me to sign the entry for the day—so fun!

    4. The Happiness Project

    I can't resist mentioning, this book was a #1 New York Times bestseller and stayed on the list for two years. It's all about (spoiler alert) how to be happier.

    5. Happier at Home

    And I can't resist mentioning this book was also a New York Times bestseller. It's all about happiness through the lens of home which, for most people, is at the very core of a happy life. I love all my books equally, but my sister Elizabeth says that this is her favorite book of everything I've written.

    6. The Happiness Project Mini Posters: A Coloring Book.

    If you know a mother who loves to color, here's a fun book!

    7. Personalized, signed bookplate

    Speaking of my books, if you'd like to make your gift more special and personalized, sign up here, and I'll send you a bookplate that's personalized for the recipient and signed by me. Think how happy you'll be to cross some gift-giving tasks off your list! Feel free to ask for as many as you like, but U.S. and Canada only—so sorry about that (mailing costs).

    I can be a little slow, so to make sure that neither of us has to worry about whether you'll receive the bookplates by Mother's Day on May 12, request as soon as possible.

    If you'd like to listen to me talk about my mother, you can listen to this two-minute episode of a "A Little Happier": I'm Lucky to Have a Mother Who Is Lucky.

    Do you observe Mother's Day?

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:40 on 2019/04/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Books, dessert, Emily Luchetti, Erin McHugh, , , , So Who's Counting   

    Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh: “We Are Big Believers in Doing at Least One Fun Thing a Day, However Small.” 


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    Interview: Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh

    How I love quotations—I collect them myself in giant troves, I collect books of quotations, and I love sending out my free daily "Moment of Happiness" newsletter with a terrific quotation about happiness or human nature (sign up here if you'd like to get it).

    So of course I was immediately intrigued by the new book from two friends and authors Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh. So Who's Counting?: The Little Quote Book About Growing Older and Still Kicking Ass is a book of quotations that remind us that with age comes the opportunity to ask, "What's next? What do I really want? What have I learned the hard way?"

    I couldn't wait to talk to Erin and Emily about happiness, habits, aging, and self-knowledge.

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

    Emily: Exercise. Either a hike or working out at the gym in a TRX/weights class. The former I do on weekends with my husband and a friend. The classes first thing in the morning during the week. I feel more productive, energized, and ready to take on the world once I have gotten my body in gear.

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

    Emily: Don’t worry so much about what other people think. And don’t compare yourself to others. Be your own authentic self. Now that I am older I take many things less personally. I can keep myself and others happy. I don’t have to forfeit what I want over others’ needs.

    Erin: That it isn’t an inalienable right. Happiness is work, and it needs constant attention and upkeep. Feed it and it grows. And that, along with the time to pursue it, happiness is worth more than any commodity on earth.

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

    Emily and Erin: What turned out to be a revelation for us while we were working on So Who’s Counting? was getting to delve in and discover more about the people we quoted, not just the quote that ended up on the page. We conferred on every passage in the book—more than once—and researched where each came from, whether it was a speech, a letter, a passage from a book. But in doing so, we went down the most intriguing and rewarding rabbit holes. We found that Julia Child’s family had a cook growing up, and young Julia could have cared less about food. We were reminded about Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War draft, how it caused him to lose all his titles, left him on the sidelines during his best fighting years, but became the beginning of his journey as a humanitarian. How Maya Angelou’s life was burdened by a past as a sex worker, and a childhood in the Jim Crow South. And though these were people we had never met, we found then began to influence us in profound ways.

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

    Emily: I took the quiz (I love things like this!) and am an Upholder. “I do what others expect of me—and what I expect from myself.” In my younger days only the first part of this sentence would have been true. I took care of others needs and put myself last. A real plus about getting older!

    Erin: I’m a Questioner. By profession I’m a writer and an interviewer: so it’s no surprise that curiosity drives me even when I’m practicing neither!

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

    Erin: Time—especially as one grows older—seems to whiz by. You’ve got to keep it in your grasp! A good calendar with some structured activity, whether it’s yoga, writing, getting together with friends, and whatever else pleases you, is key. Then the distractions don’t seem as...well, distracting. And Emily and I are both big believers in doing at least one fun thing a day, however small.

    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.?

    Emily: When I turned 60, I became aware of time in a good way. It hit home that we each only have one life and should live it to the best—whatever that means to you. For me, it’s a different answer each day. Some days it will be all work, sometimes all play. Sometimes something totally new, sometimes something I have done a zillion times. That’s what makes life exciting. I never really celebrate my birthdays but at 60 I wanted to make a statement to myself and saw it as an opportunity to do something I always thought would be fun but never did, I had a luncheon (cooked by Chef Jonathan Waxman) for about 70 women in the food world. It was electrifying to be in that room. Since then I have tried to make more time for these friendships and connections. We are always all so busy. You need to make a concerted effort to get together. And it’s worth it.

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

    Emily: “Someday is Today.”

    Erin: Singer Lauren Hill says at the end of one of her songs, “Everything is everything.” From the first time I heard it, I have found it such a valuable reminder for me. It means “Every little thing matters,”  “Every moment counts,” and “Even the tiny things sometimes end up being the thing that makes the difference.”

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Erin: I wrote a book a few years ago called One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better, in which I tried to do just a small, positive thing each day as I went about my business. Almost immediately it clocked the way I looked at the world, and how I approached life on a daily basis. It trained both my head and my heart to be aware, mindful, kinder. I treasure the experience and take myself back to its pages constantly to remind myself that better doesn’t have to be hard.

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

    Emily: "Never trust a skinny chef." For sure, I know how hard it is to not succumb to sweets. Especially when there are several ten-pound boxes of chocolate on the shelf. But it is possible to enjoy desserts and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s all about moderation. I started a movement around it called dessertworthy. Pastry chefs like to bake but we also like to exercise, eat veggies, and fit into our jeans. People don’t automatically assume a wine maker is an alcoholic or a pharmacist is a drug addict.

    Erin: Writing a book is never a simple task. It’s long, arduous, vexing...but always rewarding.

    SWC COVER

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:16 on 2019/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, , Laura Gassner Otting, Limitless,   

    “I Think the Best Antidote to a Rut Is Action, So I Try to Remind Myself that Anything Beats Nothing.” 


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    Interview: Laura Gassner Otting

    Laura Gassner Otting founded the Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, and has been involved in many nonprofit boards around the country. She writes and speaks frequently about the world of mission-driven work and getting "unstuck" in our lives. As she describes herself: "I help people discover how they align what they do with who they are, to achieve limitless potential."

    As if that's not enough to keep her busy, she has also just published a new book: Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life.

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

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

    Laura: I hang out with “framily,” those people who aren’t the family I was born to—they are lovely but geographically distant—but the friends I have made as an adult who have become my close knit kibbutz. These are the people who know my hopes and dreams, who see my stress and anxiety, who cheer me on during my successes and pick me up during my failures. They don’t keep score, they don’t play the comparison gave, they know we are all on our own path. They bathe in emotional abundance, rather than scarcity. I am better for the fact that they are in my life, and I work hard every day to make sure that I uplift them in return.

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

    Ever the gold star chaser, I was entirely certain that if I just collected all the right degrees and titles, I’d be happy. But it wasn’t until I was much older, fueled by my own journey and also twenty years of studying, recruiting, and stewarding leaders through massive career shifts, that I realized that success as externally (and often myopically) defined, didn’t equal happiness. It wasn’t until I realized that we need to create our own definition of success, and lean into that specifically, that the success we achieve will truly bring us the happiness we seek.

    In your new book, Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Life Your Best Life, you have a different take on success, and its role in bringing happiness. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Over the course of my research, what I’ve learned is that success doesn’t bring happiness when it’s merely us following someone else’s path to someone else’s definition of success. It’s why Lean In didn’t ring true for so many; some were angry about the privilege that Sheryl Sandberg used to achieve her success. I didn’t blame her for that; frankly it would've been folly not to use it. My issue wasn’t how she achieved success, but how she defined it, as this one unflinching, myopic view of the fastest and most expedient path to the corner office.

    What I now know is that happiness through work comes from consonance, from when the “what you do” matches the “who you are.” Each of our true definitions of success will be a personalized rubric of calling, connection, contribution, and control.

    • Calling is a gravitational pull towards a goal larger than yourself—a business you want to build, a leader who inspires you, a societal ill you wish to remedy, a cause you wish to serve.
    • Connection gives you sightlines into how your everyday work serves that calling by solving the problem at hand, growing the company’s bottom line, or reaching that goal.
    • Contribution is an understanding of how this job, this brand, this paycheck contributes to the community you want to belong, the person you want to be, or the lifestyle you’d like to live.
    • Control reflects how you are able to influence your connection to that calling in order to have some say in the assignment of projects, deadlines, colleagues, and clients; offer input into shared goals; and do work that contributes to your career trajectory and earnings.

    We will all want and need these in different amounts at different ages and stages throughout our lives. I’ve set up a quiz that people can take to understand how much of each of these elements they want in their lives, and how much of each they’d like to have. And, of course, it gives some immediately actionable tips on changes to make right here, right now to get unstuck and become limitless. That quiz is at www.LimitlessAssessment.com.

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

    When I turned 39 years old, I walked into my kids’ elementary school and saw the principal, whom I hadn’t seen in a few months. “Ellen,” I said, “You look amazing. Either you’ve been really sick, or there’s a new man in your life, and you look too good to have been really sick!” And she replied, “There is a new man in my life, and his name is Mike. Coach Mike.”

    And she dragged me to a boot camp where I spent six weeks trying to run the first mile of my life. (Seriously, I’d had 634,598 excuses to get out of P.E. throughout my childhood and the only reason I was picked last for every team was because there wasn’t a position after last.) But then I did it. I ran my first mile without stopping.

    Fast forward nine years, and I’ve run three marathons and row on a competitive team. Whenever the coach calls out, “OK, athletes, next we’re going to…” I get giddy. Still can’t believe anyone would think of me as an athlete, and loving the multitudes within myself that I am discovering as a result of letting myself be (very) uncomfortable in the middle of my otherwise comfortable life.

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

    I am an Upholder. The last thing I do before I go to bed is check my schedule for the next day, and mentally walk through and schedule in time to complete my tasks, be present for others, and take steps towards my personal and professional goals. My husband likes to joke that “If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist.” To wit, I schedule in shower time after a workout, picking up my kids, and answering email, all things which (eek, the kids!) would either be forgotten or expand across the day (gah, email!) if unchecked.

    And, really, there’s nothing like clear expectations and a full set of data when it comes to making plans and dreaming big dreams, right?

    Oh, and yeah, I’m that person who puts the thing on my to-do list that I have done, even if it wasn’t on there before. Nothing is more beautiful than an organized day and a clean slate morning.

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

    I am the human embodiment of Newton’s First Law of Physics: a body in motion stays in motion. So when I’m in a groove, I’m golden. But when travel, bad eating, sickness, injury waylay me, I’m at risk of falling off the path. That said, I think the best antidote to rut is action, so I try to remind myself that anything beats nothing, and then I call a friend and ask them to join me the next day in The Thing I Need to Do. Accountability always gets me back on track, even when everything in my core is clinging to malaise.

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

    Show up. Shut up. Do the work. (Pretty Upholder of me, huh?)

    For me, it’s about being fully present, getting better by listening and learning, and doing the hard yards in the dark that nobody sees (or cares about) so that I can show up in a way for my message, my family, my community, and my causes.

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    At the risk of being so cheesy and fangirly: The Happiness Project. [Awwww thanks!]

    When The Happiness Project first came out, I scoffed and thought, “What does this women of privilege know about being happy? Her life must be really happy already.” But then I thought, “Well, I’m pretty privileged and I’m not happy.” So I bought the book.

    And then, on pretty much the first page, you called yourself out about the privilege, and from that moment on, you had my heart.

    I made my husband read it the second I finished it, and even though this would normally not be his thing, he dutifully read it for me—perhaps because he’d not seen me so animated about a book in quite some time—and we began to immediately implement the changes you outlined. This book changed our lives because it changed the way we looked at our lives, and what they could be, and how we use our privilege and the choices we made every day to be happy.

    So, I’ve been waiting a long time to say this, but: thank you.

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

    I’m on a crusade to get us to stop listening to the messengers riding in on the Four Horsemen of the Success Apocalypse: balance, purpose, happiness, and passion.

    Purpose! This idea that the only careers that matter are ones that fix the world, the one that demand the shirt off our backs, the ones where service is only service if it also means sacrifice.

    Balance! This fleeting, ephemeral, impossible to reach idea that work and life must be perfectly separate and always equal to one another, as if work and life should have nothing to do with one another.

    Happiness! That terrible phrase that kills our dreams before they even leave our mouths, “I’ll be happy when…” I’ll be happy when I go on vacation. I’ll be happy when I pay off my debt. I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when I find a new job. Why can’t we be happy now?

    Passion! We’ve all seen her. That beautiful, perfectly beach waved flaxen haired beauty, staring off into the sunset over the dunes or, um, Coachella. “Follow Your Dreams!” It’s the spoken word illegitimate sister of the Live Love Laugh tattoo!

    The four horsemen set up a false choice. A binary choice between whether or not we have purpose or are pushing paper, whether or not we have perfect balance or the edges of our lives bleed together, whether we are happy by these false standards, or whether we have passion or are miserable sell-outs. I’m calling bull on all of it. The four horsemen build a create a false foundation on which we build a life, and then we realize that that life was meant for someone else. It’s no wonder we can’t live boldly into that life.

    You can’t be insatiably hungry for other people’s goals, for other people’s definitions of success. So, what does success look like for me? What would make me truly happy? If we could all, collectively, say, “Screw the Joneses!” and fail at living into everyone else’s expectations, so that we can make room for our own.

    Besides, why are we taking advice from girls in flower crowns, anyway?!?

    limitless book

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:42:15 on 2019/04/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, , , , , questions, tour   

    Report from My Book Tour! Some Observations and Insights from the Road. 


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    I'm visiting many cities across the United States as part of my book tour for Outer Order, Inner Calm. Many writers don't like to go on tour, but I love it. I really enjoy getting to meet book readers and Happier listeners, and I'm very interested to hear what people have to say on the subject of outer order.

    Some observations:

    I'm noticing that many people apparently buy the book as a helpful resource, or possibly a gentle nudge, or possibly outright pointed commentary, for someone else. I'm often asked to inscribe a book with sentiments such as "You can do it!" or "You got this!".

    It's interesting to me that many book clubs are reading this book. I wouldn't necessarily have thought it would be a candidate for a book group, but there's indeed much to discuss.

    I've been struck by how many people who attend book events come through the Happier podcast.  It's tremendously fun to see the two strands of my work coming together.

    I've been surprised by how many people have told me that of all the books I've written, Better Than Before is their favorite. I love all my books, and I love Better Than Before, so I don't know why that's a surprise. Maybe because it's about a subject—how to make or break habits—is often considered a challenge.

    Speaking of Better Than Beforepeople often bring their old books for me to sign, so my life flashes before my eyes as I see the various covers and editions of my previous books. That's fun, especially when a book is very dog-eared or marked-up. I love to see a much-read book. I really mark up  books when I read (except library books of course).

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    When I speak, my favorite part is always the question-and-answer, because I'm so curious to hear what's on people's minds.

    A few questions keep coming up over and over:

    • "Because of a death or downsizing in my family, I've inherited a bunch of stuff. How do I manage it?"
    • "How can I teach a child the value of outer order?"
    • "How can I use the Four Tendencies framework to get myself, or someone else, to do a better job of maintaining outer order?"
    • "How do I manage my emotions? I want to create more outer order, but it's very hard for me to relinquish things that have sentimental value."
    • "How do I manage digital clutter?"
    • "What should I do with my photos?" Once a woman started crying as she asked her question, because she was so overwhelmed by her photos.

    Fortunately, the book Outer Order, Inner Calm tackles all these issues! It would be discouraging if I found out that I hadn't addressed issues that were pressing on people's minds.

    One funny question: a Happier podcast listener asked if I'd been sticking to #10 on my "19 for 2019" list. I'd added the item: "On my book tour, read children's literature instead of watching HGTV before-and-after shows, which for some reason is what I want to do when I'm alone in a hotel room."

    Yes, I've kept this. I realized that as an Abstainer, it would be easier for me to follow through if I watched no TV. So I haven't turned on the TV once! I've been reading adult literature as well as children's literature, but I accept that as within the spirit of the resolution.

    Speaking of "19 for 2019," many people included "Go to a Gretchen Rubin event" on their lists. Several people even asked me to sign a copy of their lists—so fun to see.

    I'm sure no one else noticed, but I thought it was funny when someone introduced me by saying that I'd "walked hand-in-hand with the Dalai Lama" instead of "arm-in-arm." A big difference!

    Another question often raised by audience members—and journalists—is how my approach differs from that of Marie Kondo. It's so different!

    I love the work of Marie Kondo. I read her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as soon as it came out, years ago, and I binge-watched Tidying Up as soon as it was available on Netflix. I see tremendous value in her approach.

    But the fact is, Marie Kondo has a very specific, structured way to approach outer order. On the TV show, the specificity of her approach is softened somewhat, but in the book, it's clear: to do it right, follow the KonMari way.

    From my observation, there's never just one way to achieve an aim. There's no magic, one-size-fits-all solution that's "best" or "most efficient" or "right." People are different, and different approaches work for different people. So while I love Kondo's work, and have followed some of her suggestions, I don't think there's one best way.

    Marie Kondo is a simplicity-lover, but many people are abundance-lovers.

    Marie Kondo says to do clutter-clearing in one big effort, but many people prefer to tackle it a little bit at a time, with strategies like the "one-minute rule" or "power hour."

    For some people—like me—it would be a waste of time and energy to follow her advice to unpack my bag every night, put things away, and re-pack the next day.

    You can read more about my thoughts on Marie Kondo's work here.

    In my observation, the problem arises when a certain system (like KonMari, David Allen's Getting Things Done, minimalism, etc.) doesn't work for people, and they get discouraged and think that their situation is hopeless, because they've failed with a specific approach.

    My own view is that if one way doesn't work or doesn't appeal, just try something else until you find what works for you. If something doesn't work, that's still helpful, because you've learned value information about what does and doesn't work for you, so now you can try something different.

    One last note: It has been great to meet so many people who are doing The Happiness Project Experience this year, and to hear how the program is going for them. I've been very gratified to learn that people are really enjoying it.

    Thanks to everyone who came to an event! I so appreciate the enthusiasm and support.

     
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