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  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:20 on 2018/12/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , commitments, family, , , , , , , , , ,   

    2018 Is Almost Over! Time for an “18 for 2018” Update. 

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

    I've been surprised by how enthusiastically people have embraced this approach to making changes and meeting aims for the new year. It's a really fun exercise.

    Well, we’re nearing the end of 2018, and I thought I’d review my progress so far.

    I have to say, I'm pleased with my list! I've crossed off every item.

    1. Start having weekly adventures with Eleanor.

    Eleanor and I have gone on many adventures in 2018, to the Cooper Hewitt (Eleanor's favorite museum), the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick, Color Factory exhibit, the Asia Society, and elsewhere. We also did a big adventure to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, though that doesn't really count as a "weekly" adventure.

    eleanor at museum 1 

    2. Fix my headset, runs out of battery really fast.

    3. Set up a home studio in this closet for my "Ask Gretchen Rubin Live" Facebook show.

    After talking to a lighting expert, I decided not to convert my closet, which he thought might seem claustrophobic to me and viewers, so instead, I bought a big standing light. He showed me how to adjust the light in the room for better video quality. Click here to view the schedule and join me on my next live show.

    4. Work with Barnaby so he’s better at coming when I call him.

    When I announced on the Happier podcast that I'd given up on this item, many listeners got in touch to encourage me to keep working on it—so I did! Now Barnaby does reliably come from anywhere in the apartment when I say "Barnaby, TOUCH."

    5. Clean out my massive tote bag collection. Each one is special.

    6. Take Eleanor to get her contacts checked.

    Although she (and I) resisted dealing with it, Eleanor is now very happy to be wearing contacts.

    7. Start making consistent progress on "Report to the Committee on Exploration." [should be crossed out//]

    We're in the very final stages of this project! My friend and I are creating this together, and our part is finished. All that's left is to receive the actual books. I'm so excited to see the final masterpiece. (If you want to read about a similar project called "Four to Llewelyn's Edge," I describe it here). We even have a gorgeous logo that was created by the brilliant Gabe Greenberg// for this imaginary inter-steller organization.

    8. Create a work calendar for the year.

    9. Finish My Color Pilgrimage and figure out what the heck to do with it; similarly, Outer Order, Inner Calm.

    Outer Order, Inner Calm is well on its way to publication on March 5, 2018. (If you feel inclined to pre-order, I really appreciate it! Pre-orders give such a boost to a book among booksellers, the public, and the press). Because of that book's publication, and also because The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition came out November 2018, I decided to postpone worrying about My Color Pilgrimage until February 2019. I want things to calm down a bit.

    10. Tap more into my love of smell.

    I've been trying new perfumes more consistently and wearing my favorites more consistently. (One of my favorite times to wear perfume? When I'm going to bed.) I also signed up for two terrific perfume courses at the Pratt Institute. This weekend is my final class. Most important, I've been more aware of scent as I go through my ordinary day. It's easy to ignore smells, I find, if I don't make an effort to notice and appreciate them.

    11. Plan perfume field trip with a friend. [should be crossed out//]

    I did this twice and want to continue to do it. I've been to Perfumerie and Fueguia—I highly recommend both shops. I tried to go to Twisted Lily, which is near the Panoply studio where I recorded the Happier podcast, but it was closed. Eleanor and I went to an exhibit called "Design Beyond Vision" at the Cooper Hewitt—that was a great scent field trip. We visited a perfume museum when we were in Paris this summer. I'm always looking for a way to have a scent field trip.

    12. Get new phone for camera to improve the video quality of my weekly Facebook show, "Ask Gretchen Rubin Live".

    13. Figure out Instagram features and use it regularly.

    I still want to make better use of the many fun features of Instagram, but I am using it consistently. Eleanor has really enjoyed showing me how to use some of its quirkier aspects.

    14. Decide on a cause to give to as a family.

    We decided to give to Bottom Line, which helps low-income and first-generation-to-college students get to and through college; students get individual support to ensure they have the information and guidance they need to get into and graduate from college, from being a high-school senior all the way through to college graduation and career plan. I have a friend who works in philanthropy and is especially knowledgeable about educational organizations, and she recommended Bottom Line as an organization that does a really great job achieving its aims.

    15. Create the Four Tendencies workshop.

    As I expected, this item was one of the most demanding of all the items on the list. It took many months, lots of hard work, and the contributions of several terrific people. It's so exciting to have it finished! Ever since Better Than Before was published, people have asked for a Four Tendencies workshop. It's thrilling to be able to answer "yes" at last.

    16. Deal with the items we want to donate to Housing Works.

    In an extraordinary piece of luck, a Housing Works store has opened less than a block from my apartment. I've given so much to Housing Works (which, unlike many places, also accepts books). Working on Outer Order, Inner Calm has really helped me to stay focus on the satisfaction of donating items.

    17. Creating a list for listeners of the Try This at Homes and Happiness Hacks so far.

    At last! And just in time. You can download these two PDF resources here. I'll update these lists at the end of each year, and periodically after that.

    18. Get current with making physical photo albums with Shutterfly.

     

    What conclusions do I draw from my list?

    The biggest conclusion is that making an "18 for 2018" list is a great idea. I'm sure that I accomplished much more in 2018 than I would have otherwise. Putting items on the list, reviewing the list, talking it over with Elizabeth, seeing the list on the cork-board next to my desk, the desire to score a perfect 18 by December 31—all these mean that I'm much more likely to get these things done.

    Plus it's fun! I got a tremendous kick out of this challenge.

    I've also concluded that it's good to have a mix of items, with different levels of difficulty.

    Some span a long period of time and take collaboration with other people, like #9 and #15.

    Some are fairly easy, but need to be done regularly for me to see the benefit, like #1 or #16.

    Some were fairly easy to cross off the list, like #14.

    Some are time-consuming, but just once, or every once in a while, like #6.

    Some are fun, like #10 and #11.

    Some aren't fun, like #18.

    But they've all made my life happier in some way.

    One question: Given that I completed all items, should I have aimed higher? Was I too modest in my list-making? Robert Browning wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,/Or what's a heaven for?" I can see an argument for both approaches.

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

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

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

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

    Interview: KJ Dell'Antonia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.? 

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

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

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful? Or a particular book that has stayed with you?

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

    How to be a Happier Parent

     
  • feedwordpress 16:33:10 on 2018/05/22 Permalink
    Tags: , choices, , family, , , know yourself better, ,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: “How Do I Make This Tough Decision?” 

    One common happiness stumbling block is the need to make a tough decision. To decide between apples and oranges, to weigh pros and cons, to think about what we will need and want in the future, to understand our real values...it’s tough.

    People often write me emails to explain their situations and ask for my thoughts. I can’t give advice to a particular person, but here are some mantras and questions I use when I’m facing a difficult decision in my own life.

    When I’m trying to make a tough choice, I say to myself, "Choose the bigger life." In a particular situation, people would make different decisions about what the "bigger life" would be, but when I ask myself that question, it always helps me see the right answer, for myself.

    For instance, as a family, we were trying to decide whether to get a dog. My daughters desperately wanted a dog, but I kept thinking about the commitment, inconvenience, errands, and all the downsides. The pros and cons list felt equally balanced. But when I thought, "Choose the bigger life," I realized that the bigger life for my family was to get a dog. That wouldn’t be true for everyone, certainly. But it was true for us. And we’re so happy we have our dog Barnaby!

    If you’d like to listen to a discussion of this, I talk about it in episode 27 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.

    Another question to consider: Is this decision likely to strengthen my relationships with other people? Strong relationships with other people are a key—maybe the key—to happiness, so decisions that help build or strengthen ties are likely to boost happiness.

    Of course, sometimes we make decisions, such as to move to a new city or switch to a new profession, that put us in a place where we have few relationships. That can be worthwhile, absolutely, but it’s worth considering the time, effort, and energy needed to create new relationships.

    I also ask myself, "Does this decision help me to follow my personal commandment to Be Gretchen?" (Of course, everyone should substitute their own names!) I want to shape my life to reflect my temperament, interests, and values. I ask myself: Am I making this decision to "Be Gretchen," or because I want to impress other people, please someone else, pretend that I’m different from the person I actually am, or deny a truth about myself?

    Another way to think about "Being Gretchen" is to remind myself, "I want to accept myself, and expect more from myself." Is a particular course of action allowing me to expect more from myself—meaning it’s scary in a positive way, that will allow me to grow? Or does this course of action mean I’m not accepting myself—meaning it feels wrong for me in a way that I should respect?

    It can also be helpful to consider whether, when I contemplate a particular course of action, do I feel energized or drained? Sometimes it’s great to push ourselves to do something novel, challenging, or scary. But sometimes, a bad feeling is an indication that a decision doesn’t sit right with us. Unfortunately, it’s often very hard to tell the difference between those two feelings. This takes a lot of deliberation.

    I try to avoid false choices. Often, we try to make difficult decisions seem easier by boiling down our choices to two clear paths, when in fact, there may be many paths from which to choose. If you’re thinking of giving yourself a choice between two options—"Should I stay in my current job full time, or should I quit to write the novel I’ve always to write?"—ask, are those the only two options? Are there other options that I haven’t considered?

    Relatedly, when appropriate, I reassure myself, "There’s no wrong choice here." When I’m facing two good options, I remind myself that a choice becomes the right choice as we live it—as we have good experiences, make new relationships, go down a particular path.

    And here’s one last strategy.

    As I mentioned, I often get emails from people saying, "Here’s my situation, here are my choices, what should I do, how do I choose?" And it’s quite clear to me, from reading what they’ve written, that they know what choice they want to make. So I write back, "I can’t give advice, but it sounds to me as though you already know what you want to do."

    The way they explain the situation and the decision absolutely tips their hand. And that’s fine.

    So if you’re not sure what you want to do, try drafting an email to explain the situation, send the email to yourself, wait a week, then read it. Maybe you know what you want, more than you’ve admitted to yourself.

    Several fascinating books explore the question of making better decisions.

    1. Chip and Dan Heath’s Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. The title and subtitle say it all—why it’s hard to make decisions, how to test your assumptions, how to figure out what’s most important to you, how to make a better decision.
    2. Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness. This book includes many interesting ideas, but one stands out: one very effective way to judge whether a particular course of action will make you happy in the future is to ask people who are following that course of action right now if they’re happy, and assume that you’ll feel the same way. Going on a family trip to Disneyworld. Living near your family. Getting a hamster. Learning to use Instagram. Working as a paralegal. Volunteering. Moving to a place that lengthens your commute. In evaluating the likely consequences of a decision, other people’s experiences of happiness—or lack thereof—can be very instructive for me.
    3. Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. Schwartz explains why we find decision-making so taxing, and why having more choices can actually make us more stressed and less satisfied with our decisions.

    What do you do when you need to make a tough choice?

     
  • feedwordpress 12:00:14 on 2018/04/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , book recomendations, , , family, favorite books,   

    My Favorite Books About Parenting. 

    Mother’s Day is coming up, so in honor of the holiday I decided to make a list of my favorite parenting books. I’ve read many parenting books, but there are a few that really stand out to me – in many cases, I’ve read these books several times.

    One thing I've discovered is that when a parenting book is truly excellent, its advice is just as helpful for dealing with adults as with children. Children and adults are more alike than we sometimes assume. For instance, when I was researching habits for Better Than Before, my book about habit change, I did a fair amount of research on the design of pre-school and kindergarten routines.

    So after reading these books about parenthood, I’ve applied most of what I learned to my adult relationships, with equal success:

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

    How I love this book! It has helped me tremendously as a parent – and in every other aspect of my life. In fact, I probably think more about its lessons in the context of adult interactions that I do of child interactions. I've read it at least five times. It’s very wise, and it’s also a very fun read.

    One of the most important lessons I learned from this book? Make people feel happier by acknowledging that they’re not feeling happy. When we acknowledge the reality of other people’s feelings, they know they’re being heard. Instead of denying feelings like anger, irritation, fear, or reluctance, we do better to articulate the other person’s point of view. It turns out that when people’s bad feelings are acknowledged, those feelings dissipate more easily.

    This was a giant revelation to me. It really, really works. If you’d like to read a post I wrote on this subject, it’s here.

    2. I also love Faber & Mazlish’s book Siblings Without Rivalry.

    3. Practical Wisdom for Parents: Raising Self-Confident Children in the Preschool Years by Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum.

    I love this book, in part because it’s a terrific book and in part because it was written by two people whom I really like and respect. In fact, as I describe in my book The Happiness Project, I played a small role in the book’s inception. (You can also read that story here.)

    If you want to listen to a two-minute episode of "A Little Happier" where I describe one of the many wise things that Nancy Schulman said to me, it’s here.

    4. Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children by Michael Thompson.

    I’m a giant raving fan of Michael Thompson’s work. It’s practical, realistic, and insightful, plus it’s written in a very engaging way.

    Here’s a post I wrote about a passage from the book about why it’s a bad idea to "interview for pain." Again, this principle is just as true for adults as for kids.

    5. I also love Thompson’s book Mom, They're Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems. If you want to hear "A Little Happier" episode where I talk about one of the most important lessons I gleaned from that book, it’s here.

    6. The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel.

    This is a very useful book that emphasizes why it’s important to let children make mistakes, suffer consequences, handle disappointment, and deal with boredom as part of their growing up.

    What are your favorite books about parenthood? I’d be especially interested in any recommendations aimed at parents of twenty-something children. My older daughter isn’t twenty yet, but she will be, before I know it. The days are long, but the years are short.

     
  • gretchenrubin 17:51:14 on 2017/11/16 Permalink
    Tags: , family, , ,   

    A Happiness Paradox for Thanksgiving: Happiness Doesn’t Always Make Us Feel Happy. 

    In my study of happiness and human nature, I'm always striving to identify fundamental principles.

    For instance, I identified the Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness.

    The First Splendid Truth is: To be happier, we have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

    The First Splendid Truth accounts for a paradox I noticed within happiness: sometimes, happiness doesn't make us feel happy. (This is the kind of statement that a scientist couldn't say, but I can.)

    I was reminded of this paradox this morning, during a conversation with a friend.

    "Are you going to your mother's house for Thanksgiving?" I asked. "Looking forward to it?"

    "Yes, I am," he said, "but I'm not looking forward to it. I'll be doing all the work, because no one else can be relied on to do anything, and I don't really like spending time with most of my family."

    "So why do you go?"

    "It's important to my mother, she wants us to have these times together," he said with a shrug. "So I do it, even though it means passing up invitations to spend the holiday with my friends, which would be much more fun."

    Right. Because sometimes happiness means living up to our values, even when it makes us "feel bad" to do so, or doing things to promote other people's happiness, even when it doesn't make us "feel good."

    My friend is willing to "feel bad" by being bored, annoyed, overworked, and unappreciated with his family, and to give up the opportunity to "feel good" by having fun with his friends, in order to "feel right" about his relationship to his mother and family.

    We're happy when we know when we're living up to our values for ourselves. Even if that happiness doesn't make us feel happy.

    Can you think of examples from your own life when happiness didn't make you feel happy?

     
  • gretchenrubin 17:01:32 on 2017/10/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , family, , , ,   

    Setting the Table for a Halloween Holiday Breakfast–For One. 

    In my book The Happiness Project, I write about my resolution to "Celebrate holiday breakfasts." And this morning, I set the table for a Halloween holiday breakfast.

    I do these holiday breakfasts for all minor holidays -- it's festive, and also fun and easy.  I always use food dye to color some food or beverage in a holiday-themed color (this morning: black peanut butter). I re-use the same decorations every year, so I don’t have to spend money or do errands. I have a very precise place in the kitchen where I store my holiday-breakfast decorations, so I don't have to scramble to find anything.

    Studies show that traditions are important to family happiness. Family rituals encourage children's social development and boost feelings of family cohesiveness by 17%. They help provide connection and predictability, which people--especially children--crave. Without traditions, holidays don't feel much different from ordinary life. Holiday breakfasts give a big happiness boost, without much effort.

    But this year was a little different. Instead of setting the holiday breakfast for two daughters, I was setting it for one daughter. Now that Eliza's in college, it's just Eleanor at the breakfast table.

    And that was bittersweet.

    One thing I decided, when Eliza left, was that I wanted to make sure to maintain fun family traditions for Eleanor -- that I didn't want to skip the effort, or decide that Eleanor was too old to enjoy it (unless she truly has outgrown something), or forget to create these little moments.

    Time is passing so quickly; I worry that I won’t remember this time of life, what it’s like to have children this age, or that because I'm busy, I won't take time for celebration.  The days are long, but the years are short.

    In fact, of everything I’ve ever written, my one-minute video, The Years Are Short, is the thing that resonates most with people.

    One challenge of Eliza leaving for college is figuring out how to adapt traditions for the new situation. I want to maintain, but also evolve.

    Do you have any little traditions that help you celebrate the holidays in a manageable way? Have you had to figure out how to adapt traditions, as your family changed?

    If you want some tips for creating new family traditions (oxymoron alert!), here are some ideas.

     
  • gretchenrubin 21:48:00 on 2017/09/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , family, , , , ,   

    Podcast 133: Create a Spot of Transition, Accountability for Introverts–and Is There a Correct Way to Load a Dishwasher 

    Update: I’m excited because my new book, The Four Tendencies, hits the shelves in just SIX days. Not long now!

    Remember, as a thank-you for people who pre-order the book, I’m making my videos series free for people who pre-order. All the details are  here. You’ll get the overview video as well as subject videos on using the Four Tendencies at work, with spouses and sweethearts, with children and students, and in health-care settings.  Free now; after the book comes out, there will be a charge for the video series.

    I’m looking forward to heading to Los Angeles, and many other cities, on my book tour. Info here if you’d like to come to an event. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, and you’d like to come to the meet-up from 5:00-7:00 p.m. September 17, go onto the free Better app and under the tab “Events,” look for “Los Angeles Meet-up with Gretchen and Liz.”

    1pix
    happier podcast things in transition
    Try This at Home: Create a place for things in transition. Having a system for things in transition helps a household or office to be more efficient, and also removes the visual clutter of having stuff out.

    Here’s a photo of my “spot of transition.” Library books to return are on the left, books to give away are on the right, and there’s room for other things in transition. Elizabeth and I will work on her spot of transition when I visit her in L.A.

    Happiness Hack: As I describe in my books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I love my system of organizing my daughters’ paper-based mementos (birthday party invitations, our family Valentine’s cards, school photo, etc.): years ago, I bought two durable, slightly-more-attractive-than-cardboard file-boxes, added a file folder for each school year, and now I add anything worth saving.

    It’s organized, visually appealing, space-efficient — and it’s so satisfying to know exactly where to put the official camp photo or the special birthday card.

    Above is a photo of Eleanor’s box. You could choose any kind of file-box, but if you’re curious about the one I used, it’s here.

    Know Yourself Better: Do you have strong views about the right way to load a dishwasher? I’m astonished by how passionately people will argue about this topic.

    Listener Question: Jenna is an Obliger who is shy. She wants to create the outer accountability that she needs as an Obliger, to meet her inner expectations — but doesn’t like meeting in groups.

    I suggest that she might consider joining an accountability group on my free “Better” app — find the app here or search in the app store under “Better Gretchen Rubin.”

    Speaking of Obligers, if you want to take the Quiz to tell you whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel, it’s here. Or to learn even more, buy The Four Tendencies book.

    Gretchen’s Demerit: I’m going too fast. I remind myself, “Go slow to go fast.”

    Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Gold star for whiteboards! At home and at work.


    Free Resources:

    1. If you’d like a discussion guide to one of my books, you can email me or go to the Resources section.
    2. If you’d like to get the free “Moment of Happiness” email newsletter, with a great quote about happiness or human nature, sign up here or email me.

    As I mentioned above, I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

    As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

    Check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial,  including postage and a digital scale — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

    Check out Lyft  — join the ride-sharing company that believes in treating its people better. Go to Lyft.com/happier to get a $500 new-driver bonus. Limited time only.

    Also check out ThirdLove, the lingerie brand that uses real women’s measurements to design better-fitting bras. Try one of their bestselling bras for free, for 30 days, by visiting ThirdLove.com/happier.

     

    We love hearing from listeners:

     

    To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

    If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

    Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

    How to Subscribe

    If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

    Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

    Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” Check out these great shows: Side Hustle School and Happier in Hollywood.

    HAPPIER listening!

    The post Podcast 133: Create a Spot of Transition, Accountability for Introverts–and Is There a Correct Way to Load a Dishwasher appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:58:33 on 2017/08/25 Permalink
    Tags: , family, , , ,   

    Some Thoughts on Happiness After Dropping Off My Daughter at College. 

    This was a big week in the life of my family:  my older daughter Eliza has gone off to college.

    In her case, she did a pre-program, where she went hiking in New Hampshire with a small group of other incoming freshmen.

    This step reminded me of how we did the “Separation” stage when she was starting pre-school.

    During pre-school, she began the school-going experience by attending for a short day, I’d wait nearby with the other parents, and she and I got used to the idea of her going off to school by herself.

    For this outdoor program, we sent her off, but it felt more like a return to summer camp. Before she left home, the focus was on “Do you have the right hiking gear?” not “Now you’re saying good-bye to our dog Barnaby for several months.” When I dropped her off with her backpack, we told each other, “See you next week.”

    This hiking trip made the transition less abrupt. During that week, I told my husband, “I feel like I’m on the mezzanine level — in the mid-way point between two stages.” It was helpful to Eliza, because she got the chance to get to know a group of other students beforehand.

    Then after a week, my husband, my younger daughter Eleanor, and I packed up the car to meet her. We spent the day unloading, unpacking, meeting Eliza’s roommate and her family, buying a trash can, and all the rest.

    I can get very tightly wound in situations like this, so in the car on the trip up, I announced to my family, “I’m really going to try to stay calm. I know there will be ambiguous directions [a pet peeve of mine], and it’s going to be hot, and there will be a lot of waiting and frustrations, but I am going to stay calm.” (My mother is rightly always reminding me to stay calm.) I wanted this day to be a memorable, fun, serene good-bye day. I didn’t do a terrific job of staying calm, but I did a pretty good job of staying calm.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned about happiness, and about self-mastery, it’s to think in advance about the experience I want to have, the likely pitfalls, the challenges that always trip me up. By using the Strategy of Safeguards, I help myself avoid acting in ways that will cause me regret later.

    It’s always odd, for me, when I’m going through an experience that I know will be a major life milestone. As we were waiting for Eliza to return from the hiking trip, I said to Eleanor, “I remember so well the day I moved into college. For all of us, we’ll remember this day. We’ll reminisce, ‘Remember Eliza’s first day?'” I had a similar thought when Eleanor came home from the hospital. A friend sent flowers, and I remember rocking Eleanor and thinking, “I have a baby who is such a newborn that the congratulatory flower arrangements are still fresh.” That happened more than twelve years ago.

    Time is so strange, how events can seem so distant and yet so recent. Already, Move-in Day seems like part of the distant past.

    Of everything I’ve ever written, this one-minute video, The Years Are Short, is the thing that has resonated most with people. Now that little girl who rode the bus with me is off on her own.

    In episode 125 of the “Happier” podcast, we talked about advice that listeners suggested for dealing with this family transition (also for packing–we got lots of great packing recommendations). The advice was great, and the most helpful suggestion came from the listener who said, “Remember, this is the end of something, but it’s also the beginning. You’ll have a new chapter in your family life, new favorite restaurants, and spots to visit, new memories. This chapter is short, so enjoy it.”

    I’ve reminded myself of that helpful observation often, because of that, for me, addresses the heart of my mixed feelings about this time.

    I’m thrilled for my daughter — she’s ready for this change, this experience will be terrific, she is so very fortunate to have this opportunity to get more education. And of course this change is a happy change — while often when we deal with endings, it’s in the context of loss.

    I’m sad because it’s the end of her childhood — of her being under our roof. Last week, I got a shock when I glanced into her room in the early morning: her door was open, her bed was made, and for a moment I panicked, where was she?

    And even the extra space in our bathroom makes me a little sad. She shared a bathroom with my husband and me, and the removal of her products gives us a lot more room in the medicine cabinet. This change was gratifying to my simpicity-lover side, but it was also an unexpected visual reminder of her absence.

    Speaking of echoes to pre-school separation, I keep reminding myself of the wise observation made by the nursery-school director, who as we went through “separation,” told us, “This is the first of many times that you will say good-bye to your child.

    We’ll see her soon. Visiting Day, Thanksgiving, and sheesh, I’ll be back in town for an event in less than three weeks! (I told her she didn’t have to attend, and she and I didn’t even need to see each other, if she thought it would be too unsettling to have me pop back into view.)

    It won’t be the same, but while it’s the end of an era, it’s also the beginning of an era.

    If you want to hear Eliza’s views, you can listen to her podcast “Eliza Starting at 16.” I certainly can’t wait for her next episode.

    We also did a Facebook Live broadcast together where viewers gave both of us advice for this big transition. Watch it here.

    For me, it’s always difficult when something comes to the end. Even if I’m ready and happy for it to end, I always feel a sadness in the thought that a period of my life is over.

    But then I remind myself, “No beginnings without endings. Growth brings change.”

    Also, I remind myself, “Gratitude.” As always is the case, feelings of gratitude crowd out negative feelings. When I think about how very, very, very fortunate we are, that comforts me. And that steels me to handle my own feelings and to turn outward, to think about other people’s difficulties and challenges, and the problems of the world.

    Have you grappled with this feeling — of dealing with the end of an era?

    The post Some Thoughts on Happiness After Dropping Off My Daughter at College. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:26:37 on 2017/05/14 Permalink
    Tags: family, , , ,   

    In Honor of Mother’s Day, One of My Happiest Memories of My Mother. 

    Today is Mother’s Day in the United States and Canada.

    Some people think it’s ridiculous to celebrate holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – that these are just commercial holidays forced on us by clever marketers. But I think it’s nice to be prompted to think lovingly about your mother and your father, and the mothers and fathers in your life.

    The other day, I was contemplating (as I often do) an observation made by my spiritual master, St. Therese of Lisieux, in her extraordinary memoir, The Story of a Soul.

    While writing about being blamed for things and scolded for little transgressions in her convent, she noted, “I noticed this: when one performs her duty, never excusing herself, no one knows it; on the contrary, imperfections appear immediately.”

    So true, right? You do something perfectly and reliably, nobody notices. You make a mistake, everyone complains.

    This is particularly true of parenthood, which involves a myriad of tasks, small but pesky and relentless, that need to be done without fail. “I packed lunch for four years,” a friend told me, “and all I hear about – to this day – is that time in first grade when I forgot to put in my son’s dessert.”

    It’s true that parents don’t get a gold star for everything they do right, but often, just hear about it when they mess up. But it’s also true that, as my mother once told me, “The things that go wrong often make the best memories.” Here’s an example.

    Of the countless times in my childhood when my mother drove carpool, or picked me up to go to an orthodontist’s appointment, or wherever, I have only the haziest recollections. All I remember is the time when she was very late picking me up. But this is an important memory.

    It was a very snowy day when I was in grade school — fourth grade, I think — and my mother was late. She’s completely reliable, so I was anxious about the fact that she wasn’t there, and I was embarrassed about being left over when all the other kids had gone home, and I was worried about what would happen if she didn’t show up. She didn’t come, and she didn’t come, and finally I was sent to wait in the library, in the main building of the school, until someone came to get me.

    It got later and later. I could feel the building emptying out. Still no sign of my mother. The snow was getting heavier. I was getting more and more anxious.

    Finally, I saw my mother coming up the steps to the library, and I had to fight back the urge to burst into tears from sheer relief. I was so happy to see her! She was staggering under the weight of my sister, who was probably four or five years old, both of them covered with snow, and she was slipping around on the unshoveled walkway as she battled her way to the door.

    And I thought to myself, Nothing can ever stop my mother from coming for me.

    I remember that her car had become stuck on a patch of ice, but I have no recollection of what happened next. Did my father come to get us, did the school receptionist give us a ride? I’ve never asked my mother about that afternoon, so perhaps my memory isn’t even accurate. But that’s how I remember it.

    And that’s how I think about my mother.

    The post In Honor of Mother’s Day, One of My Happiest Memories of My Mother. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • gretchenrubin 15:00:05 on 2017/05/06 Permalink
    Tags: , family, ,   

    Need an Idea for a Gift for a Mother in Your Life? 

    Next Sunday, May 14, is Mother’s Day in the United States and Canada.

    If you’re looking for a thoughtful gift for a mother in your life, may I self-promotingly suggest one of my (bestselling) books about happiness?

    The Happiness Project was a #1 New York Times bestseller, was on the bestseller list for two years, and has been translated into more than thirty languages. In the book, I describe the year I spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. I examined areas like energy, work, play, mindfulness, money, attitude, and eternity.

    If you’d like to read an excerpt, to see if you think the book would be a good gift, read here.

    Happier at Home was also a New York Times bestseller. I did a second, deeper happiness project — this time focused on being happier at home. Because if I’m not happy at home, it’s hard to be happy.

    So, starting in September (the new January), I dedicated a school year — from September through May — to concentrate on the factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, parenthood, body, neighborhood.

    If you’d like to read an excerpt, read here.

    I love all my books equally, but my sister Elizabeth says that Happier at Home is her favorite of all my books.

    Or perhaps a mother in your life is interested in changing her habits? Nothing is a bigger source of happiness than good habits! If so, I suggest my latest book, Better Than Before.

    If you’d like to read an excerpt, read here.

    Or for something completely different, for a mother who likes to color, there’s my coloring book: The Happiness Project Mini Posters: A Coloring Book with 20 Hand-lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame.

    You could also buy the coloring book in advance and ask your kids to color in a quotation appropriate to the occasion — such as “The days are long, but the years are short” — to give to their mother as their gift. Kids love to give handmade gifts, and mothers sure love to receive them.

    I know some people think that days like “Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day” are artificial and forced, but for myself, I find it helpful to have reminders to think about the important people in my life.

    How about you? Do you embrace these holidays — or resist them?

    The post Need an Idea for a Gift for a Mother in Your Life? appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
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