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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • feedwordpress 16:33:10 on 2018/05/22 Permalink
    Tags: , choices, , , FAQ, , 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?

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 13:00:53 on 2018/02/22 Permalink
    Tags: , FAQ, , ,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: What’s My Process for Taking Notes? 

    One of my favorite things about myself is that I often become obsessed with certain subjects. I’ll do countless hours of research to learn more about these subjects, sometimes over the course of years.

    For instance, some of my obsessions have included: color, clutter, the placebo response, the sense of smell, dogs, the Eleusinian Mysteries, Winston Churchill, the question of why owners would destroy their own possessions, and happiness.

    Some of these preoccupations turn into books; some burn themselves out. But whatever happens, I love discovering a new passionate interest – all of a sudden, an unfamiliar area of the library becomes extremely important to me.

    When I read, I take notes. Many people have asked about my process, so here it is:

    When I read, I’m always looking for passages that I want to note. I mark them as I read – either by putting in a sticky flag if I’m reading a library book, or by marking the page if I own the book. Side note: for books I own, I mark them up a lot – it’s faster, plus if I’m looking through a book later, those marks help me find the passages that I found most notable.

    Then, when I’ve finished reading the book, I go back and copy the notes into my computer.

    If it’s a particularly beautiful or thought-provoking passage, I copy it into a document called "Quotes2006+." This is a giant trove of my favorite passages – favorite either because they’re beautifully written, or because they capture an idea that I want to record.

    If it’s a passage that also happens to relate to happiness or human nature, I add it to the list of passages that I use in my free "Moment of Happiness" email newsletter, where each day, I send out a great quotation. (If you’d like to get the Moment of Happiness each day, sign up here.)

    If it’s a passage that relates to a subject that interests me enough to deserve its own notes document, I’ll copy that passage there. My notes documents include "happiness," "color," "Winston Churchill," and something called "Essential Placebo." (Long story; stay tuned.)

    As I’m taking notes on a subject, I don’t worry about organization. That comes later, when I’m ready to outline a book.

    I depend on the "search" function to find what I need. To help organize my thoughts later, and to find what I’m looking for, I tag a passage so that I can "search" to find it. So, for instance, if I’d copied a passage that related to an interesting accountability strategy that an Obliger used to help himself take medicine regularly, I might type "Obliger accountability health medicine" after it, so that later, if I’m looking for health-related material, I can find it.

    As I take notes, I also add any question that occurs to me, or any conclusion that I think I might forget.

    If I do decide to write a book about a subject, I go through my notes repeatedly and think about my own analysis about what I’ve learned. I begin to see where I disagree with others, where I think that certain points haven’t been emphasized enough, where I think new vocabulary is needed, how I would present a subject to make it clearest.

    For almost all my books, the structure was very, very difficult to create. Which isn’t obvious from looking at those books – if you look at The Happiness Project, say, you’d think, "What could be a more simple and straightforward structure?" And yet it took me several false starts to come up with that framework. Structure is so, so, so important – and the structure must serve the meaning. So I can’t figure out my structure until I know what I want to say, and I don’t know what I want to say until I’ve amassed hundreds of pages of notes.

    One advantage of this form of note-taking is that when I start a book, I never start with a blank screen. I start with hundreds of pages of notes to inspire me.

    I love taking notes, but while it might seem like a passive, easy task, but it’s actually very challenging. One benefit of note-taking is that it forces me to review all the most important parts of a book, and to decide what’s worth copying out. That takes concentration. This process helps me remember what I’ve learned, and find that information later, and for that reason, it takes a lot of time and mental energy.

    I often think I should print out my troves of notes in some attractive way, so that I could leaf through them for pleasure. I do love looking over my notes from previous projects, but I also find it exhausting. I can’t help but analyze, process, and criticize all over again.

    I always type my notes, because my handwriting is terrible, and I can type so much faster than I can write.

    Do you take notes while you read – and if so, how do you organize them?

     
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