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  • feedwordpress 09:00:32 on 2019/05/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Nora McInerny, Relationships, 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.

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

    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?

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:00:14 on 2019/03/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Relationships   

    Tips on How to Help a Friend Clear Clutter. 


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    Some outer-order experts argue that you'll do a better, quicker job if you clear clutter alone.

    That's certainly true for some people. They want to go at their own pace and make their own decisions.

    And it's also definitely true that some people are not good clutter-clearing companions. One friend said that when her mother tried to help her go through her closet, all she heard was, "You can't give that away!" "That's still perfectly good!" "You might find a way to wear that!"

    But from my experience -- both as the clutter-clearer myself, and as the friend who's helping -- I think it can often be helpful to have a companion.

    A professional organizer can be great, obviously.

    But even a friend can help with morale, the drudge work, and the decision-making.

    In my new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm, I make a point that there's no magic one-size-fits-all solutions for establishing order; we all need to do it in the way that's right for us. Also, outer order is something to pursue if it makes you (or someone else) happier; not for its own sake.

    As part of my happiness-bully side, I beg my friends to let me help them clear clutter; I love to play this role.

    Here are some things I've learned:

    Often, people want you to witness their appreciation for a possession. They want to share an important memory, or they want you to admire something once dear to them. I find that after talking about an item, people are sometimes able to relinquish it. Help them explore these memories and associations.

    Sometimes, it helps to take a photo of an item. Or if there are several items that are important for the same emotional reason, you can help them identify their favorite and get rid of the others. The favorite college t-shirt, not every college t-shirt.

    Use gentle language and re-framing to help people let go. Instead of saying, "Realistically, you haven't fit into those outfits in five years, I really don't think you're going to be able to get back to that size," say, "If your body changes, don't you think you'll feel like getting new clothes? You won't want to wear things that have just been hanging in your closet this whole time."

    Or instead of saying "That's not flattering" or "That's completely out of fashion," say, "Well, it looks good on you, but you have many things that look better. Don't you think you'll end up wearing those things, instead?"

    Be a quiet, helpful presence. Often, I find, people don't really need my help at all. I don't need to do or say much. Just by being there, I help them set aside time to think about clutter, stay focused, make the extra effort (like running to get the step ladder to check the top shelf of a closet, instead of ignoring it), and make decisions instead of procrastinating. As you'd expect, this is particularly true of Obligers, for whom I act as outer accountability.

    Point out people's reactions. It can be hard to know ourselves and our own responses. I say things like "It doesn't seem like you really like that," "You just said that you've never used that," "You have a dismissive look on your face when you hold that," or "I see your face light up when you're holding that." Whether they agree or disagree with my characterization of their reaction, people get clarity from it.

    Make sure you both have the same vision. Recently I helped a friend clear her closet. She loves clothes, has a lot of clothes, and wanted me to help her go through them. She was defensive at first, because she was afraid that I'd try to get her down to a capsule wardrobe. So I had to reassure her, "You love clothes, you love having lots of choices, you can keep all the clothes you love. I'm just here to help you identify the items you don't like, don't wear, or think don't look good anymore."

    The point isn't to get people to a particular predetermined outcome; it's to help people clear away whatever feels like clutter to that person.

    If you're looking for more ideas for how to clear clutter and add beauty, get a copy of my new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm.

    Do you ever help other people clear clutter -- friends, children, sweetheart, co-workers? Have you found any strategies that help?

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:28 on 2019/02/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Relationships   

    Ideas I Wish I’d Had Sooner, So I Could’ve Included Them in “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” 


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    As a writer, I'm often frustrated because I'll have a great idea -- once it's too late to include it in my book.

    I've been thinking about outer order and inner calm for a very long time, and I'm so fascinated by the subject that I'm still finding new angles or making new observations.

    These ideas came to me too late to include in the book, but in case you find them helpful:

    Beware the "frenzy of the clear."

    Just as divers can experience the dangerous "rapture of the deep," I've seen people experience the "frenzy of the clear," when they become so intoxicated by the joy of relinquishment that they start tossing or giving away just about everything. When I was helping a friend clear clutter the other day, he threw away an unopened package of padded mailer envelopes. When I asked why, he said, "Those things never work!" I answered, "What are you talking about? Those things always work!" I fished out the package and took it home myself. I mail things constantly, so this was useful to me.

    The frenzy is helpful, because it makes it so easy to let things go, but too much frenzy could lead to mistakes and regret. Stay mindful.

    If you're annoyed by other people's clutter, and you consider yourself "the neat one," ask yourself, "Have I worked to eliminate clutter altogether, or am I just managing clutter in a neat way?"

    For example, are you putting the plastic containers back in the kitchen cupboard, closing the cupboard door, and complaining about how messy the cabinets are? Or are you pulling out all the plastic containers, sorting them, getting rid of the ones that don't have lids or are just nasty, and giving away the ones that aren't needed? Often, in my experience, people who claim to be "neat" are keeping things tidy at a very superficial level, and without consciously realizing it, they're expecting other people to do the work of deep elimination and decision-making.

    If you're annoyed by other people's clutter, ask yourself, "Have I truly done everything within my power to clear all of my own clutter?"

    A friend was complaining about how messy his wife is, how there's stuff everywhere even though he's very neat, and that they have a junked-up extra room that he'd like put to a better use. Then he casually mentioned that amid that junk was a big tub of athletic shoes that he'd moved from their last place but hadn't opened since. Start with yourself! He had a great idea, though, which was...

    If you're trying to nudge yourself to clear a space, think about what other use you can make of it.

    Could this walk-in closet be a little playroom? Could this storage room be turned into a library, a music room, or a yoga room? It's more satisfying to be getting something than to be relinquishing.

    Face the problem of the quality discard.

    Some items are of a quality that's too good for their purpose. Sometimes a store will use a box that's really, really sturdy, or I'll get excellent shoes bags. This is annoying, because what can be done with these things? I remind myself: if I can't use them, they're clutter, and need to be given away, recycled, or tossed.

    Be willing to discard an item that you love deeply, but are sick of.

    I had a jacket that I wore non-stop on my book tour for The Happiness Project. I wore it so much that my agent emailed me to say, "When I look on Google Images, every photo is you in that same jacket. You CANNOT KEEP WEARING IT ALL THE TIME!" I did continue to wear it very often, for years, but now I'm just so tired of it I'll never wear it again. I haven't worn it in three years, in fact. It's time to say farewell. Someone else will love it as much as I used to do.

    Ask necessary questions to get something out of a holding pattern.

    I write about this in Outer Order, Inner Calm, but here's another example, on the subject of something I love but am sick to death of -- my mother lent me a blue-striped jersey summer shirt that I wore a lot for a few years. Then I got sick of it. Last summer, I  didn't wear it all, but it was still in my closet, because I wondered, "Would my mother like this (excellent) shirt back, or should I give it away?" Just yesterday I emailed her at last! She said, "Send it back, I'll figure out what to do with it." Now I can send that shirt on its way. Does your sister want your old maternity clothes? Does your friend want your belts? Find out.

    If something doesn't fit or needs repair, give yourself a time limit and do it.

    If you can’t be bothered to do it in the next three weeks, you probably don't care. And from my observation, by the time people bother to set a time limit, they've actually owned that garment for months or years.

    NOTE: Don't spend money to fix an item that you don't even like! I've made that mistake. I tell myself, "I don't wear these pants because they're a little long," so finally I get them hemmed, and after paying good money I admit to myself, "Nah, I just don't like them. The length was just an excuse not to wear them."

    When clutter is truly clear, we should know everything that is in our home.

    We should know what's on every shelf, in every drawer, in every closet, in every box. There are no mystery areas. If someone says, "Do you own a hammer?" the answer is easy.

    Watch out for the challenges of the open office.

    I touch upon this issue in a few different places in Outer Order, Inner Calm, but I wish I'd written more about it. I've read a lot of discussion about the challenges posed by the lack of privacy, noise, and interruptions in open offices, but I haven't seen any discussion of the visual noise. I know that whenever I visit an open office, I feel overwhelmed by all the stuff that I see. Even if everyone's individual "desk" is neat, it still looks wild -- and of course every desk isn't neat. Plus there are the outdated holiday decorations, abandoned items, piles of office supplies, and so on. If you work in an open office, do you find this difficult?

    I have a feeling that this list will keep growing! Especially after Outer Order, Inner Calm officially hits the shelves on March 5, 2019. If you have any insights or suggestions, let me know. I love to hear different approaches for creating outer order.

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:00:25 on 2019/02/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Relationships,   

    Some Advice I Give Myself Over and Over, About My Romantic Relationship. 


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    I love my husband Jamie with all my heart.

    But as research shows—and I've found this in my own experience—married couples often treat each with less courtesy than they show to friends, or even strangers.

    I find it all too easy to snap at Jamie, to read my email while I'm talking to him on the phone, or to get annoyed by some of his habits.

    I remind myself often to take good advice—that I know perfectly well!

    Here are the challenges that come up most often for me, and the advice I give myself most often.

    1. Don't take things personally.

    It was really helpful for me to realize that Jamie is a Questioner, and that Questioners often intensely dislike answering questions. Before I understood this, I always wondered, "Why does he refuse to tell me what he's making for dinner, or what time we're supposed to arrive for the party?" I thought he was subtly trying to drive me crazy. But now I realize, "Yeah, that's an annoying thing about a lot of Questioners; it doesn't reflect on our relationship, he's like this with everyone."

    2. Use gentle language.

    Elizabeth and I just talked about this idea on the Happier podcast. I can be short-tempered and accusatory. Sad but true. I constantly make an effort to speak more gently, to say, "Do you know where the latest copy of The New Yorker is?" rather than "Did you throw away The New Yorker before I've read it, the way you always do?"

    3. Connect with love.

    I have so many resolutions related to creating a tender, attentive connection. Especially in The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I write about the many ways I try to show affection. For instance, the very first thing I do every morning is to give Jamie a kiss, and I get up to say hello or good-bye every time he comes and goes from the apartment.

    4. Look for ways to be thoughtful.

    I used to wish that Jamie handed out gold stars more often than he does—and in fact, I still wish he did, but I've accepted the fact that he doesn't. I remind myself that I'm doing thoughtful things for him not because he'll thank me, but because that's the way I want to be, that's the kind of atmosphere I want to live in. I'll buy him his favorite kind of shampoo if I notice that he's running low. I'll send him funny photos or cheerful updates during the day, especially when he's traveling.

    5. Make the positive argument.

    I'm very interested in the problems of shared work (one of my very favorite posts that I've ever written is on the subject), and this is an issue in marriage. Because of a phenomenon called unconscious over-claiming, we unconsciously overestimate our contributions or skills relative to other people’s. This makes sense, because of course we’re far more aware of what we do than what other people do. According to Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, “when husbands and wives estimate the percentage of housework each does, their estimates total more than 120 percent.”

    When I start telling myself things like, "Jamie never helps," "Jamie never plans," "Jamie never answers my emails," I make the positive argument, and remind myself of everything he does do.

    In David Dunning’s fascinating book, Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself, Dunning observes:

    [People] can argue anything. If asked to argue that some assertion “A” is true, people can do that. If next asked to argue that the opposite of “A” is true, they can do that, too, often with the exact same ease and effectiveness…When testing a hypothesis, people tend to emphasize evidence that confirms the hypothesis over information that disconfirms it. For example, if I asked someone whether he or she was an outgoing individual, that someone will likely sit back to think about times he or she has been an extroverted, sociable person…if I asked the same person whether he or she is the shy type, he or she would likely think of exactly…opposing examples because they confirm the new hypothesis. (46-47)

    I have really found this to be true.

    I have Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness, and the Sixth Truth is: "The only person I can change is myself." I can't assign resolutions for my husband to follow (as tempting as that sounds; it wouldn't work). Nevertheless, I've found that when I change, a relationship changes, and the atmosphere of my home changes.

    How about you? What advice do you have to repeat to yourself, about your relationship to your sweetheart?

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:23 on 2019/01/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Joy Enough, Relationships, Sarah McColl   

    “A Life of Contentment and Joy Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Experiences with Loss and Pain.” 


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    Interview: Sarah McColl

    Sarah McColl is a writer who has been published by a wide range of publications, and she also was founding editor-in-chief of Yahoo Foods.

    Her first book just hit the shelves, a memoir called Joy Enough.

    In it, she tackles her experience of simultaneously going through a divorce and losing her mother to cancer—a double blow.

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

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

    Sarah: When I moved to Los Angeles a little less than a year ago, I started attending a boot camp at the nearby recreation center three mornings a week. There’s a core group of the same women every day. We don’t know the details of one another’s lives, and many of us don’t speak the same language, but I love our sense of community. I know that every morning, rain or shine, we’re going to groan together during glute work and then high-five when it’s over.

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

    Sarah: In my first job after college as an editorial assistant, my boss would walk into my cubicle in her low-heeled Ferragamos, drop off a manuscript, and offer some unsolicited advice. There are many I still rely on, but one that’s come up time and again is: People think relationships will make them happy, but you have to bring happiness to the relationship.

    I knew intellectually what she meant, but it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I really got it. To have a sense of wholeness on your own—to have passions and friendships and desires and curiosities and ambitions that are all your own, that belong solely to you, and then to choose to be in relationship with someone, someone who you don’t need for those feelings of aliveness in your life, but who brings them all the same—not to mention support, affection, companionship, all the good stuff of loving—that brings so much life and air and, yes, happiness to the dynamic between two people.

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

    Sarah: A life of contentment and joy doesn’t mean avoiding experiences with loss and pain. Experiences with death, in fact, can heighten our awareness of and gratitude for living.

    In her book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky reports on a study in which 70 to 80 percent of people who had lost someone they love reported finding “benefit” to the experience. I don’t think we want a happy life so much as a meaningful one, and the meaning comes from the experience of feeling fully alive.

    Joseph Campbell said this pretty well: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

    I think death, loss, grief, and pain bring us in touch with the rapture of being alive as much as ecstatic happiness and joy.

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

    Sarah: Well, apparently I’m an Upholder! These results are interesting to me, and also a bit surprising. Sometimes my self-imposed deadlines and goals get in the way of doing what others want or expect from me, and I have a fear that I let people down as a result. But if something is important to me—like writing time, or alone time—I don’t have a problem creating those boundaries for myself.

    If I took this quiz and thought solely of health and exercise, I might turn out as an Obliger or a Rebel. If I say I will meet you for a 6 a.m. spin class, I’ll be there, but if the promise of an early morning exercise class is just to myself, I will hit snooze. Three times. The idea of a diet that tells me what to eat when makes me want to totally rebel. I definitely have a contrarian streak.

    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.?

    Sarah: My mother lived with Stage IV cancer for more than a year. It’s very clarifying when the stakes are life and death for someone you love. I moved home to be with her, to tend her garden and cook dinner, to talk about her fear of death and what I was going to do with my life. Everything became urgent, and if there was something I wanted to do, what was I waiting for? With her encouragement, I applied to graduate school to study writing, and quit my job as an editor-in-chief to attend school time full-time. This decision divided the people in my life into two categories: the people who thought this was brave, exciting, and wonderful and the people who thought I was crazy. But I knew I had to devote myself to what I had most wanted to do since I was a child, which was to write, and that I had to do it now.

    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?

    Sarah: You got this is one I turn to in times of trouble, large and small. Driving in scary rush hour traffic? You got this. Pitching a big magazine? You got this. Pushing out those last reps? You got this. (Actually, I say, “Light weight, baby. Light weight,” which I stole from a weight lifter friend.)

    But someone told me something recently that really struck me with its beauty: Feelings are powerful, and they pass.

    My mother used to say, “Feeling is living to me,” and that’s my experience, too. The world of my mind and my heart is the world to me. Everyone’s experience is filtered through consciousness, of course, but what I mean is that I trust my feelings. I’m invested in them. The guy next to me on the bus doesn’t and needn’t care about my inner life—he’s got his own—but I care a lot.

    There are obvious downfalls to this, one of which is that’s a lot of emotional labor to be doing all of the time. So learning how to navigate that intense emotional world is really part of my work as an adult. How do I live and experience and love deeply in ways that make me braver, more powerful, more resilient?

    Writing is a huge part of this for me. If I can investigate on the page why I feel the way I feel and what it means, whether in a poem or a story or an essay, then I’ve created something artful and made a discovery about what it means to be alive. Boom! Net positive. I think the very practice of being vulnerable to our emotional lives—allowing and experiencing our feelings, and knowing we have the strength to feel things deeply and still survive—that’s the practice. That’s the work I’m up to. (You got this.)

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

    Sarah: Every book I love changes me. Reading is so intimate. We take someone else’s words inside our body. So reading something that fills me with awe and wonder, that opens my eyes to something I’ve never considered, or puts its finger on a thing I have always felt but have never articulated—I live for that! The poem “What the Living Do,” by Marie Howe; Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner; the poem “Meditation at Lagunitas” by Robert Hass; the poem "We Are Both Sure to Die" by Wendy Xu; the recently-released second volume of Sylvia Plath’s letters; Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am I Am I Am; Sheila Heti’s Motherhood; I Love Dick by Chris Kraus; The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. All I ever want to read about is what it all means, what other people are making of life. Or, as Miranda July writes in the also changed-me It Chooses You, “All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.”

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

    Sarah: Aside from marketing and sales reasons, I don’t understand a commitment to genre in writing or in reading. “I only read nonfiction,” I heard someone say recently. Or, “I expect more from novels than I do from memoirs.” Wait, what? Why, I wondered? I love when writers blur the lines or ignore them or invent something new: autobiographical fiction, lyric prose, prose poems. I love surprising structures and forms, like an essay in the form of Trivial Pursuit answers. Maybe it’s because I like variety or because I’m greedy, but I want all the beauty, all the insight, all the awe. Who cares what it’s called. So maybe I am a Rebel after all.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:56 on 2019/01/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Julie Morgenstern, , , Relationships,   

    “Humans (Including Children) Thrive on Short Bursts of Focused Attention—Literally 5 to 20 Minutes at a Time—Delivered Consistently.” 


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    I got to know Julie Morgenstern's terrific work from her many bestselling books on order, productivity, time management, and organization. In particular, I'm a big fan of Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life. At the end of Outer Order, Inner Calm, I suggest just a few books for further reading, and this book is one of them. It's concrete, practical, and realistic. I also love Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Your Lifereally, I like all her books.
    Now Julie Morgenstern has tackled an order/organization/productivity subject that bedevils many of us, in her new book Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You.  

    How do we manage the family schedule? How do we use smartphones wisely? How do we give kids a lot our care and attention, but also take care of ourselves? Julie tackles issues like these and puts these issues into perspective.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Julie about happiness, habits, and productivity.
    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Julie: Every morning I do a 5 to 7-minute exercise routine. It’s a combination of sit-ups, push-ups, Pilates moves, and aerobics that I’ve been doing, religiously, since I was 13 years old. I do it no matter where I am—on a trip, at home, overnight at a friend’s house—all it requires is enough floor space for the length of my body, some width to kick and that’s it. This little routine is as natural to me as brushing my teeth or making my bed: my day doesn’t feel complete (or off on the right foot) without having done it. For me, it ensures that I’ve started the day by doing something for myself; strengthening my body and getting centered. I pull on that well of strength all day long, no matter what I’m doing.

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

    Julie: How much having a balanced life leads to happiness. At 18, I was intensely, some may say myopically, focused on work accomplishments. I haven’t necessarily lost that ability to hyper-focus, but for a long time—probably well into my thirties—I felt most invigorated by what I was able to get done. I thought fun was frivolous, a waste of time. My dad, who was quite committed to fun, used to ask me all the time, “Jul, what are you doing for fun?” And I’d say, “Dad, are you kidding me? I’ve got things to do! No time to waste!” Eventually, I  realized that to really be happy and fulfilled, I couldn’t possibly put all my eggs in one basket  (in my case, work; but for other people it might be a relationship or a role as a parent).

    When it comes to happiness, I’ve learned it’s good to diversify your sources. Balancing your time and energy across a bunch of different things that bring you fulfillment—work, friendships, family,  self care-creates a strong foundation, a safety net for joy at any given moment. If one category is under-delivering, you can turn to another reliable source for happiness, and stay resilient as each department of your life goes through natural ups and downs. I know my dad would approve.

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

    Julie: When I set out to write my latest book Time to Parent, the instruction manual on how to organize and manage our time during the child-rearing years, my burning question was this: How much time and attention do kids need to feel loved and secure? While I had 30 years of extensive experience coaching and organizing parents around the world, I wasn’t a parenting expert, so I had to turn to the experts on human development and the science to see what the research had to say.  I got lost in the stacks—for about eight years! I read hundreds of studies, volumes of books and interviewed leading  experts in every field from pediatrics to psychology to sociology and education.

    The research was astonishing—science is exploding with discoveries about the power of time and attention to human development—and it helped me land on two central lessons of the book. The first is that quality connections between a kid and a caregiver are as essential a nutrient for a child’s development as food and sunshine. Quality, connected time contributes to a child’s self esteem, social competence, academic and career success, executive function and resilience. It even inoculates us against the onset of chronic disease as adults. (This last one really blew me away!) The second lesson is that humans thrive on short bursts of focused attention—literally 5 to 20 minutes at a time—delivered consistently. The book helps parents build space for those bursts in the chaos of every day life. It’s easily the most surprising and liberating thing for parents to understand, because with intention, everyone can make sure kids are getting what they need to thrive and be happy.

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

    Julie: I started smoking as a teenager and by the time I finally got around to quitting, I was up to two packs a day. Besides the fact that I smelled like a walking ashtray, my entire day was organized around when I could have a cigarette. At some point in my early twenties, I got scared when I noticed how out of breath I got while walking up a set of stairs. What would become of middle-aged me if 20-something me could barely make it up two flights of stairs? After a few false starts, I finally tried hypnosis. The hypnotherapist asked me two simple questions: When do you smoke? What do you get out of smoking? I loved that second question because it helped me realize that every bad behavior has a positive intention. I used smoking as a shot of courage before I had to do something that made me nervous—write a paper, schmooze at a cocktail party, speak in front of a crowd. Once I understood what smoking did for me without judgement, the hypnotherapist asked me to come up with something else. Getting a hug from my parents before school had always done the trick, so she hypnotized me to feel that hug--by just squeezing my fist every time I needed that shot of courage. It worked! And I never smoked again.

    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.?

    Julie: I was having dinner maybe 12 or 15 years ago with my client and friend, Harriet. We were in a restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, when an elderly woman, who was a friend of Harriet’s, happened to pass by. Harriet called out to the older woman, Mary, to come in say hello. Mary must have been 93 years old, but she was full of zip and smarts. Harriett, who delighted in people, said, “Mary, you’re 93, what wisdom have you learned in your life?” Mary said “Don’t pay good money for expert advice and not take it.” I instantly internalized that nugget of wisdom and from that day forward have never wasted time paying for good advice and not taking it. I just take it. It saves an enormous energy, second-guessing and worry—all time that can be put to much better use.

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

    Julie: Like everybody else on the planet, I struggle with the lure of distraction; especially when I’m working on a particularly challenging or daunting project. It’s easy to give into shiny objects in close proximity—my email, the Internet, anything else. When I feel myself gravitating away from a given task to my cell phone, I have a simple phrase that pulls me back into the moment: “Is that the highest and best use of my time?” The minute I ask myself that, I’m able to halt the gravitational pull from my iPhone (or my inbox) and be more engaged with the person or project at hand.

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

    Julie: Oh, yes! Two big things. First, people think organizing is about getting rid of things. That’s wrong. Decluttering is about getting rid of things. Organizing is about designing systems that give you access to what you use and love. It’s about designing systems that help you pursue your goals and live your life by making you more efficient in everything you need and want to do—whether it’s cooking a meal, getting dressed, running a business, getting your kids to soccer practice on time.

    The second misperception is that running the logistics for a family should be manageable for one person. Not so! Organizing for one person is hard enough. Setting up multi-user family systems—for people with different personalities, changing abilities and skills, goals—is incredibly hard for anybody, let alone mere mortals. The solution is to make systems that are simple, automated (when possible) and maintainable by a five-year old. And to share the workload of creating and maintaining a family’s systems—that’s one of the best ways for family members to take care of each other.

    timetoparent

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:56 on 2019/01/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Julie Morgenstern, , , Relationships,   

    “Humans (Including Children) Thrive on Short Bursts of Focused Attention—Literally 5 to 20 Minutes at a Time—Delivered Consistently.” 


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    I got to know Julie Morgenstern's terrific work from her many bestselling books on order, productivity, time management, and organization. In particular, I'm a big fan of Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life. At the end of Outer Order, Inner Calm, I suggest just a few books for further reading, and this book is one of them. It's concrete, practical, and realistic. I also love Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Your Lifereally, I like all her books.
    Now Julie Morgenstern has tackled an order/organization/productivity subject that bedevils many of us, in her new book Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You.  

    How do we manage the family schedule? How do we use smartphones wisely? How do we give kids a lot our care and attention, but also take care of ourselves? Julie tackles issues like these and puts these issues into perspective.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Julie about happiness, habits, and productivity.
    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Julie: Every morning I do a 5 to 7-minute exercise routine. It’s a combination of sit-ups, push-ups, Pilates moves, and aerobics that I’ve been doing, religiously, since I was 13 years old. I do it no matter where I am—on a trip, at home, overnight at a friend’s house—all it requires is enough floor space for the length of my body, some width to kick and that’s it. This little routine is as natural to me as brushing my teeth or making my bed: my day doesn’t feel complete (or off on the right foot) without having done it. For me, it ensures that I’ve started the day by doing something for myself; strengthening my body and getting centered. I pull on that well of strength all day long, no matter what I’m doing.

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

    Julie: How much having a balanced life leads to happiness. At 18, I was intensely, some may say myopically, focused on work accomplishments. I haven’t necessarily lost that ability to hyper-focus, but for a long time—probably well into my thirties—I felt most invigorated by what I was able to get done. I thought fun was frivolous, a waste of time. My dad, who was quite committed to fun, used to ask me all the time, “Jul, what are you doing for fun?” And I’d say, “Dad, are you kidding me? I’ve got things to do! No time to waste!” Eventually, I  realized that to really be happy and fulfilled, I couldn’t possibly put all my eggs in one basket  (in my case, work; but for other people it might be a relationship or a role as a parent).

    When it comes to happiness, I’ve learned it’s good to diversify your sources. Balancing your time and energy across a bunch of different things that bring you fulfillment—work, friendships, family,  self care-creates a strong foundation, a safety net for joy at any given moment. If one category is under-delivering, you can turn to another reliable source for happiness, and stay resilient as each department of your life goes through natural ups and downs. I know my dad would approve.

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

    Julie: When I set out to write my latest book Time to Parent, the instruction manual on how to organize and manage our time during the child-rearing years, my burning question was this: How much time and attention do kids need to feel loved and secure? While I had 30 years of extensive experience coaching and organizing parents around the world, I wasn’t a parenting expert, so I had to turn to the experts on human development and the science to see what the research had to say.  I got lost in the stacks—for about eight years! I read hundreds of studies, volumes of books and interviewed leading  experts in every field from pediatrics to psychology to sociology and education.

    The research was astonishing—science is exploding with discoveries about the power of time and attention to human development—and it helped me land on two central lessons of the book. The first is that quality connections between a kid and a caregiver are as essential a nutrient for a child’s development as food and sunshine. Quality, connected time contributes to a child’s self esteem, social competence, academic and career success, executive function and resilience. It even inoculates us against the onset of chronic disease as adults. (This last one really blew me away!) The second lesson is that humans thrive on short bursts of focused attention—literally 5 to 20 minutes at a time—delivered consistently. The book helps parents build space for those bursts in the chaos of every day life. It’s easily the most surprising and liberating thing for parents to understand, because with intention, everyone can make sure kids are getting what they need to thrive and be happy.

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

    Julie: I started smoking as a teenager and by the time I finally got around to quitting, I was up to two packs a day. Besides the fact that I smelled like a walking ashtray, my entire day was organized around when I could have a cigarette. At some point in my early twenties, I got scared when I noticed how out of breath I got while walking up a set of stairs. What would become of middle-aged me if 20-something me could barely make it up two flights of stairs? After a few false starts, I finally tried hypnosis. The hypnotherapist asked me two simple questions: When do you smoke? What do you get out of smoking? I loved that second question because it helped me realize that every bad behavior has a positive intention. I used smoking as a shot of courage before I had to do something that made me nervous—write a paper, schmooze at a cocktail party, speak in front of a crowd. Once I understood what smoking did for me without judgement, the hypnotherapist asked me to come up with something else. Getting a hug from my parents before school had always done the trick, so she hypnotized me to feel that hug--by just squeezing my fist every time I needed that shot of courage. It worked! And I never smoked again.

    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.?

    Julie: I was having dinner maybe 12 or 15 years ago with my client and friend, Harriet. We were in a restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, when an elderly woman, who was a friend of Harriet’s, happened to pass by. Harriet called out to the older woman, Mary, to come in say hello. Mary must have been 93 years old, but she was full of zip and smarts. Harriett, who delighted in people, said, “Mary, you’re 93, what wisdom have you learned in your life?” Mary said “Don’t pay good money for expert advice and not take it.” I instantly internalized that nugget of wisdom and from that day forward have never wasted time paying for good advice and not taking it. I just take it. It saves an enormous energy, second-guessing and worry—all time that can be put to much better use.

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

    Julie: Like everybody else on the planet, I struggle with the lure of distraction; especially when I’m working on a particularly challenging or daunting project. It’s easy to give into shiny objects in close proximity—my email, the Internet, anything else. When I feel myself gravitating away from a given task to my cell phone, I have a simple phrase that pulls me back into the moment: “Is that the highest and best use of my time?” The minute I ask myself that, I’m able to halt the gravitational pull from my iPhone (or my inbox) and be more engaged with the person or project at hand.

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

    Julie: Oh, yes! Two big things. First, people think organizing is about getting rid of things. That’s wrong. Decluttering is about getting rid of things. Organizing is about designing systems that give you access to what you use and love. It’s about designing systems that help you pursue your goals and live your life by making you more efficient in everything you need and want to do—whether it’s cooking a meal, getting dressed, running a business, getting your kids to soccer practice on time.

    The second misperception is that running the logistics for a family should be manageable for one person. Not so! Organizing for one person is hard enough. Setting up multi-user family systems—for people with different personalities, changing abilities and skills, goals—is incredibly hard for anybody, let alone mere mortals. The solution is to make systems that are simple, automated (when possible) and maintainable by a five-year old. And to share the workload of creating and maintaining a family’s systems—that’s one of the best ways for family members to take care of each other.

    timetoparent

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

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


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    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 10:00:18 on 2018/12/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , How to Live Forever book, , Marc Freedman, mentorship, Relationships   

    “Society Grows Great When Older People Plant Trees Under Whose Shade They Shall Never Sit.” 


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    Interview: Marc Freedman

    Marc Freedman is the President and CEO of Encore.org, and is a renowned social entrepreneur, thinker, and writer.  I've been interested in his work for a long time. Among other things, he highlights the significance of harnessing the experience and talent of people past midlife as a way to make the world better.

    This is important, because in 2019, for the first time ever, the United States will have more people older than age 60 than younger than age 18.

    In his terrific new book, How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations, Marc Freedman examines how we can make a more-old-than-young society work for all ages. But not only that–he also emphasizes how we can find fulfillment and happiness in our longer lives by connecting with the next generation.

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

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

    Marc: Walking. I walk about five miles a day, up and down the hills of Berkeley, California. It clears my mind—and it’s good for my dogs, too!

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

    Marc: I learned in my research for this book that those in middle age or older who invest in nurturing the next generation are three times as likely to be happy as those who don’t. I wouldn’t have paid much attention to that at 18, but it’s hugely important to me now.

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

    Marc: Experience Corps, which I helped create more than 20 years ago, taps the time and talents of older adults to help 30,000 children in urban elementary schools learn to read every year. It’s a tutoring program, right? Well, not exactly. The conventional wisdom is that the relationships provide a foundation for the tutoring help. Today I think that formulation has it backward. The reading lessons are the scaffolding around which a rich array of bonds can take hold. And these connections aren’t just a means to an end; they’re an important end in and of themselves. In other words, I’ve realized that Experience Corps is actually a relationship program. You could say it’s helping to clear the market for love!

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

    Marc: I make no claim on healthy habits! I’m 60, travel all the time, and have three sons—ages 8, 10 and 12. I have tried to develop healthy sleeping and eating habits for decades and failed over and over again. I can say, in all seriousness, that my love of music and movies has served me well, leading to many relaxing moments, quality time with others, even creative insights.

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

    Marc: I used to eat any and all doughnuts. Now I only eat high quality doughnuts.

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

    Marc: I’d say I’m a Rebel/Obliger hybrid. I want to get the job done in a way that makes me proud, but I seem determined to do it on my terms and my timetable. So, as you might guess, I have a lot of trouble with deadlines. In college, I set what I think is still an intercollegiate record for incomplete classes. In my first three semesters, I racked up nine incompletes—impressive, considering that I’d only taken 12 courses and four of them were pass-fail. Things haven’t improved much since then, I’m afraid.

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

    Marc: Travel, stress, deadlines, kids, dogs, parties, doughnuts. I’d say everything interferes at one time or another.

    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.?

    Marc: I have had my share of health scares, and after each one, I expand my capacity for gratitude and renew my commitment to take better care of myself. I’m really quite religious about walking every day now. Knee troubles that threatened to make that impossible but have now thankfully vanished.

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

    Marc: I often quote a Greek proverb that reads, “Society grows great when older people plant trees under whose shade they shall never sit.” I see now that How to Live Forever has been all about planting seeds, irrigating them, letting life bloom. It’s ironic that my own great mentor in much of this was a man named (John) Gardner. It is our role as older people to plant those trees under whose shade we shall never sit. Our task is not to try to be young, but to be there for those who actually are.

     
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