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

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


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    Interview: Lori Gottlieb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:45 on 2019/05/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , frustration, guilt, , , persistence, , Self-knowledge   

    A Happiness Question: What Should We Do if We Feel Like We’ve Fallen Behind or Fallen Off the Wagon? 


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    When we're trying to make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative, we often find ourselves in a frustrating situation: we fall behind or we fall off the wagon.

    What to do? Here are some useful points to consider:

    1. Don't beat yourself up.

    Although some people assume that strong feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true. People who feel less guilt and who show compassion toward themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel deeply guilty and full of self-blame struggle more.

    Often, when we feel bad about breaking a good habit, we try to make ourselves feel better by...indulging in the bad habit! A woman told me, "I felt so bad about breaking my diet that I ate three orders of french fries." This is the cruel poetic justice of bad habits.

    2. Remember that what you do most days matters more than what you once in a while.

    If you're pretty good most days, don't get too upset if you don't have a perfect record. Don't let yourself start to think, "Gosh, I haven't exercised in ten days, what's the point of starting now?" Sure, you wish you'd exercised those ten days, but if you get back in the habit, those lost days aren't a very big deal.

    And fail small, not big. Once a good behavior is broken, we sometimes act as though it doesn’t matter whether it’s broken by a little or a lot. “I didn’t do any work this morning, so what the heck, I’ll take the rest of the week off and start on Monday.” “I missed my yoga class over spring break, so what the heck, I’ll start again in the fall.” Pick yourself back up right away!

    3. A stumble may prevent a fall.

    If you've fallen behind or fallen off the wagon, remind yourself of the valuable proverb: "A stumble may prevent a fall." Sure, you've gone through a rough patch, but you can use this experience to learn more about yourself and your challenges. Maybe you fell behind while traveling, or when you had family visiting, or when you were in a tough stretch at work. How can you use this experience to set yourself up for more success in the future?

    Let's say you were eating very healthfully, then you spent a weekend to a hotel where you ate too much of the wrong food at the all-you-can-eat buffets. So now you've learned, "I shouldn't pick the buffet option. I should order off the menu. That way, I'll know exactly what food I'll get, in a set portion." Studies show that we tend to eat more when faced with a bigger variety, and when it's self-serve, we can serve ourselves a lot! Remind yourself, "I learned this lesson the hard way. Next time, I'll make a different choice."

    4. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    When we're making resolutions, it's easy to set big ambitious goals, and sometimes it's tough to meet them. We plan to train for a 5K, or get the basement cleared out, or write a rough draft of a novel by the end of the year. Then, we fail to make progress, it's easy to get discouraged and accuse ourselves of laziness.

    Remember, any progress is better than no progress! You may not have finished a full draft, but you have an outline of your novel. You haven't switched careers yet, but you've started thinking about next steps.

    Some people find it helpful to keep a ta-da list. A to-do list reminds you of what you need to get done; a ta-da list reminds you of all you've accomplished already. A ta-da list can be a tremendous source of energy and reassurance.

    5. Consider your Tendency.

    Often, when we fail to make progress, it's because we haven't taken our Tendency into account. For instance, if you're an Obliger, you must have outer accountability. You must! That's what works for Obligers! If you see that a particular form of outer accountability isn't working, trying a different form. If paying for a trainer doesn't get you to go to the gym, try working out with a friend who's very annoyed when you don't show up. If that doesn't work, teach a class. If that doesn't work, think of your duty to be a role model for someone else. If that doesn't work, join a group on the Better app where you tell each other, "I'm counting on you to count on me. If none of us hold each other accountable, none of us will succeed."

    If you're a Rebel, don't try to lock yourself into a to-do list or a schedule. That often doesn't work for a Rebel. Think about what you want, and how you want to live up to your identity.

    If you're a Questioner, really examine your reasons. Why are you doing this, in this way? Is it the best, most efficient way, and is it tailored to suit you specifically? When Questioners struggle, it's usually because they're fundamentally unconvinced by whatever they're trying to do.

    If you don't know your Tendency—whether you're an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or Rebel—you can take the free, quick quiz here.

    6. Are you giving yourself healthy treats?

    When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. If you're asking a lot of yourself these days, make sure you're helping yourself feel energized and cared for by giving yourself healthy treats, whatever that might be for you. For me, it's reading children's literature.

    But make sure these are healthy treats. You don't want to try to make yourself feel better by indulging in something (wine, impulse purchases, sweets, messiness) that will make you feel worse in the end.

    7. Remember, it's easier to keep up than to catch up.

    Sometimes, when we're creating a healthy habit or practice, we need to catch up. We need to clear out a lot of clutter before we can maintain good order. We need to adjust to life without the morning doughnut. This is hard, but remember that once we're caught up or accustomed to a new way, it gets easier. It may take a few tries to get over the initial hurdle, but remember that the situation will get easier once it's more ingrained.

     

    Stay the course! Don't give up! My book Better Than Before examines the 21 strategies that we can use to make or break our habits, and one of the most helpful strategies is the Strategy of Safeguards. It's all about how to anticipate challenges, and how to deal with it when we run into trouble.

    It's a very common frustration.

    Have you found any great ways to stay on course, even when you feel as if you're falling behind?

     
  • gretchenrubin 15:00:25 on 2019/02/15 Permalink
    Tags: , daily, , question, , Self-knowledge   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: Describe a Day in the Life of Gretchen Rubin. 


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    I'm often asked what my typical day includes.

    I wish I could have a highly routinized day. My fantasy is to live the life of a Benedictine monk—and I mean that quite literally. I've done a huge amount of research into the Rule of St. Benedict and how monastery time is structured because it's so appealing to me.

    But alas, I can't manage that.

    The beginning of my day is usually predictable.

    At 6:00 a.m., I wake up (even on the weekends and holidays). I get dressed, spend 10-15 minutes clearing clutter in our kitchen, family room, entryway, etc. I take my dog Barnaby outside for his morning walk, then head up to my computer to start working on my emails. (I know, many productivity experts say that a morning person like me shouldn't waste good mental energy on emails--but I find I can't settle down to my day until I've cleared out my inbox.)

     

    At this point, my husband Jamie and my daughter Eleanor are getting ready for the day. I talk to them until they leave. I continue working until sometime between 8 am and 10 am, at which point I exercise. I go for a forty-minute walk in Central Park, or I do my weekly yoga class with my mother-in-law, or I do my weekly session of high-intensity weight training.

    From this point, my days differ wildly.

    I might be writing—could be a book draft, a newsletter update, a blog post, a script for a podcast episode, jacket copy, a written

    interview. If I'm in the stage of my work when I'm actually writing or editing a book, I aim to write or edit for at least three hours on that project. Three hours may not sound like a lot, but believe me, it's a lot of writing for one day (at least for me). When I'm in maximum concentration mode, I often take my laptop to my beloved New York Society Library and work at a desk hidden in the stacks. I love to do my writing in a library.

    If I'm not writing, I'm talking. I might be doing an interview, meeting someone for lunch or coffee, recording a podcast episode, or having a call with someone.

    My days differ dramatically depending on where I am in my book cycle. Right now, because my book Outer Order, Inner Calm is coming out in March (have I mentioned that I have a book coming out? Oh right, I think I have), much of my day is related to the book launch, plans for the book tour, creating the pre-order bonus, etc.

    Once that book is well launched, I'll begin to work on my next book. I've already started reading, thinking, and taking notes, but at this point, the intensity will ramp up dramatically.

    Of course, throughout these days, I'm hacking away at my never-ending scroll of emails. For me, email is very valuable. Usually, it's the most efficient way to get things done, and I love to hear from readers, listeners, and viewers—my understanding of my subjects has been deepened tremendously by what I've learned from people emailing me. So I don't begrudge the time I spend on email—but I also try to stay on top of it, because I dislike knowing that I've fallen far behind.

    As the day unfolds, I'm also reading and writing on social media. For me, social media feels like time well spent. I don't have the feeling that it's sucking away my time or that my usage is out of control. Whether that's because I'm an Upholder, or for some other reason, I'm not sure.

    And of course, I see friends and family. I make lots of fun plans, and fortunately for me, my husband also makes fun plans.

    At night, and especially during the weekend, I try to spend a lot of time reading. Some weekends I get a lot of reading done, some weekends are so busy that I can't read much.  I feel like I never read, but I do see that I manage to get books finished. It's a mystery to me. I always want more time to read!

    Is your schedule pretty predictable, or does it change dramatically? I love as much routine as I can manage.

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

    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

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:21 on 2018/10/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Obligers, , self care, Self-knowledge   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: “How Can I Make More Time for Self-Care?” 


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    People often ask me, "How do I make more time for myself? How do I put myself first?"

    And when I hear that question, I think: OBLIGER!

    Obligers think that everyone struggles with this question, but in fact, it's a much bigger challenge for Obligers than it is for Upholders, Questioners, or Rebels. Each of these other Tendencies benefits from its own safeguard.

    (Don't know what I'm talking about with those terms—Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, Rebel? Take my quick, free "Four Tendencies" quiz here or read about my personality framework here.)

    Sometimes this Obliger challenge takes the form of "I'm so busy putting other people first, I don't have time for myself."

    Sometimes it looks more like "I give 110% to my patients, I can't possibly find time to exercise" or "With my grueling travel schedule, there's no way I could eat healthier."

    However this issue is framed, it boils down to the Obliger pattern: meeting outer expectations but struggling to meet inner expectations.

    And the solution is always the same: create outer accountability for meeting inner expectations.

    This is the answer. This is crucial. Don't work on motivation, priorities, clarity, will-power, none of that! Work on creating outer accountability.

    Creating Outer Accountability for Self-care

    So, how might an Obliger create outer accountability for "self-care" type activities? Or how might someone around an Obliger help that person to do that?

    Want to read more? Join a book group; read what your children are reading in school so you can have family discussions.

    Want to exercise more? Work out with a trainer; take a class; go for a walk with a friend who will be annoyed if you don't show up; take your dog for a walk and remind yourself that your dog really benefits from the exercise.

    Want to eat more healthfully? Think of how disappointed your future-self will be if you keep eating junk food; think of how much healthier others will be if you don't bring junk food into your home or office.

    Want to give yourself a treat, like a massage or a tennis lesson? Remember, "If I give more to myself, I can give more to others. If I let myself get too drained and exhausted, I won't be able to be a good family member/colleague/employee/boss/friend. I need to put my own oxygen mask first."

    Want to quit smoking? Think of your duty to be a role model for others; think about the fact that by smoking, you're pouring money into the pockets of the tobacco companies who will use that money to get more people addicted to cigarettes; think of how others depend on you to be healthy.

    Want to make time to see friends? Create a regular appointment (have lunch every first Monday of the month) so that people expect you to show up at a certain time; tell your family or friends "I'm making a commitment to spend more time with friends" so that you feel an obligation to follow through—even if only to model the behavior for others that it's important to keep our promises to ourselves.

    Want to work on your novel? Join a writing group where every member holds each other accountable for a certain amount of writing; tell your kids, "You have your work, I have my work. If you don't see me working on my novel, you don't have to do your homework."

    Note that these strategies might not work very well with other Tendencies.

    As an UPHOLDER/Questioner, I resist ideas like, "I need to take care of myself so I can care for others." I care for myself because that's what I want and need—not because of others.

    Likewise, a Rebel might resist the idea of having a regular meet-up with friends. Typically, Rebels don't like to feel constrained by a calendar.

    If you want to go deeper into the Four Tendencies, read the book The Four Tendencies or take my online video course.

    If you need outer accountability—for self-care or for anything—you can also launch or join an accountability group on my free app, the Better app. It's a place for questions, discussions, and observations about the Four Tendencies, and also a place to create an accountability group for whatever aim you're trying to reach.

    I'm astonished by the ingenuity and imagination that Obligers use in creating outer accountability for themselves. Brilliant solutions! It's really not that hard to do, once you realize that outer accountability is what's necessary.

    Have you come up with any great ways to give yourself outer accountability?

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

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


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    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?

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:30:32 on 2018/03/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , identity, Self-knowledge, southerner,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: Why Did I List “Southerner” as a Possibly Negative Identity? 


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    Since Better Than Before, my book about habit change, hit the shelves, I’ve received several emails from loyal Southerners asking me about my inclusion of the identity of "Southerner" in the following passage discussing identity.

    Better Than Before identifies the 21 strategies we can use to make or break our habits, and in my chapter on the importance of the "Strategy of Identity," I write:

    We can get locked into identities that aren’t good for us: "a workaholic," "a perfectionist," "a Southerner," "the responsible one." As part of the Strategies of the Four Tendencies and Distinctions, I’d worked to identify different personality categories to which I belonged, but these kinds of labels should help me understand myself more deeply, not limit my sense of identity. Someone wrote on my site, "Food and eating used to play a big part in my identity until I realized that my baking and being a ‘baker’ was resulting in being overweight. So I had to let that identity go."

    In this passage, I’m not suggesting that "Southerner" is necessarily a negative identity, but one that might be negative for a particular person – it might also be a positive identity; this just depends on a particular person. For some people, identifying as "the responsible one" might give them a sense of pride and purpose, and for others, identifying as "the responsible one" might feel constraining and burdensome.

    Now, why did I include "Southerner" in this list of examples? Well, because while I was writing this book – and, I must admit, unmercifully quizzing my friends about their habits – a good friend mentioned it.

    As I discuss at length in Better Than Before, I had many discussions with one friend whose identity as "Italian" had been in conflict with her desire to eat and drink more healthfully.

    Along the same lines, another friend told me that the identity of being "Southern" was tied up, for him, with the idea of sweet tea, fried foods, pie, and the idea that a polite person would never turn down food that was offered. He wanted to change his eating habits, and he realized he had to figure out, "How can I live up to my Southern identity in a way that allows me to eat more healthfully?" Once he was able to see how this aspect of his identity was making it hard to stick to the good habits he wanted to cultivate, he was able to find many ways to be a true Southerner, and honor his Southern traditions, with less sweet tea.

    Most identities have both positive and negative sides. In my observation, the problem arises when we don’t see how an identity is influencing our habits; if we don’t see this factor, we can’t think through it and possibly alter the habits that flow from it. We can embrace an identity, yet shape that identity.

    As with me. My identity as a "real book-lover" made me assume that I had to finish every book I started, even if I found it boring. Which is what I did, for decades. But after studying the Strategy of Identity, I realized that I could alter my definition of what it meant to be a "real book-lover," with the thought, "If I stop reading a book I don’t like, I’ll have more time to read the books I do enjoy. That habit allows me to be a ‘real book-lover’ in a different way." My identity is the same; I just found a different habit to honor it.

    Usually, when we address the Strategy of Identity for ourselves, we don’t wholly let go of an identity – it was unusual for the "baker" let go of that identity totally – usually, we re-shape the expression of the identity, or decide to let one narrow aspect of that identity go, while holding on to the aspects that we want to keep. I can absolutely remain a real book-lover without finishing every book I start.

    Speaking of the Strategy of Identity, I can’t help but mention one of my favorite examples, which I write about in Better Than Before,. In their fascinating book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath describe how an anti-littering campaign successfully changed the littering habits of Texans, after messages such as "Please Don’t Litter" and "Pitch In" failed. For the campaign, famous Texans such as George Foreman, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, and various sports figures made TV spots with the message "Don’t mess with Texas." The campaign convinced people that true Texans—proud, loyal, tough Texans—protect Texas. During the campaign’s first five years, visible roadside litter dropped 72 percent.

    Our habits reflect our identities. We all have many identities. And we can shape how we honor those identities, so we can create the lives we want.

    Have you experienced this? Is there an area in your life where an important identity made it hard to follow a habit that you wanted to keep?

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:55:19 on 2018/02/24 Permalink
    Tags: , Francoise Gilot, Matisse, , , Self-knowledge   

    Secret of Adulthood: I’m Unique, Just Like Everyone Else. 


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    In her memoir Life with Picasso, Francoise Gilot quoted Matisse:

    As Matisse said, "When I look at a fig tree, every leaf has a different design. They all have their own manner of moving in space; yet in their own separate ways, they all cry, 'Fig tree.'"

    It's one of my Secrets of Adulthood: I'm unique, just like everyone else.

    Do you have any favorite memoirs to recommend? I'm in the mood to read a really terrific memoir. Maybe I'll finally read James Boswell's London Journal.

     

     

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:48:54 on 2017/10/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , , recovery, , Self-knowledge, tattoo   

    Would Your Authentic Self Get a Tattoo? 


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    "Untreated substance abuse is often treated as 'cool' and as sort of a counterculture badge of honor, a way of proclaiming, 'Look out, dullards, I'm still dangerous.' Likewise, sobriety is sometimes looked at as a fertile ground for the has-been and those who may have lost their edge. I was always scared of losing mine, and so, with ninety days sober, I got a tattoo to show I was still all about it. However, one of the gifts of recovery is authenticity, finding your true self. Today I know that I don't care so much about being cool, much less edgy. I've seen too many good friends chase that image to the gates of prison, insanity or death. I still like my tattoo, but it means nothing to me now other than being a reminder that I've found my authentic self. And my authentic self is someone who wouldn't get a tattoo."

    --Rob Lowe, Love Life

    I have to say, I'm a huge fan of Rob Lowe's writing. He's very perceptive, and it's clear that being a super-famous Hollywood celebrity gives you a strange and interesting perspective on the world.

    Often, a tattoo does seem like something that is tied deeply to a sense of authenticity -- of revealing something important about ourselves, through our choice of design.

    Would your authentic self get a tattoo -- or do you already have one?

    If not, what design would you choose?

    If so, why did you choose the tattoo you chose?

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:08:19 on 2017/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Self-knowledge,   

    Podcast 128: Connect with TV, Conquering the Snooze Alarm–and Is It Possible to be a Mix of the Four Tendencies? 


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    Update: Elizabeth is excited because tomorrow on the “Happier in Hollywood” podcast, she and Sarah talk about a very common happiness stumbling block: self-criticism. When is it helpful, and when is it toxic?

    I’m excited because my new book, The Four Tendencies, hits the shelves in just 41 days. So close, and yet so far!

    Pre-orders give a big boost to a book, so to thank readers who pre-order, I worked with a terrific production team to create a series of videos about the Four Tendencies. After the book goes on sale, I’ll charge for these videos, but until then, you can get access to them for free if you pre-order. Find all the info here. There’s an overview video, then subject videos on using the Four Tendencies at work, with spouses and sweethearts, with children and students, and in health-care settings.

    Try This at Home:  Connect through television. On episode 9 of “Happier in Hollywood,” the weekly “Hollywood Hack” was to “watch the TV shows your boss watches” to create an easy way to connect.

    But TV is a great way to connect not only with a boss, but also with co-workers, teenagers, grandparents…many relationships. Have you ever used TV to strengthen an important relationship?

    I quote from Tyler Cowen’s Discover You Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Your Motivate Your Dentist.

    Happiness Hack: Put your alarm device across the room, so you have to get out of bed in order to turn off the noise.

    1pix

    Four Tendencies Tip: If you want to take the Quiz, to see whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

    People often suggest that they think they’re a mix of Tendencies, but I argue that just about every one of us does fall into one core Tendency.

    That said, the Tendencies do overlap, and it’s possible to “tip” to a Tendency that overlaps with your core Tendency. For instance, I’m an UPHOLDER/Questioner, and Elizabeth is an OBLIGER/Questioner.

    Listener Question: Debbie asks how to figure out if she truly finds it fun to pursue the outdoor activities that her husband loves.

    Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth has started playing a new app game, Two Dots.

    Gretchen’s Gold Star: I managed to stay (reasonably) calm while Eliza and I were shopping for some things she needs for college.


    Three Resources:

    1. To get the pre-order bonus, you can find info here, or at happiercast.com/4tbonus. 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.
    2.  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.

    If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

    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 Radical Candor and Happier in Hollywood.

    HAPPIER listening!

    The post Podcast 128: Connect with TV, Conquering the Snooze Alarm–and Is It Possible to be a Mix of the Four Tendencies? appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
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