A Little Happier: There’s Great Value, Especially in a Family, Of Knowing When to Say Nothing.

It’s time for the latest A Little Happier.

Can you think of a time when you — or someone else — managed to leave words unsaid? It’s harder than it sounds.

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Can You “Drift” Your Way into Graduate School? Oh Yes.

From time to time, I write about “drift.” Drift is the decision you make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility.

You want to dodge a fight with the people around you, or you want to please them, or you want to avoid a struggle with self-doubt or uncertainty.

In my case, I drifted into law school.

If you want to hear me talk about drift, and tell my law-school story, you can watch it here.

You can also take the popular quiz, Are You Drifting?

Because I think drift is so important, I made a vow to myself that I’d raise the issue anytime I spoke to students — high school, undergraduate, or graduate.  And the issue always strikes a chord.

For instance, each year I speak to a group of first-year medical students, and it turns out that medical students can be subject to drift. Initially, this surprised me, because I thought, “Medical school is so hard, and so specific, and takes so much time and money. No one would drift into med school.”

But no! It happens. People think, “My mother and father are both doctors, so I should be a doctor.” Or “I’m good at math and science, people keep telling me I should become a doctor.” They can do it, and they don’t know what else to do, so they move forward. That’s drift.

So I was very interested, but not surprised, to see this piece by Tatiana Schlossberg in the New York Times, about the Sauermann and Roach study “Why Pursue the Postdoc Path?

Schlossberg writes:

“Doctoral students in the sciences are more like the rest of us than previously thought: They don’t know what they want to do with their lives, either…The authors [of the study found] evidence that many students pursued postdocs as a default option after graduate school, or as part of a ‘holding pattern’ until the job they wanted was available. The authors…conclusively demonstrated the need for more career planning among graduate students, and that graduate students should consider their career paths before they even begin a Ph.D. program.”

In other words, these students drifted into graduate work without a clear plan for why they were there.

The word “drift” has overtones of laziness or ease. Not true! Drift is often disguised by a huge amount of effort and perseverance. Just because you’re working hard — I’m sure those graduate students are working hard — is no guarantee that you’re not drifting.

Here’s another complication. I drifted into law school, and in the end, I’m happy I did go to law school. Sometimes drift does make you happy. But don’t count on it.

One of my drift-related Secrets of Adulthood is “You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.” And here’s another one: “Approval from the people we admire is sweet, but it’s not enough to be the foundation of a happy life.

Have you ever found yourself drifting? How did you start, how did you end it — or not?

Have You Ever Been Made Happier by a “Modest Splurge?” Of What? For Me, Magic Markers.

I’m an under-buyer, and for the most part, I dislike shopping, errands, and buying stuff.

In fact, one of my happiness-project resolutions is to “Indulge in a modest splurge.” I remind myself that sometimes, it makes me happy to indulge in a modest splurge — to buy something that I don’t absolutely need, but that makes my day brighter in some way.

I indulged in a modest splurge a few days ago.

I was early for a meeting (I’m always early), so I decided to spend the time wandering around an art store. I love just looking at the things in art stores. This store, sadly, was going out of business, so prices were slashed.

As a result, the shelves were fairly bare, but I happened to notice a giant box of beautiful, high-quality, double-ended magic markers.

These particular markers hold special memories for me, because when I was in college, my roommate had twelve of these markers, and she prized them highly. She never let anyone borrow them, and we could use them only under her supervision. (Very wisely–she knew that we’d lose them, or leave the caps loose.) We had so much fun with those markers.

I looked at the price. For a box of markers, it was still expensive. At the same time, it was an extraordinary bargain. But I didn’t really need the markers–we have lots of good markers already. But this was a really good set of markers. It would make me very happy to use them, and my daughters would also use them. But couldn’t we use the markers we already had? Well-made tools make work a joy; having these terrific markers might boost my creativity. Looking at the markers brought back happy memories. But if we didn’t make good use of the markers, I would feel guilty.  Etc., etc., etc.

I bet the other customers thought I was a very odd person — I stood stock still, gazing at the box, as these questions played out in my head, for several minutes.

At last, I remembered my resolution to “Indulge in a modest splurge.” And I thought, well, I’m going to get them! I love them.

I got them home, my daughters were delighted with the markers, we all tried them out — and my older daughter asked, “Can I take some to school tomorrow?”

First, I said “No way.” I was thinking–I want to keep the set nice, I don’t want to risk losing or spoiling one, I want to “save” them to keep them nice, etc.

Then I remembered #7 of my Twelve Personal Commandments. Spend out. I tend to hold things back, so I have to remind myself to spend out. Use things up! Put them into circulation, put them to work! Better to use the markers all the time, and risk losing them, than to save them on the shelf, and never use them at all. (Plus my daughter is fairly responsible.)

Have you ever made a “modest splurge,” where a purchase made you happier? What did you splurge on?

Podcast 65: Enjoy Your Home’s Special Features, Arianna Huffington Talks About Sleep, and the Pleasure of Children’s Literature.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. I talk to viewers about questions, comments, suggestions. Any episode; don’t worry if you’re not caught up. You can watch the most recent one here or my video with our producer Henry, look here. If you want to join the conversation live, I’m doing them on Tuesdays at 1:00 pm Eastern. Join in! It’s so fun to have a chance to talk to listeners and viewers.

MugObligerHappierUpdate: Elizabeth and I have our new mugs for sale, one for each of the Four Tendencies. Order here. I sent Elizabeth an Obliger mug for her birthday.

Try This at Home: Enjoy your home’s special features. I wrote about this issue in my book Happier at Home.

Interview: We talk to author and entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, who just wrote a terrific book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.

 Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth had two friends who recently had health issues (fortunately, both are fine now), and she regrets that she didn’t do more to support them.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to my three — yes, three — children’s literature reading groups. They make me so happy! I wrote about starting these groups in The Happiness Project. If you’d like to get back into reading children’s literature, here’s a reading list to get you started.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #65

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Want to Read about Happiness or Habits? Check Out These 15 Outstanding Books.

My favorite thing to do, by a long shot, is to read books — and then to try to persuade other people to read the books I love. So I get great joy from my monthly book club, where I recommend three books: one book about happiness, habits, or human nature; one outstanding work of children’s literature; and one eccentric pick.

People often ask me for various lists, so here’s a list of some of my favorite books about happiness, habits, and human nature.

As you’ll see, there’s a big range here. Non-fiction, fiction, essays, journals, serious, light…but in one way or another, these books shed light on some big questions:

  • How do we build a happy life?
  • What do we owe other people?
  • How can we change?
  • What habits will tend to make us happier?
  • How do we learn about ourselves?

 

Oh, how I love all these books.

15 Books About Happiness, Habits, and Human Nature

1. The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

2.  Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired by Till Roenneberg

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

3. Here Is New York by E. B. White

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

4. The Journal of Jules Renard

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

6. Pack of Two: the Intricate Bonds Between People and Dogs by Caroline Knapp

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

7. The Diary of Anne Frank

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

8. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

9. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John Cacioppo and William Patrick.

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

10. How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

11. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

12. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

13. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

14. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Fankl

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

15. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Buy from WORD ; BN.com; Amazon

Have you read any of these? What books would you add?