Podcast 79: Revive a Dormant Friendship, a Selection of Yearbook Quotes, and a Gold Star for Making Phone Calls.

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

Update: It’s almost September, and for many of us, September is the other January. If you get a clean slate, start-over feeling in September, check out my book Happier at Home. I spend a school year — from September though May — going deep into the project of becoming happier at home. If you’re not happy at home, it’s hard to be happy.

Try This at Home: Revive a dormant friendship.

I promised to post a photo of Elizabeth’s Smith and Noble window treatments, but Elizabeth decided that her house just looks too torn up — she doesn’t want to send a photo yet! The window treatments are the only thing accomplished at this point.

Happiness Hack: Todd asks, “Our household receives a lot of reading material in the mail, but we never know when everyone’s done reading something, so don’t know when to throw things away. Any ideas?”

Deep Dive: In episode 74, we suggested the Try This at Home of “Pick a quotation for your senior yearbook page.” Listeners sent in their choices — so many great ones.

Listener Question:  Jenny asks, “Can an Abstainer indulge in chocolate, in moderation?” Jenny is asking about the Abstainer vs. Moderator distinction — and here’s a post about planned exceptions.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth has fallen behind on her pledge on GoodReads to read 75 books this year. If you want to work on the habit of reading more, you can get my one-page “Reading Better Than Before” guide here.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I managed to make some phone calls.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, check the schedule. Tune in this Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And if you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

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, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Also check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 25% off window treatments and a free in-home design consultation.

And don’t forget to check out Trunk Club. Get hand-picked outfits shipped right to your door–chosen by your very own personal stylist. Go to TrunkClub.com/happier to learn more.

1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #79

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 toHappier 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.

HAPPIER listening!

Back to School: How to Help Your Children (and You) Form Good Habits.

In the United States, it’s back-to-school time. And that means getting back into the habits required by school.

So many things to manage! Waking up on time and going to bed on time. Packing the backpack for school, with homework, permissions slips, lunch, sports clothes, etc. Doing homework. Showing up promptly throughout the day. Plus, many children have after-school activities, so there’s just that much more to remember.

The question is: how can we help children form habits that will help them handle this load, without our constant nagging and supervising?

I’ve thought a lot about this myself, because each year when school begins, it hits my family hard. We have to work to get back into the swing of routine. Upholder that I am (see below), I relish this routine, but the other members of my family don’t agree.

In my book Better Than Before, about habit-formation, I learned one key fact that many habit experts ignore. There is no magic, one-size-fits-all solution for habits. The thing that works for me may be the opposite of what works for you. We need to form habits in a way that suits our nature. And the same is true for kids.

In Better Than Before, I identify 21 strategies that we can use to master our habits. So there are many from which to choose, as you try to help your child. Consider, for example:

Strategy of Convenience — this is the most universal strategy. We’re all more likely to do something if it’s easy to do it. So make it easy for your child to stick to a habit. If you want him to hang up his coat, clear out the closet so there’s plenty of room, or put in hooks that are quicker to use than hangers. If you want her to practice an instrument every afternoon, figure out a way so that all the equipment can stay at the ready, instead of needing to be hauled out and put away every time she practices.

Strategy of Inconvenience — likewise, we’re less likely to do something if it’s a pain. If you want him to stop sneaking cookies, put the cookies in a hard-to-open container on a high shelf. If you want her to stop hitting the snooze alarm in the morning, put the alarm clock across the room, so she has to get out of bed to turn it off.

Strategy of Distinctions — people are very different from each other, but we parents often try to make our children form the habits that work for usDon’t assume that because something works for you — that you work best in a space that’s very quiet and spare, or you think most clearly early in the morning, or you like to get everything finished well before the deadline, or you like to have a lot of supervision — that the same is true for your child. Pay close attention to how that child works best.

I made this mistake with my older daughter. When I work, I must be at a desk, and I kept trying to get her to work at a desk, instead of sitting in a chair or on her bed. It drove me crazy. How could she be productive on her laptop, when she was sprawled across her bed? Finally, light dawned. Just because I work best at a desk doesn’t make that a universal law of human nature.

Strategy of Abstaining — this strategy works well for some people, but not for others. Talk to your child, and explain, “For some people, it’s too hard to have a little bit of something, or to do something for a little while. They find it easier to give something up altogether. Do you think that for you, it would be easier to stop ________ [playing that favorite video game, using that app] than to try to do it just a little bit? Or maybe just do it on the weekend?” Your child may surprise you. Maybe not, but maybe.

Strategy of Other People — to a huge degree, we’re influenced by other people’s habits. So if you want your children to adopt a habit, adopt that habit yourself. If you want them to be organized in the morning, be organized yourself. If you want them to go to sleep on time, go to sleep on time yourself. If you want them to put down their devices and read a book, put down your device.

Strategy of Foundation — It’s easier to stick to our good habits when we have a strong foundation. That means getting enough sleep; not letting yourself get too hungry; getting some exercise; and (for most people) keeping our physical space reasonably orderly. So to help your child manage habits well, make sure to emphasize things like bedtime, not skipping meals, physical activity, and clutter.

Strategy of the Four Tendencies — In this personality framework, I divide all of humanity into four categories: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell a child’s Tendency until young adulthood — but some Tendencies are obvious from a very young age.

To figure out your Tendency, here’s a Quiz (more than 500,000 people have taken it). You could ask your child to take the Quiz, or read the short description of the Tendencies here — in many cases, you will very easily identify your child’s Tendency.

Or here’s a extremely over-simplified version, but to give you an idea:

If your child seems to need little support during the school year, that child is probably an Upholder.

If your child asks a lot of questions, and says things like, “But what’s the point of memorizing the state capitols?” “I didn’t do that homework because it’s a waste of my time, and the teacher is an idiot,” your child is probably a Questioner.

If your child is able to do tasks when given reminders, deadlines, supervision, but struggles to do things on his or her own, that child may be an Obliger.

If, to a very noticeable degree, your child wants to do things in his or her own way and own time, that child is probably a Rebel. If you ask or tell a Rebel to do something, that Rebel is very likely to resist. It’s very helpful to identify a Rebel early, because the strategies that work for the other Tendencies often backfire with Rebels! It’s not the case that “all toddlers are Rebels” or “All teens are Rebels.”

In just about every situation, it’s extremely helpful to know a person’s Tendency, because it makes a big difference in what works. For instance, the Strategy of Accountability is crucial for Obligers; often helpful but perhaps not necessary for Upholders and Questioners, but counter-productive for Rebels! Supervision, nagging, and reminders will make a Rebel child less likely to keep a habit.

The Four Tendencies framework is a huge subject. In fact, right now I’m finishing up an entire book about the Four Tendencies, and how to use them in different situations. (To be notified when that book hits the shelves, sign up here.)

If you want to hear more, you can also listen to discussions on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. Elizabeth and I have talked about it several times, for instance, here.

How about you — have you found any strategies or tips for helping a child to form good habits? The pressures of  school make it very clear that for children as well as for adults, having helpful habits makes life a lot easier.

A Little Happier: Laura Ingalls Wilder, and We Can Admit that the People We Love Aren’t Perfect.

I’m a huge fan of children’s literature. I’m in three children’s literature reading groups, and I read that literature all the time.

So naturally one of my favorite writers is Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her Little House books are masterpieces.

The passage I read can be found in The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, in a letter from Laura Ingalls Wilder to Rose Wilder Lane, March 23, 1937:

You can see that all of this cost money. I would have no idea how much. I know Pa sent money home for doctor bills after he was working for the railroad. But Pa was no businessman, He was a hunter and trapper, a musician and poet.

Such a moving tribute to Pa — a wonderful, wonderful father.

If  you’d like to discover some great children’s literature, here’s a list of just a few of my favorites.

What are some of your favorite children’s books? I’m always looking for new suggestions.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

Happier listening!

According to Stephen King: “The Scariest Moment Is Always ____.”

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

–Stephen King, On Writing

Stephen King is talking about writing, but I think this applies to starting, generally.

And for people who struggle with procrastination, it’s a very helpful thing to remember. Just start. Once you start, you’re through the scariest part!

For ideas about how to get started, and how to fight procrastination, check out my book Better Than Before. Fighting procrastination is a major theme.

Do You Ever Enjoy Listening to a Spirited Discussion about a Subject You Know Nothing About? I Do.

Have I mentioned that I have a podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin? Oh right, I think maybe I have.

Well, because I’m fascinated with all things podcast-related, I get a brilliant newsletter called Hot Pod, which is written by my friend Nicholas Quah.

The newsletter covers the highly specialized world of podcasts, but Nick is such a terrific writer that he often throws in asides or observations that resonate far beyond his official topic.

For instance, in today’s newsletter he wrote about how he’d been listening to a podcast called  Card Talk about the hit trading card game “Magic: The Gathering.” Then he added:

So, I’m not a Magic player myself — I had a passing interest when I was a teenager in Malaysia, but TV ended up sucking more of time…but I find myself really drawn to the patter and rhythm of the often insular, community-specific language baked in free-flowing conversation. Do you ever have that experience where you turn on like, a sports radio program for a sport you don’t really follow because it’s just really damn fun to listen to people get into the weeds of something they know a whole lot about? It’s like immersing yourself in a place that speaks a whole other language, and it builds up a certain envy of wanting to be in that in-group, because here I am now wishing that I had spent more time nerding out about MTG back when I was growing up back home. Hmm. A portal into a life I could be living right now.

[Sentence bolded by me]

When I read this I thought — yes! I know that feeling exactly, and I thought it was just some weird idiosyncratic aspect of my own nature.

I do find that sometimes I find it entertaining to hear a spirited discussion about something I know nothing about–whether that’s basketball, the Grammy Awards, the Real Housewives, the Olympics, opera, nice restaurants in New York City, international monetary policy.

Why that is, I don’t know. Sometimes it makes me want to know more–but usually not. It’s just fun to listen to people talk, to hear the lingo, the debates, the nuances, the history, the jokes, and most of all, the enthusiasm–without really understanding what’s being discussed. An odd phenomenon.

Do you ever enjoy listening to people discuss a subject you know nothing about?