21 Day Happiness Challenge – Day 2

Give Gold Stars

Today’s resolution suggests that you “Give gold stars.” If you’re like me, you may think a lot about wanting gold stars, but in a happy relationship, giving gold stars turns out to be very important, too.

If you tried this resolution, did it boost your feelings of gratitude and tenderness?

Did it make a difference to your happiness?

We can all learn from each other, so please post your experiences with the resolution in the comments section below.

  • This one is so important, I agree! What are some other ways to give gold stars metaphorically? We are very thankful to each other in our relationship, but sometimes it would be nice to come up with other ways to say it without words – besides getting each other flowers, that is!

  • peninith1

    Yes. I definitely make the effort to give my S.O. ‘gold stars’ in the form of praise for his competency, good judgement, generosity, support for family members, spirit of adventure, good health decisions, handsome appearance and the like. Very much a ‘Mars,’ my friend is not one to really want or enjoy romantic gesture gold stars, but he appreciates me often telling him how I value him for what he most values in himself. This is a piece of advice that is important for work relationships and family relationships too–at work it is the ‘catch someone doing good’ idea, and it is a super effective ‘good attention’ way to respond to your kids as well.

  • Shawn

    Give gold stars….appreciation and grattitude of being in a relationship and recognizing the other as an equal partner.
    I can do more of this each day. This is an awareness piece for me that I need to work on.

  • Miljana

    O, honey, why he ask you the same question several time? Did you ever ask yourself?
    My oppinion is that he has to be confused and he didn’t listen you and your answer, or you didn’t want to hear the question like that, or you didn’t give him the answer, or you ignored him. Where is love? What about happiness? Maybe just in that, that he didn’t hear what you have to say about his question…? All those can be seen like this. Many Greetings by

  • Anne

    I teach high school Spanish, and like many schools, my school requires me to get in touch with the parents of a student whenever he or she falls below a C- average. Obviously, those email exchanges often end up being largely negative, even when I do my best to focus on the “where can we go from here to improve in the future” aspect of the conversation. At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to send one email a week to parents commenting on something really great that I had seen their child do that week – whether it was turning in an “A” project (or just turning in a project on time), helping another student with a tricky topic, or just participating really actively in class. Turns out, actively praising peoples’ children is a great way for me to boost happiness of all involved! Parents love hearing from teachers for a good reason every once in a while, and often they congratulate their kids based on what I say, which means that in the end, I often get to “receive” some gold stars myself, if they reply by thanking me for what I do for their child or if the student smiles and said that I made their parents happy. I thought of my resolution as more of an effort to “focus on the positive,” but I think it could count as “giving gold stars,” and it’s definitely an activity that’s made me happier at work (and I can always go back and read through those pleasant email conversations if I feel dragged down by a disheartening one).

    • gretchenrubin

      What a wonderful thing to do.

    • Beth

      That little word of encouragement to the parents of a child who is struggling — your effort must mean so much.

    • k m peter mathew

      you mean negative is ugly. from my experience, as a teacher, it is our ability to project the suitable at the right time.we may or may not appreciate darkness but we need it to wake up for a new day or retire from a hectic day.

  • Anne

    My bad… I didn’t read earlier that this was only supposed to pertain to relationships. Well, good luck to those of you embarking on this challenge! Apologize for the out of place comment.

  • Miljana

    If one person ask many times the same question the onter person, that means that something is wrong with respecting in that coupleship. Have a nice day!

  • Guest

    I have a particular problem with the same question over and over again. Does anyone have

  • Lindsey

    Gretchen, is their ability way to easily click to the previous day’s post on the current day? For example today I could not remember yesterday’s challenge. I had to click deep to find it. A good place would be near the Day 2 icon. Thank you so much for your entire Happiness Project and for sharing it so widely.

    • gretchenrubin

      If you scroll down, it appears below. Good luck!

  • Rosaandroy

    I have been married 33 years and feel very fortunate to be loving partners after all these years. It does take loving work and emotional integrity. I now accept more than ever the gender differences in how we emotionally connect. Showing appreciation or gratitude towards your spouse has been repeatedly shown to be a smart thing to do. Lack of appreciation is in now in the top four reasons husbands in “committed” relationships stray or leave. I completely agree with Ms. Rubin’s 21 Day Challenge. I have a giagantic family on both sides and too often where spouses simply do not show appreciation nor do they feel obligated. There are usually good reasons, but deriding your husband or not showing appreciation is a slippery slope that takes me further away from being connected to the man I married. My greatest challenge that Ms. Rubin laid out was to not rag or drop hints about how much I do around the house. Also, to not keep score. It is somehting I deal with everyday!

  • JU

    Getting and giving gold stars is hard for me personally as I was raised in an atmosphere of that bordering on bragging which is a bad thing. I know this applies primarily to significant other relationships, but I totally agree with the post on giving parents positive feedback on their children. In today’s atmosphere of, “What can we do at school to prevent violence?” maybe giving more gold stars and doing it publically is what we need.

  • Katie

    The gold stars must be authentic and true. My husband smells insincerity a mile away. To make gold stars work, make them specific (I liked how you spoke to Annie about her responsibility to walk the dog) rather than vague (You’re a good dad).

  • pseuzieq

    The gold star idea is a great one b/c it serves the wider purpose of letting the other person know they are being noticed-and that’s what’s most important to human beings sometimes: validation that they are seen-regardless of whether it’s praiseworthy or not. I’m going out to get a packet of gold stars today!

  • tabbie

    I make an effort to give “gold stars” to my husband because I want him to feel loved and appreciated, but he rarely reciprocates. The more I give, the more he expects. He takes the gold stars for granted and seems to feel entitled. I would like it if he would show appreciation for the little and big things I do for him.

    • OurGalFriday

      My heart goes out to you, tabbie. I finally had to tell my husband that I needed more words of appreciation. In our case, he is trying harder, but he still can slip back into taking me for granted, and sometimes he ruins it by asking me after he says something nice, “Does that count as a compliment?” I also specifically pointed out some things that I particularly wanted to hear, namely, some appreciation for my toughing things out through some particularly hard times, and he has completely ignored that request. It does hurt, because I came from a family where I also felt taken for granted (I still do). I do get a TON of affirmation from my very affectionate child, so that helps a little. Also, I don’t know what your beliefs are, so this may not be very helpful to you, but I have been working on turning to God for affirmation. Also, be sure you are cheering yourself on! My advice: (1) If you haven’t spoken up about desiring affirmation, do so. (2) Find sources of affirmation outside of your husband. (3) Tell yourself you are going to do your best in the relationship, even if he isn’t. I find that doing my best generally helps the situation, and becoming resentful (which is easy for me to do) just drags things down. I know you are doing your best, though, as you stated in your first sentence. If it helps to hear it from a stranger: Good for you for giving “gold stars” to your husband instead of tearing him down!

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh, I know the feeling!

  • Laura

    I am in a new relationshp (engaged, been together 1 1/2 years) after being married for 15 years and divorced for 3. I definitely didn’t show enough appreciation to my first husband. Gold stars are definitely a great way to let your spouse know you appreciate him, but if you give them all the time and praise every little thing he does, he won’t put as much value on your appreciation. I recognize things my fiance does verbally, and every once in a while, I’ll leave him a little (specific) note in his laptop bag or on his car window so he sees it when he goes to work.

  • KatieB

    Gold stars in the form of “I appreciate your nature” are my personal twist on this one. Instead of complimenting my husband for something I appreciate, I will try to compliment his true nature. My hope is that he is constantly confirmed that I love him just exactly the way he is. If I don’t make a conscious effort, it seems I am constantly trying to modify him. And why would I? I fell madly in love with him.

  • julia

    I will try this one… with my teenage daughter! I want to work on my relationship with her and giving her gold star will encourage her with the positive stuff. I feel like I spend too much time on nagging; gold stars is a great way to tell her that “I am happy with…”
    She might not be happier as a result but it will certainly contribute to a positive attitude!

    • I think that is a really great idea Julia. I am going to try out some of these challenges with friends so I can improve my relationship with them too. Thanks for sharing the tip!

  • Beth

    I try to give my husband “gold stars” in front of our child – and my husband does the same for me. “Wow! Dad fixed that toy!” “Mom made us this delicious meal.” This is a two-for because saying and hearing this makes US feel good – and our 4 year old hears us do that and (we hope!) will learn to express gratitude himself.

  • Malerie Hartley

    At times it’s hard to believe that the longer we are with someone the more things we just don’t do anymore. Saying ‘thank-you’ when they do the dishes so you don’t have to, apologising when we have a bad day and take it out on our partners or simply expecting things instead of asking for them in a respectful way. This is something I’m always trying to work on, I don’t want to have all this resentment build up and build up until we are stuck in a rut and hate each other. Just like anything, that’s easier said than done, and it does help if the realisation is made by both of you and not just one! I gave a big fat ‘gold star’ to my partner on the weekend who came along to a friends daughters 2nd birthday party. Even though it was one of my friends, he still made the effort to come along and spend the day chatting with everyone. While I enjoy sometimes just going to these things on my own, I think it’s important to have time with our own friends without each other, I was just glad to have him there.

  • marissa

    its so easy to nag my partner for all the things he doesnt do. would i like it if he did that to me, though? not at all!! i actively try to take the time to pay attention to all that he does for me and our household.

  • Kirstie

    I had to think long and hard on this one (well, 24 hours), as I wasn’t sure if I already do this (I am very much a “please others” person) but perhaps not as authentically or intentionally as I would like.

    It really helped to read others’ posts and see that I am on the right track. I do give gold stars to my husband in front of our two-year old as I believe, like @8fd9f29a06b3baf7ece46c2817e426b8:disqus mentioned, that it makes us ALL feel good to have that open connection and it also models positive communication and gratitude for those we love. I am also interested in reading some more about the “love languages” that @twitter-300065915:disqus mentioned. I think that would really help in my relationship with my husband as he I know he tries to give me what I need but I often respond negatively (I need my own space to calm down, but then I also want to hear words of affection and receive hugs and kisses – mixed signals I know!). :>

  • MelG

    I’m not very good at being openly affectionate or vocalising feelings, expressions of love etc etc. so I am trying hard each day to do these wonderful things you suggest. This morning was the usual manic rush to get the family awake, fed and on their way. We were trying to make some hurried plans on the doorstep (literally…. And it was FREEZING this am!) … My partner wants to spend some time with his mum at the weekend (she’s due to have some surgery next week) I put my hand on his arm and told him ‘you’re such a thoughtful man’. He was quite taken aback and the look on his face ( coupled with my uncharacteristic spontaneity) made me burst into tears.
    One lovely big teary hug later we were both going our separate ways to work with a nice warm glow 🙂

    • gretchenrubin


  • bamboobonnie

    I agree that men crave positive feedback.

  • When we’re driving across town, my husband makes very strange indirect route choices. I habitually comment or criticize his choices but really, what does it matter? It might take a little longer but he’ll get us there. Also in the past I’ve been known to criticize his driving ability. He doesn’t speed anymore, and he obeys other traffic rules too, but he doesn’t slow down before stopping or turning leading to a not-so-smooth ride. So on Day 2 I was in the car with him and I started to comment on his route choice, then remembered “Gold Stars”. Instead, I said, “You are a good driver.” He gave me a really odd look, like he wasn’t sure if I was serious. But (to make the positive argument) he really is a good driver. He would never drink & drive (at least 30% car wrecks involve alcohol) and he obeys traffic rules. Maybe he isn’t the best driver, perhaps not as good a driver as I am (or perhaps he is), but I believe he is at least a little above average. So my statement stands: he IS a good driver.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great example.

      It’s so tempting to try to “improve” other people – so that they do things the way we think is best! I have a friend who tried HARD for years to change her husband’s method of loading the dishwasher. Finally she thought – I really should let this go.

  • Tasha

    I have a little white board on my fridge. I started using it as my “brag board” Every evening before dinner, I “catch them being good” and write something about the day that each of my girls did, and my husband did that was great, and how it made me feel. One of my resolutions was to have more fun in the house, and to help the girls express their feelings, so I am trying to show them how their actions affect my feelings. So if my 8 year old helps unload the dishwasher, I felt appreciative. When my husband talks with me about something I was worried about, I felt loved, etc. They get really excited to run in for dinner and read the board, and I have noticed them using more feeling words than, “She is making me mad, or she is annoying me.”

  • Brenda_Lee_Nelson

    This is an awesome reminder about the difference between men and women. I will definately be giving out more “gold stars” to my hubby. It’s so true that my girlfriends contribute to my daily gold star gathering and that you don’t see that kind of thing so much between men. I am pretty vocally thankful but I am going to up my game.

  • Getchen I love your gold star concept. I am 62 and my Mom gave me as a kids gold stars, red, green, silver, they were all about a pat on the head. I clearly notice and see how my husbands dimples deepen after I tell him how “lucky I am to have him, how much I love him our grown children and the life we have.” So much better to feed off of each other in a life affirming, validating and loving attitude and position.
    It’s a pleasure to join your community as well:)

    • gretchenrubin

      So glad to hear that it strikes a chord with you.

      • It’s so important to be mindful of how grateful to be loved and to have the gift of loving in return. I love your daily resolutions. Personally and professionally helpful for my patients:)

  • Great reminder! In today’s packed schedules, giving Gold Stars to your spouse, your “significant other,” your best friend, is overlooked, at least at our house. Going to change that now. Thank you!

  • Melanie

    At first, I thought you literally meant to give little awards/gold stars. Like more bragging on him, shout outs, kudos, etc.I think I’m actually going to try that.

  • Debbie Halls-Evans

    I have got your books. Am one of your avid supporters yet hasn’t applied the happier at home ethos. Day 2 and going strong , my husband is loving the attention, thought, consideration, appreciation and I DO feel better for it too.

  • MB

    I am covering from cancer and my husband suffered depression and our long term loving relationship had “hit the wall”. Your book was recommended to me as well as the 21 day challenge. Reading your words today about “gold stars” and “husbands” really hit home for my husband has been so needing of my approval, service and attention. What he unsuccessfully has been trying to communicate to me made sense today with what you wrote. I can’t thank you enough for your perspective on life for it is making a joyful change in mine.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so very sorry to hear that you’ve been going through a rough time –pleased to hear that my work was helpful. Hang in there.

  • Karen Melick Knapp

    This one is perfect… I know that mine feels “under appreciated” at times. I have spent a lot of the past four years sick and going to therapy and dr appts. At one point five months away from home and I get frustrated when I have to remind him ten times when my appointments are ( they are the same time every week, twice a week for one)… I know that it is a “GUYTHING”… for the memory. But, at times I am frustrated as well, and I feel that if he loved me, he would remember when my appts were when I have been going to the same ones for so long! So this is good for me as well…I will remember to be more patient with him.. There are times too when he does little things around the house.. then he points them out to me… lists them off… and I get angry, my reaction is like ‘do you want a medal?’ I had been so busy and going to appointments and running the kids everywhere and keeping up with the house myself that when he helps out when I do get behind, I felt like it was his job to just do it. So this way, me saying little things to him instead that are kind he will feel appreciated more for little things that he does, instead of him pointing them out when he does them making me feel bad and angry and like he makes a better ‘mom’ than me; that can be removed if I tell him first a nice thing… he wont have the chance to list off what he did in the way he does making me feel bad. He will see that I have noticed. 🙂

  • M

    I am having a hard time with this one. My spouse is pretty much of the opinion that any work around the house is not his responsibility and no amount of conversations or fighting have helped so far. Giving him a good star for things I have specifically had to ask for (multiple times usually) is so hard to do. I did say thanks for the one thing he did that did without being asked but that is very rare in my case. Any suggestions on how to deal with that?

  • Sue

    Comparing my situation to others, my problem falls on the other side. I have never had a problem praising my husband or giving boundless amounts of verbal and physical affection. The problem I have is getting it in return. No matter what I say or do these things are not reciprocated by my husband and I get tired of hearing that it is a “guy thing”. What can you do when you always give but never receive?

    • gretchenrubin

      I write a lot about this in The Happiness Project, and my resolution, “Don’t expect praise or appreciation.”

      You may also be interested in Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages” – discussion here: http://www.gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2011/12/over-the-weekend-i-read-gary-chapmans-the-five-love-languages-and-i-found-it-fascinating-i-have-to-confess-the-book/

      I know the feeling!

    • WannaBeHappy

      This is not good because eventually you will feel like an overdrawn bank account, give but no receive.

    • Karen

      I’m in the same boat, Sue. I’m very supportive and complimentary of people, and my friends and (some) family members notice and compliment me, but unfortunately, my boyfriend rarely does. I try to appreciate the compliments they give me and take strength from them, but then I wonder why I’m having to sidestep him to feel appreciated. Frankly, sometimes I feel invisible to him, like he doesn’t see the good in me.

    • Maria Calise-Block

      Ask him for a few bucks…go get your hair done but praise him in front of an audience…this way he will get the picture! He’ll feel so good about it , it just may click on. Stroke his ego and reap the reward. It’s an action in training.

  • bluebell

    like day 1, this doesn’t apply as i don’t have a partner.

    • Shari K-n

      I signed up for this so that *I* was the one that I was building a better relationship with. I have a husband but I truly believe if we don’t love ourselves then we will have no love for others. The “Kissing Myself” Day 1 Challenge was a little creepy but I enjoyed giving myself a Gold Star on My calendar for remembering to smile at my reflection in the mirror instead of grimacing at it. Make it work for you bluebell. Don’t focus on the negatives, take the opportunity to make a better relationship with yourself and others here on the chatboard.

  • Angela

    Thankyou Gretchin for this resolution. This is going to be a hard one but well worth it. I too am a gold star junkie but great advice to us today. Here comes hubby in the door so wish me luck! Ps….can I give myself a gold star for remembering resolution No 1 this morning and giving a kiss in the morning!

  • Satish Kumar Mehta

    Hi Gretchin this resolution is interesting and the more we do ,the more cemented love will be!

  • swap

    I want everyone to meet you. You’re my favorite person of all time

  • Maria Calise-Block

    I say “thank you” all the time because I know what it is to not have. I know what it is to give, because of the hours he works, and never complains. Being appreciative from the heart, truly appreciative shows in the way I keep my home. I want him to come home to the palace, with a secret surprise somewhere “Just for HIM”…I want him to feel like a KING when he comes through that door. A place of refuge, a place where he can totally relax. HOME is where the heart is…♥

  • sheyla

    Gret. Feliz día:

    Me encanta como escribes, como piensas. Te descubrí en un programa de radio aquí en mi país con Eli bravo un hombre genial, que tiene tiene una pagina de bienestar emocional se llama inspirulina.com. Él recomendó tu libro mi proyecto: Felicidad. En cuanto llego a Caracas – Venezuela lo compre, me encanto. Aun no ha llegado tu segundo libro Better than before lo quiero ya. Me encanta este reto de los 21 días y me siento muy identificada. Yo le doy besos a mi Ken antes de dormir y al despertar :). Por supuesto, doy estrellas de oro muy amenudo. Gracias por todo.

    Espero que tus nenas y esposo estén bien.

    Feliz y bendecido día para ti.