Podcast 124: Remember Love, Coping with Sad Anniversaries, and Why People Shouldn’t Tell You What You “Should” Be Able to Do.

Update: Elizabeth gives a teaser — tomorrow on her other podcast Happier in Hollywood, she and Sarah discuss the highly controversial issue of food in the workplace. Will they discuss the evil donut-bringer? Tune in!

Try This at Home: Remember love. When someone is bugging us, often we can re-frame the situation by remembering: this person’s annoying behavior is an expression of love.

Happiness Hack: Use a Ziploc bag instead of a toiletry bag. Cheap, clear, easy to replace, any size, and changes shape to conform to the open space in a suitcase.

Four Tendencies Tips: Be very wary when someone tells you what you “should be able” to do. That’s often a sign that someone is giving you advice based on their Tendency, which is often not the way that’s right for someone else.

If you want more information on the Four Tendencies, go here.

If you want to pre-order my book The Four Tendencies (and it’s a big help to me, if you do), go here.

Listener Question: Nicole asks about “What’s your advice about dealing with sad anniversaries?” If you have any strategies to suggest, please let us know.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth didn’t “design the summer” for her seven-year-old Jack. I mention the “Strategy of Clarity,” which is very useful to keep in mind.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to Dwight Garner’s new New York Times book column, “American Beauties,” where he writes about under-sung American books from the past 75 years. The novel that Elizabeth mentions after the credits is Soleri by Michael Johnston.

Two Resources:

  1. As I mention, I have a “book club,” where each month I recommend one book about happiness or human nature; one work of children’s literature; and one eccentric pick (a book that I love, but that’s probably not for everyone). To make sure you never miss a month’s selections, sign up here for the free newsletter.
  2. Speaking of books, if you’d like a free, personalized, signed bookplate for you or for some friends, make your request (within reason). Or if have audio-book or e-book, I’ll send you a free, signed, personalized signature card. Alas, U.S. and Canada only.  To request, email me or go here.

The September book tour for The Four Tendencies is set! I’ll be going to New York City (obviously), Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.  I hope to see you there — please come, bring friends. Info is here.

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #124

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  • lauramich

    Re: sad anniversaries—I lost my mother back in 2009. Every year on her birthday, I make a donation to her favorite charity in the dollar amount of the age she would have been. This January she would have turned 70, so I donated $70 to Doctors Without Borders. That annual ritual has become an important touchstone for me.

    • gametime2210

      Lovely way to remember your mom.

  • Gillian

    My mother died on August 21, 2012 at the age of 93. I discovered when going through some documents after her death that her favourite flower was the yellow rose. I had no idea; neither had my brother or sister. I could understand a pink rose as she always said that pink was her favourite colour. But yellow? A complete surprise. Was there a story attached? I will never know. Every year now, I buy some yellow roses on August 21, place them beside a picture of her taken when she was about 20 and enjoy them in celebration of her.

    • gretchenrubin


      Gretchen Rubin

      Visit my blog

      My podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin
      My books: Better Than Before —New York Times bestseller
      The Happiness Project —#1 New York Times bestseller
      Join the discussion on Facebook @gretchenrubin

    • Alexandra Ogilvie

      The yellow rose symbolizes Peace, and was developed just before WWII. Perhaps the turbulence of the times of her formative years impacted her love of this symbol?

  • Joana Rosa

    I don’t mark the anniversary of my Dad’s death. I always think of it and make a point of talking with my sister on the day but neither of us mentions it. We just touch base, both knowing we’re thinking about him.
    On his birthday, however, I take the day off, have lunch somewhere and go see a musical because he loved that. Sometimes I stop at an art gallery he liked on the way to the theatre.

    • gretchenrubin

      A great thought—to celebrate the anniversary of the birth, rather than the death.

      Gretchen Rubin

      Visit my blog

      My podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin
      My books: Better Than Before —New York Times bestseller
      The Happiness Project —#1 New York Times bestseller
      Join the discussion on Facebook @gretchenrubin

  • Lucy Pritchett

    I use zip locks for so many things!!! I put my sharpie markers in them, use them to categorize items in drawers by putting all similar items in one bag (like batteries). For travel I use them for my liquids and my food. I usually bring an extra 1 or 2 just in case I have trash or one breaks. This came in pretty handy when I bought a pizza before I got on the plane and couldn’t carry it, so I put the pizza in a ziplock and into my carry-on. In fact, I use them so much, my boyfriend make fun of me! One way I’ll share that I really enjoy makes travel easy is when I go to Jamaica. We have theme nights and wear costumes almost every night. I buy the Ziplocks that have space for writing. I put everything in a bag including jewelry and other accessories that have to do with that outfit then I write what day I will wear it along with the theme. This is so helpful when there is already so many fun things to do! I don’t have to take time to figure out what I’m going to wear each night while I’m on vacation because I already organized it before leaving. I can get ready for dinner quickly without making extra decisions.

  • Marette Hahn

    Since you both mentioned re-framing in this episode, I just wanted to throw out a story about re-framing that really impacted me recently. My husband and I have 2 dogs who mean the world to us. They’re rescues, getting older, and we don’t know how much time we have left with them.

    While I love them to death, one sheds like crazy and the other sweet soul drools like mad whenever food or treats are presented. I usually grumble and dread getting on my hands and knees to clean up our wood floor, but the other day Gretchen’s “The days are long but the years are short” video popped into my head, and I realized how heartbroken I’ll be the day I no longer have the drool to clean up or the dog hair to sweep up.

    This profoundly changed the way I view cleaning up after our beloved dogs, and I just wanted to say thank you to Gretchen for that incredible reminder.

    ~ Marette, Phoenix, AZ

    • gretchenrubin

      What a lovely example!

      Gretchen Rubin

      Visit my blog

      My podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin
      My books: Better Than Before —New York Times bestseller
      The Happiness Project —#1 New York Times bestseller
      Join the discussion on Facebook @gretchenrubin

      • ekwacillin

        Hi Gretchen, would you be able to share the quotation you included in the example of reframing for parenting (something about the sign of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves….). I loved the quotation and would like to save it. Thank you so much!!

        • gretchenrubin

          Great suggestion!

          “The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.” Logan Pearsall Smith

          • ekwacillin

            Amazing! Thank you Gretchen!

  • Sarah Gates

    I love your show, but I was struck by the conversation about sad anniversaries. Some of your suggestions felt very disconnected from my reality. For example, my father died in a very traumatic way, and I could never imagine scheduling grief. My best advice is to just take the day of the anniversary off and let what happens happen, and know that there isn’t a happiness hack for everything.

  • Danae Ciske

    Much to my dismay, my husband uses snack size Ziplocs as wallets. For years I tried to get him to use a real wallet or sleek money clip. But, the Ziplock wallet makes him happy. 🙂 He likes that it holds everything together without adding any bulk. Plus, it comes with the added feature of being waterproof.

  • Ann

    I have three kids and from the time they were babies (until they started packing for themselves), I would pack complete outfits in gallon size Ziploc bags for travel. One bag will fit kid-size pants, shirt, underwear and socks perfectly. Squeeze all the air out and seal. Then, when it was time to get dressed, each kid could grab one bag from their duffel and have everything together. The bags could even be labeled if needed (“Thanksgiving Day”). At the end of a trip, I’d keep all the empty bags in their travel duffel for next time – they got reused over and over again!

  • kms327

    When my kids and I need to share a suitcase, each of us gets one or two Zip Locks for socks and underwear. This strategy makes it much easier to find what we need in our suitcase.

  • Beth Bates

    I really enjoyed the discussion about what people think others “should” be able to do based on their own experiences without taking into account the other’s personalities and tendencies. I don’t often have others telling me I “should” be able to do things, so I flipped this advice to use it to change my own perspective.

    I’m usually able to refrain from telling people aloud what they “should” be able to do, but I often think it in my head and pass judgment. Thinking about the discussion today will help me be more compassionate and understanding when others don’t do things how I would. And most of all, I tell MYSELF that I “should” be able to work out at home on my own or I “should” be able to clean up my house without impending guests. I’m my own worst judge and could use this discussion to accept my tendency without getting down on myself about it. I’m pretty sure I’m an Obliger, but I don’t like it (maybe a touch of Rebel?) and want to know more info about the tendencies (definitely have some Questioner in me too).

  • Claire Collins

    I feel I must write in response to Elizabeth’s demerit for not scheduling her son’s summer. I was horrified that she would punish herself and I was horrified that she felt she had felt obliged to plan her son’s whole summer holiday.

    Things are obviously different here in Australia.

    Unless you are a working parent and your child needs to go to holiday care because you are at work or you have planned a vacation, scheduling our kids holidays just doesn’t happen. And definitely not in my house.

    My son has things he can do and kids he can play with if the neighbours are home. Left to his own devices he uses his imagination to play and create and to be inventive. If he tells me he is bored he gets to clean the toilet. Now, he can always find something to do.

    Elizabeth, don’t beat yourself up. Letting your son ‘be bored’ allows him to think and to create rather than having him be entertained and never being allowed to be alone, and most importantly, get used to his own company. A skill many people don’t have.

    • Gillian

      BRAVO!! Couldn’t agree more!

    • ekwacillin

      This is an interesting view because actually, my sense was that Elizabeth gave herself a demerit more because she hadn’t “designed” the summer versus “scheduled” his summer. It felt to me like she was concerned that she hadn’t been thoughtful or deliberate about what his summer should look like. Whereas for you, it sounds like you HAVE designed your kids’ summers to allow time to play, make peace with boredom, exercise creativity, and enjoy unstructured time. You’ve designed an intentionally unscheduled summer. It seemed like Elizabeth’s demerit was more around not having taken the steps to think through what Jack’s summer should be and how she could bring that to life. Just my interpretation and I don’t want to put words in her mouth!
      Your son’s summer experience sounds so great, by the way!

  • Kristin Glad

    You had mentioned that you would want a shirt that says ‘Remember Love’. Found it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073V672V7. Just in time for Prime Day!

    • gretchenrubin

      Amazing! I had no idea this existed in real life.

  • Missy Thomas

    My happiness hack involving zip lock bags is this… my husband likes his mayonnaise in squirt bottles. They cost more so I buy the big jar & dump all the mayo in a bag, cut the corner & squeeze it into a squirt bottle. It makes him happy because his mayo is easier to use without dirtying a knife and I’m happy because I save money!